If you’re still crying over the death of Cecil the Lion, well, then this next one might leave you in tears of confusion. Yes, inside a Hasidic Rabbi’s house in Brooklyn’s Borough Park is a taxidermy museum called Torah Animal World. Every animal mentioned in the Hebrew Bible and Talmud is on display. Talk about making the Bible literally come to life. There’s a saber-toothed tiger next to an Arabian oryx and a crocodile followed by the top half of a giraffe. Children visiting the museum get to hold these specimens (which is pretty evident in the photos above as they are passed around like 99 bottles of beer on the wall).
Actually there’s a reason for all this touching (which wouldn’t be allowed in most museums) as supposedly experiencing these animals up close helps unlock the Old Testament’s dense metaphors…or something. The owner, Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, believes “if you touch history, history touches you.” It’s also very educational as visitors get to see what the original horns used for a 200-year-old curled shofar actually look like, and sound like, which apparently is quite different from the ones used today (shofar are horns that are blown on Rosh Hashanah). There is also a penguin (wait…is that in the Bible?) to show that it has the signs of a kosher bird, but there is not a tradition of eating it, so it’s not kosher. The more you know!
Despite fears in early 2014 that the museum was set to close due to a lack of funds, it is still going strong. The owner claims he now receives 3,000 visitors a week (as someone who has worked in small museums for years I’d say that’s biblically impossible). And don’t think this place is just for Jews. The Rabbi tailors his tours for Christians and the Amish are apparently big fans of the place. Although the Rabbi would love to be in a massive museum complex one day, Torah Animal World still occupies a rowhouse that is attached to his own private home. So you guessed correctly. Visits are by appointment only.