Jewish museums present opportunities for team scholarship, public education and an equal opportunity access point for the entire Jewish community.
Moreover, Jewish museums are increasingly becoming venues for non‑Jews to encounter Judaism, and are exploring many aspects of inter‑group relations. The Jewish Museum's groundbreaking exhibition Bridges and Boundaries: Black‑Jewish Relations in America was a powerful, challenging experiment in public education. Its success was underlined not only by the large attendance inother cities where it traveled, but by the fact that in several cities African-American museums collaborated in its exhibition and programming.
Jewish museums are constantly experimenting with new cultural exhibits. The Jewish Museum of Maryland, for example, recently opened the first‑ever exhibition on “Tchotchkes! Treasures of the Family Museum.” Tchotchkes are small, mass‑produced, and seemingly trivial objects. Yet they carry substantial Jewish meaning. While some of our trustees wondered if we were going off the tracks, we comforted ourselves with the dictum attributed to the late Saul Lieberman of blessed memory: "Nonsense is nonsense. But the study of nonsense is scholarship!" When the African-American art critic of the Baltimore Sun reported that "you don’t have to be Jewish to love tchotchkes," we felt justified in challenging the conventional wisdom.
Jewish museums across the country are commissioning and hosting extraordinary artworks, installations, and performances, full of energy, vision, provocation, exploration, and engagement. Our shared enterprise, despite the usual financial struggles and occasionally misguided efforts, is flourishing. The Jewish museums of America are, collectively and individually, helping us "to know where we are, so that we may dwell in our place with a full heart."
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