A Brooklyn Bible-themed museum that the New York Post has called the city’s “weirdest” and that Gothamist calls “bizarre” is set to close over financial woes.
Torah Animal World describes itself as the place to find “an amazing display of real animals mentioned in the Torah, expertly preserved in true-to-life poses.”
According to the Post, the privately-run museum houses “every animal mentioned in the first five books of the Old Testament.” There are no live growling creatures on site, however. Instead, the museum houses 350 stuffed (via taxidermy) and preserved specimens of biblical animals.
“My real goal was to create a zoo in Brooklyn,” Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, who owns the museum, told the New York Times earlier this week. “But we didn’t want any wild lions getting loose in Borough Park, so we did the next best thing and used taxidermy.”
A New York Times correspondent who visited described the museum:
Outside, a 10-foot-tall image of a giraffe looms over the doorway, next to a fiberglass moose head.[...]
Upstairs, taxidermied ducks and geese swoop over tall birds, like an ostrich. In the back, visitors can sit among animals that appear in prayers, including a white-tailed deer.
“All the animals died naturally, either in zoos or gaming reserves,” Deutsch told the Post. “We don’t kill any animals for our exhibits.”
While the New York media used adjectives like “weirdest” to describe the venture, the museum offers the educational opportunity to bring the Bible to life, “to give children a taste of that authentic fire-and-brimstone flavor,” Gothamist wrote.
“A kid who is learning in school can come here and, in an hour, get to see the animals of the bible. Get to see the birds of the bible. He can see the creepy animals of the bible,” Deutsch told the Post. “This is the only place for them to go and see the animals in a biblical context.”
Deutsch values the collection at $1.5 million which includes the $40,000 elephant head that he paid for himself. Other animals have been donated.
“I tried to work through the terrible economy that we’re in, but it just came to a point that we now had to make a decision to sell it,” Deutsch said. “We accumulated a lot of debt doing this.”
Tours include an explanation of where in the Bible each animal is named, and visitors are allowed to touch the displays, which also include the ibex, peacock, buffalo and emu.
One animal that is not displayed: the pig, perhaps the most iconic unkosher animal.
“You know, a bakery sells not what the baker likes, but what the customers want to eat. And in a certain sense, you have to be sensitive to what people want to see or not want to see,” Deutsch explained.
He prefers not to sell the museum he opened in 2008 and is hoping for something seen frequently in the Bible...a miracle.
“If a sponsor came along and helped us, we would not sell,” he said.
Deutsch says he would need one million dollars to keep running, otherwise he will have to move the stuffed animals to another branch of the museum in New York’s Catskills Mountains.
The real estate blog Curbed called the house which is now listed for sale “the funkiest listing in recent memory.”