(Photo: Torah Animal World)
A Jewish Brooklyn-based museum that displays expertly preserved, in true-to-life poses, taxidermied animals mentioned in the Torah, is set to close soon due to financial difficulties.
Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, owner of Torah Animal World, had been struggling for a while with the tough choice to sell his locale that has served as an educational venue for children since 2008. However, he realized that continuing to maintain the museum was not going to be affordable since it had not received many donations recently, which led him to place the building on the market for nearly $1 million.
"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. ... If a sponsor came along and helped us, we would not sell," said owner Rabbi Shaul Shimon Deutsch, according to the New York Post.
If sold, the 350 animals in the museum, which operates out of a private two-story 1,900-square-foot row house, will be taken to another museum that Deutsch owns and operates in upstate New York.
The collection of deceased creatures that are usually acquired from zoos, where they have died of natural causes, is worth $1.5 million. While many have been donated to the museum, others have cost Deutsch tens of thousands of dollars, like the $40,000 elephant head he has on display.
"We accumulated a lot of debt doing this," said Deutsch.
The museum building was bought in 2007 for $850,000, according to New York-based blog Curbed.com, and has sparked very little interest since it was placed on the market a few weeks ago. In addition to the hefty price tag, the two-bedroom, three full bath property needs total renovation.
With 35,000 annual visitors to educate on Old Testament animals, Deutsch relays on a network of 35 craftsmen who mold animal skins into lifelike forms and is constantly on the lookout for additional kosher and non-kosher animals.
"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 said. "This is the only place for them to go and see the animals in a biblical context."
Although he finds himself in a struggling financial situation, Deutsch is hoping to get help somehow in order to keep the museum open. He also hopes to one day purchase a 40,000-square-foot warehouse to display his collection of animals.
Besides Torah Animal World, Deutsch also owns and operates a synagogue, a charity pantry, the Living Torah Museum, which is a collection of biblical artifacts two doors down, and another animal exhibit featuring the creatures mentioned in the Talmud, the collection of writings on Jewish law.