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WJM CONTENT UPDATE – DR. NOA SHASHAR

At the content heart of this ambitious project is a commitment to highlighting the Jewish contribution to the world while avoiding Jewish hubris and self-aggrandisement.  Around this very general idea emerged an early articulation (2014) of the content domains of the institution which was wide-ranging and very extensive both in terms of areas of Jewish contribution, historical periods and outstanding Jewish figures.

In 2018 and 2019, at the initiative of the Matanel Foundation, a series of 50 interviews were conducted in Israel by Dr. Noa Shashar.   A booklet containing the central ideas which emerged during the interview process will appear shortly in Hebrew. While participants provided much valuable commentary on the idea of the WJM, they were not asked to help provide the narrative we are currently seeking. The leadership of the WJM therefore decided to embark on an expedited content deliberation process in order to develop the core content.  This will ultimately enable RAA (Ralph Appelbaum Associates) to move forward on the internal design of the institution and provide more clarity for the fundraising efforts worldwide.

Joseph Schwab, the father of modern curriculum theory, developed in the 1970’s at the University of Chicago the concept of a ‘Curriculum Deliberation’.  Following John Dewey, this is a process of carefully considering competing content alternatives from a variety of perspectives in order to deliberately define and then hone the ultimate product.

The process calls for a relatively small group of outstanding thought leaders, content specialists, and experts in representation of ideas, who each write a short paper (no more than 5 pages) and then come together to brainstorm based on the written papers, in order to create a well-crafted narrative that is to become the basis for the next stage of content planning and of fundraising.   Their task is to create a thoughtful, focused narrative which makes it possible for museum designers to produce an exciting experience or experiences which help visitors reflect on ‘what makes the Jewish people tick’, which articulates core ideas and values which have kept this people together, and which connects between our ancient past and the modern pulsating State of Israel and city of Tel Aviv.

RAA is accompanying this process in order to provide experience, expertise and a ‘feasibility test’ of some of the ideas that emerge.

This takes place right at the height of the Covid-19 worldwide crisis.  Any plans that involved bringing groups together, first locally and then internationally, seem a pipe dream today.  On the other hand, Covid-19 may just have offered us not only a severe challenge but also a great opportunity.  One of the concerns which all of us had regarding the prominent names the project sought to involve was their availability and the very long lead time which is so often necessary in order to bring these individuals together.  We have, over the past 2 months, been able to recruit 16 outstanding thought leaders, from Israel, Europe and the North America, scholars and museum practitioners who have committed themselves both to write an initial ‘narrative’ and then participate, by Zoom, in a series of intensive consultations and brainstorming.

The group is currently at work developing their individual papers while the Zoom-based consultations will take place at the end of June and into the first two weeks of July.

It is still our hope that in the early fall it may be possible to convene a final face-to-face meeting of the thought leaders in order to refine and finalize the proposal for the ‘Content Narrative’ of the Museum which will be brought to the Board of Directors for discussion and approval.

Dr. Noa Shashar holds a Ph.D. from the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, (Department of Jewish History) and is a professor at the Department of Cultural Studies at the Sapir Academic College (from 2012).   Her academic research focuses on the history of the Jewish family. Noa holds a B.A. in History of the Theatre from the Hebrew University and a Masters in Gender and Judaic Studies from the JTS branch in Jerusalem.  Born and raised in Israel, she lives in Jerusalem and is a mother of five and grandmother of 2.

PROFILE: SHAUNA SHAPIRO JACKSON, WJM DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT

Shauna Shapiro Jackson is a Director of the American Friends of the World’s Jewish Museum (WJM) and heads the Los Angeles office. Currently Shauna is heavily involved in developing a virtual event for the WJM in October 2020. She is also chairing the second annual Los Angeles WJM Gala in 2021, after a successful inaugural Gala in 2019.

When asked why she chose to get involved with the World’s Jewish Museum, Shauna noted: “When Gail Asper first told me about the World’s Jewish Museum, I knew that I had to be a part of this transformational project.  While most Jewish museums around the world focus on the important issues of Holocaust or “what is a Jew,” I knew that it was time to also focus on the positive – Jewish contributions to humankind.  Celebrating the Jewish people’s remarkable and deeply impactful contributions to humankind over the past 3500 years in the areas of medicine, technology, science, the arts, entertainment and philanthropy will demonstrate how Jewish values have served as a foundation upon which Jews have helped change the world for the better throughout the ages. I believe that it is extremely important for our children to feel connected to their past, and that our children and future generations be inspired and proud of who we are as a people. I also love the overall idea of the power of one – how just one person can change the world for the better.  Last, but certainly not least, I am also proud of being instrumental in bringing Frank Gehry on board. Having the first iconic Frank Gehry structure in Israel is exciting and will make the World’s Jewish Museum a landmark destination. If the World’s Jewish Museum has anywhere near the impact in Tel Aviv that Gehry’s Guggenheim had on Bilboa, Spain, this museum will likely be an enormous boost to the Israeli economy.  Overall, I very much look forward to having the World’s Jewish Museum as a symbol of pride for both Israel and the Jewish people worldwide.”

Shapiro Jackson has enjoyed a long career in the entertainment industry and has produced, distributed and marketed over 300 feature films throughout the world in all media.  She is Vice President of the SC Group of companies. She is married to David Jackson, her business partner and former Vice President Business Affairs at MCA Records.  They have three children – Drew, Brandon and Riley.

MESSAGE FROM CEO, TEL AVIV FOUNDATION

Given the state of the world pandemic, I feel it’s important that I bring you an update on the current situation in Tel Aviv.

In these difficult times we face challenges as never before. They require us to continually refine and reshape our activities and ensure that every public action we perform is aligned with the new situation.

Tel Aviv-Yafo has multiple facets, comprised of diverse populations, and we needed to be there for All, operating with humbleness and sensitivity.

COVID-19 has introduced us to a new, ever-changing dynamic, in which we are required to give an immediate, good response in a reality full of restrictions. But in the midst of all this, from an urban perspective – the epidemic created an opportunity for implementing Multi-system City-Making, which was manifested in establishing the Mayor’s Emergency Relief Fund.

As soon as the health restrictions were published, Municipality professionals identified 8 of the city’s most vulnerable populations, and the Emergency Relief Fund began raising funds to assist in the form of food security, digital food vouchers, medicines, games, tablets for foreign community children for distant learning, and financial grants to artists. The assistance was carried out through the municipality professionals on-the-ground.

In addition to money raised by the Emergency Fund to fund all relief efforts, it also gave residents the opportunity to practice solidarity and social responsibility: Youth volunteered for the elderly, creative kits and games were distributed for special education children, and tablets for foreign children. The food vouchers were digital – with no need for physical contact, while supporting local food chains and grocery stores.

Many of the city’s residents are small businesses owners as well as customers. On the economic level, we have allowed them to support each other through the City Coin campaign, which encourages buying from local businesses by rewarding shoppers with a partial refund. We set up an Artist Fund to assist the city’s residents employed in the cultural and performing arts sectors – an industry that has been severely damaged. The aid applicants received grants and loans and were encouraged to give back to the community through their art. A similar request was also made to the student recipients of scholars who were encouraged to come and volunteer as part of the joint effort.

A welcome trend was observed among the Arab sector – which not only cooperated with the authorities at the national level, but also, for the first time, made its own donations to the Emergency Fund.

All actions we did under the Fund, in addition to providing financial aid to the needy populations, also enabled social mobility and a relationship of cooperation where the giver is also recipient, thus not perpetuating the poor, but empowering the cooperative. The Mayor’s Emergency Fund is a multi-system response that brought to light the human cause. In that aspect, the crisis allowed us to respond to ALL residents of Tel Aviv-Yafo, applying and communicating from the ground the City’s values of embracing, openness, tolerance, and innovation.

As a board member of the World’s Jewish Museum’s project, I am encouraged by the activity been produced at this time given the global pandemic, as we seek out supporters world-wide.

Dr. Hila Oren

MESSAGE FROM THE CHAIR OF THE BOARD

Greetings from Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada!

It is my hope that everyone is safe and healthy during this global pandemic.  While I always look forward to my trips to Israel, unfortunately due to the pandemic, I have been unable to visit Israel and attend the meetings and donor and volunteer reception we have  been planning for the World’s Jewish Museum.  While this is very frustrating, these are unprecedented times and we recognize that patience is required.  The one saving grace is the ability to stay in touch long distance via ZOOM calls with our WJM teams, volunteers and donors in Israel, Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, Mexico, Vancouver, Ottawa and Europe.

And happily, as you will see in this newsletter, work on the content continues.  Thanks to Noa Shashar and Alan Hoffmann, the WJM Scholar’s Committee recruitment is now complete and the scholars are busy completing the assignments.  I would like to extend our special thanks to Jean de Gunzburg for taking on the position of Co-Chair of the Content Committee with Alan Hoffmann.

While we have approached many individuals to support the WJM with their donations, it was felt by most of our campaign team that now isn’t the right time given the turmoil in the investment markets and the pressing needs of many charities that are directly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic.  We will however continue to connect with everyone to keep you informed about the progress of the WJM.  Given the environment we are in, our second major gala for the WJM in October 2020 in Los Angeles will be rescheduled to June 2021.  While we had plans for a big event in Miami for members of the Mexican Jewish Community, coordinated by our volunteer ambassador Jessika Slovik, this will be on hold until further notice.  In the meantime, to continue to build awareness of the WJM, we will be holding a world wide virtual event in October 2020, coordinated by Shauna Shapiro Jackson and Judy Levy.  More information to follow.

Thank you for your continued interest in the WJM.  Stay safe and healthy!

With warmest regards,
Gail Asper

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 Times, Los Angeles Times, Washington 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.”