Johnson County Museum uses All-Electric House for historic Passover celebration

Anne Jones (left), curator of collections for the Johnson County Museum, and Abby Magariel, curator of the Klein Collection, set the dining table in the Johnson County Museum's All-Electric House for Passover Seder. The weeklong Jewish holiday began Saturday at sundown. Photo credit Leah Wankum.

In a historic first, the Johnson County Museum has set up the dining table in its 1950s All-Electric House with a traditional Passover Seder display.

The historical exhibit is the result of a community partnership between the Johnson County Museum, Congregation B’nai Jehudah and the Klein Collection.

Congregation B’nai Jehudah, a Reformed Temple in Overland Park, is the oldest synagogue in the Kansas City metro area. Founded in 1870, the congregation celebrates its 150th anniversary this year.

Abby Magariel (left) and Anne Jones prepare the Passover Seder items in the Johnson County Museum’s collections room.

The dining table is set for the Jewish Passover Seder from March 26 through May 1.

‘Really a thrill’

Passover, a weeklong Jewish holiday commemorating the Hebrews’ liberation and exodus from slavery in Egypt, began Saturday at sundown.

The Seder plate reserves spaces for symbolic foods that all relate to the biblical story of Passover. The temporary display at the museum also comprises three pieces from the Klein Collection in a special exhibit just outside the All-Electric House.

Abby Magariel, educator and curator of the Michael Klein Collection at Congregation B’nai Jehudah, grew up in one of the “not very many” Jewish families in Olathe. For her, the exhibit is a special and happy occasion.

“It’s very important; for me to be part of this exhibit, of celebrating this holiday, which is a really joyous holiday, and to see it celebrated at the community-wide level, is really a delight for me,” Magariel said. “It’s really a thrill. This is so much fun.”

A ‘full and inclusive history’

Besides the Haggadah — the text that serves as a guide and liturgy for the Passover Seder — there are also symbolic foods and other items displayed on the All-Electric House’s table.

The display also features fine china for formal events, as originally exhibited in the All-Electric House when it opened to the public as a model home in 1954.

Passover is a Jewish holiday celebrating the liberation of the Hebrew people from slavery in Egypt.

The county museum has traditionally decorated the house with a retro Christmas display for that Christian holiday. Now, this temporary exhibit marks the first time that the museum has incorporated Passover or any other Jewish holiday in the All-Electric House, which is the museum’s largest historical artifact.

“The All-Electric House is our biggest artifact, and it’s always been this wonderful place to look at the history of families in Johnson County,” said Mary McMurray, museum director. “So as we were decorating for Christmas … it occurred to us, there were Jewish families living in northeast Johnson County where this home would have been located back in the ‘50s.”

McMurray said the museum’s collaboration with the Jewish congregation and the Klein Collection is “a culmination of our overall desire, which is to tell a full and inclusive history of Johnson County.”

“It just gives us that opportunity to see our history in a new light, to push the boundaries of our knowledge, to join together, to collaborate, and to just do the best that we can for history,” she added. “And so for us, this is just a dream come true.”

The museum will offer a free virtual program on Wednesday called “Passover Traditions” with Klein Collection curator Abby Magariel and Congregation B’nai Jehudah’s Rabbi.

Participants must pre-register to receive the program link. Call (913) 831-3359 or click here to register.