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JEWISH IDEAS CHANGE THE WORLD

By Rabbi Joseph Telushkin

“Jewish ideas have changed the world without the world knowing it. Now it will.” This expression has become the watchword of Hamakom: The World’s Jewish Museum. But what exactly do these words mean? Have Jewish ideas – the ideas of a people constituting about one-fifth of one percent of the world’s population — really altered the world’s destiny? Remarkably, they have. In dozens of ways. For example, a verse in the opening chapter of Genesis, the Torah’s first book, in telling of the creation of humankind, declares: “And God created man in His image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). Some 3,000 years after this verse was made known to the ancient Israelites, and through the Israelites to the world, the most famous line in the American Declaration of Independence was written: “All men are created equal.” Where indeed did this electrifying idea come from? From Greek philosophers? From Roman scholars? Certainly not. The notion that all human beings are inherently equal would have struck Hellenic and Roman thinkers as ridiculous. It was a simply worded biblical verse asserting that there is a spark of divinity in every human being that introduced this idea into the world – an idea that eventually culminated in the declaration “All men are created equal.”

This, of course, is but one example of the power of just this one verse. During the middle of World War II, a war fought to stop Hitler, the Nazis, and their notion of Aryan supremacy from taking over the world, US president Franklin Delano Roosevelt declared: “The whole reason we are fighting this war can be summed up in one in the Bible,’ And God created man in His image’.”

These few words written in the Torah over 3,000 years ago, have reverberated ever since. And the remarkable thing is that they have the power to continue to reverberate and protect humankind for the next 3000 years.

This is the goal of Hamakom, to share with Jews and non-Jews alike, those uniquely Jewish ideas, inventions and innovations that have elevated the whole world. And by doing so to fulfill another biblical verse, the one that defines God’s mandate to Abraham and to all his future descendants: “And you shall be a blessing [to all humankind] (Genesis 12:2)”.

VOLUNTEER PROFILE: RABBI DAVID WOLPE

Named one of the 500 Most Influential People in Los Angeles in 2016 and again in 2017, Most Influential Rabbi in America by Newsweek and one of the 50 Most Influential Jews in the World by The Jerusalem Post, David Wolpe is the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple. Rabbi Wolpe previously taught at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America in New York, the American Jewish University in Los Angeles, Hunter College and UCLA. A columnist for Time.com, he has been published and profiled in The New York TimesLos Angeles TimesWashington Post’s On Faith website, The Huffington Post and the New York Jewish Week.  He has been featured on The Today Show, Face the Nation, ABC This Morning, and CBS This Morning. In addition, Rabbi Wolpe has appeared prominently in series on PBS, A&E, History Channel and Discovery Channel. Rabbi Wolpe is the author of eight books, including the national bestseller Making Loss Matter: Creating Meaning in Difficult Times. His new book is titled David, the Divided Heart. It was a finalist for the National Jewish Book Awards, and has been optioned for a movie by Warner Bros.

When asked why he became involved in the World’s Jewish Museum, Rabbi Wolpe replied:

“I became involved in WJM because I want people all over the world, no matter what field intrigues them, to see the Jewish contribution to everything from the baseball field to the physics lab. Too often people tell the story of Jews as one of sadness — here is a place to celebrate our extraordinary achievements.”

DONOR PROFILE: GREENBERG FAMILY

The World’s Jewish Museum is pleased to thank the Greenberg family of the Ottawa, Canada based The Minto Group for their $2M donation to the WJM. The Minto Group is a fully integrated real estate developer, builder, manager and owner with operations in Alberta, Ontario, Quebec, South Carolina and Florida. It was founded by the Greenberg brothers, Gilbert, Irving, Lorry and Louis. The company is now owned by Gilbert’s six children and Irving’s daughter.
As the family developed the business in Ottawa neighborhoods, they began to support local charities and organizations, something the four founders of the Minto Group instilled in their children, nephews and nieces. Members of the Greenberg family and The Minto Group have been strong supporters of many Jewish and non-Jewish organizations throughout Canada, the United States and Israel. The Minto Foundation is now involving the 17 members of the third generation of the family in the decision making.
Roger Greenberg noted, “The Jewish people do a great job commemorating the tragedies of the past, but we don’t celebrate successes of our tremendous achievements — that is what we hope the Museum will give the world. Jews have a great positive story to tell and this is the message we would like to convey to the world!”

DONOR PROFILE: BLACK FAMILY

Stanley Black is an American real estate investor, community leader, and philanthropist from Los Angeles, California. Stanley and his late wife of blessed memory, Joyce, created the Stanley & Joyce Black Family Foundation with the help of their three children, Jack Black, Jill Black Zalben and Janis Black Warner as well as their grandchildren, to help change the world for the positive. Since the Foundation’s start in 1989, they have provided over $60 million to worthy causes from the family’s hometown of Los Angeles to communities around the world.

Jack, Jill, and Janis, along with their children, have taken their role as stewards of the Family Foundation with great care making sure the values instilled in them by their grandparents and parents are the focus of their work; not just supporting worthy causes but rather investing in communities that make lasting changes. Following by example, each family member sits on various boards that support causes from kidney disease to homelessness and mental health, encompassing a variety of local and international charities. The fundamental focus of the Black family has always been to give back and help others.

The Black family became early adopters of the Worlds Jewish Museum as it has been a pillar of the family’s philanthropy to support Israel. Impressed by the vision of arguably one of the world’s leading architects, Frank Gehry, WJM stands out as an international museum unlike any. The family, led by Mr. Black’s insistence, increased their support by more than doubling their charitable commitment while attending the 2019 inaugural gala in Beverly Hills, in memory of his beloved wife. The family fully expects Gehry’s vision of an Israeli landmark to set the stage for a new global focus on Tel Aviv. The Black family is excited to see the museum come to life in the years to come and is grateful to the team working diligently behind the scenes, especially Shauna Shapiro Jackson, for her guidance in understanding what an important role the museum will hold for Jewish communities near and far.

WELCOME ALAN HOFFMANN

It is with great pleasure that we welcome Alan Hoffmann as the Executive Chair of the recently established Israel Management Committee of the World’s Jewish Museum.

Alan is the former CEO and Director General of The Jewish Agency for Israel, the largest Jewish non-profit worldwide. He served in this role since 2010 and retired in 2019. Prior to that, Alan served for 10 years as the Director General of the Education Department of the Jewish Agency.

Before the Jewish Agency, Alan was Director of the Hebrew University’s Melton Centre for Jewish Education in which capacity he helped found the Florence Melton Adult School and many other programs at Hebrew University. Alan also served as CEO of the Council for Initiatives in Jewish Education in New York and then as Director of the Mandel Center at Hebrew University.

“I am very excited to have become part of this very important initiative. Tel Aviv, Israel and the world will all benefit enormously from this iconic building which celebrates the unique contribution of Jews and Judaism together with the ideas, conflicts and debates which undergird that contribution. For young Israelis this will be an opportunity to connect contemporary Israel to the creative forces which have shaped Jewish existence; for non-Jewish visitors a window into Jewish vitality over the centuries; for Jews living outside of Israel a cultural bridge. This is an institution whose time has come.”

WORLD’S JEWISH MUSEUM MOURNS PASSING OF ERIC MAYER Z”L

The management, advisors, staff and volunteers of the World’s Jewish Museum mourn Eric Mayer z”l who passed away on September 21, 2019. Eric was an extraordinary person who brought his life’s experiences including as a Holocaust survivor to the World’s Jewish Museum as a remarkable volunteer. Please see here for more information on Eric’s incredible life.

IN THE MEDIA

The concept of the World’s Jewish Museum has captured the imagination and interest of journalists around the world:

FEEDBACK ON THE WORLD’S JEWISH MUSEUM

Through a generous donation from the Matanel Foundation, Dr. Noa Shashar, a historian of the Jewish Family has been actively interviewing 50 Israeli educators, writers and historians who have given positive feedback on the World’s Jewish Museum.  The Matanel Foundation operates in Israel and encourages cultural initiatives that convey Judaism and knowledge of Judaism to various environments.  Its mission is to further justice and equality in the world.

CONTENT DEVELOPMENT COMMITTEE UPDATE

The WJM’s content will be developed with input from scholars around the world.

Gail Asper, Moe Levy and Rabbi Telushkin had an initial meeting with Sir Simon Schama on May 15 in New York to share the vision of the WJM.

Sir Simon Michael Schama CBE FRSL FBA is an English historian specialising in art history, Dutch history, Jewish history and French history. He is a University Professor of History and Art History at Columbia University, New York.  He brings to life Jewish history and experience in a 5 part documentary series:  The Story of the Jews with Simon Schama.

He expressed enthusiastic support for the WJM and his key thoughts were:

  • The general principle of the WJM should be devoted to “Jewish vitality not mortality”.
  • The whole raison d’etre of the WJM is to give the world a sense of Jewish history and culture
  • Popular education turns on stories – the more dramatic, the better and he sees the WJM as a chain of dramas each with its own space, some flowing into each other – all linked by questions and principles.