09 February 2009

Jewish Museums: Some groans, some success stories

Hard times all around, a bit of guarded optimism and even a few success stories were recounted at the recent Conference of American Jewish Museums in New York City, as detailed in the New York Jewish Week by Eric Herschthal.

There was plenty to talk about at this year’s Conference of American Jewish Museums. Days before the event began here Sunday, Brandeis’ trustees
announced that they were selling off the jewels in its Rose Art Museum — works
by Warhol, de Kooning and Hoffman — to cover the university’s deficits. No one
at the conference had any clue how much the Madoff scandal would affect future
fundraisers. And, of course, it was anyone’s guess how long or deep this recession might be.

But, hey, chin up! That was one order heard plenty of times at the panels held at museums, galleries, and private homes that played host to the four-day event. “I think we need to stop worrying about Madoff,” said Michele Cohn Tocci, who manages The David Berg Foundation, at a panel at the Center for Jewish History. “There’s plenty of rich people in your communities. You just need to go out there and ask.”

Some said it was not so simple. A woman trying to raise money for the Roman Vishniac archives - the last known photographs of pre-war European Jews - said, “There’s just not that much money to go around."

There were some success stories to counter the groans.

A delegation from Alaska could be seen at several conference events telling its story. The Jewish community there — 6,000 of the state’s 700,000 inhabitants — recently raised about $2 million and bought a new home for a Jewish museum in downtown Anchorage. “Seventy percent of our money comes from non-Jews,” said the bearded and bespectacled Rabbi Joseph Greenberg.

The speaker of Alaska’s House of Representatives, John Harris, a Catholic, was there to back him up. “The idea to purchase Alaska, that was a Jewish idea,” said the stout, blue-eyed pol in praise. Furriers lobbied the federal government hard to purchase Alaska in the 1860s, and, Harris said, “they were all Jewish, everyone. ... I want to return the favor.”

There's much more in the complete article at the link above.

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