The Museum at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in New York is the visual extension of the spiritual, cultural, and educational life of the College-Institute, which provides graduate and professional programs for students of all faiths. As a university/seminary museum, its mission is to:
- Present exhibitions and related educational and public programs that illuminate the 4,000 year-long span of Jewish experience;
- Showcase the creativity of contemporary artists of all faiths exploring Jewish identity, history, culture, and experience;
- Feature exhibitions and programs that interpret core Jewish values, texts, and beliefs and that foster a deeper appreciation for Jewish heritage;
- Provide a forum for the exploration of the role of the arts as an expression of Jewish spirituality;
- Highlight the creativity of contemporary Israeli artists and strengthen cultural ties between North America and Israel;
- Showcase treasures of the College-Institute's library, archives, and museum collections;
- Celebrate the important role played by collectors in the development of Jewish art and museums;
- Build bridges of interfaith and multi-ethnic understanding;
- Serve as an experimental laboratory for learning in Jewish and arts education;
- Enhance public education regarding Jewish history and culture;
- Enrich the academic and professional training of students preparing for careers of communal leadership;
- Render service to faculty as a resource to enhance their curriculum and teaching;
- Provide exhibitions, programming, and professional museum guidance to synagogue museums affiliated with the Reform M ovement and other Jewish cultural venues throughout North America.
Since its founding in 1983 as the Joseph Gallery, in affiliation with the College-Institute's network of Skirball Museums in Cincinnati, Los Angeles, and Jerusalem, the Museum has grown physically to encompass 5000 square feet of exhibition space, expanding within the past ten years to include the Petrie Great Hall, Klingenstein Gallery, Heller Gallery and Backman Gallery. It has grown programmatically during this period to present eight to ten exhibitions per year. Amongst the exhibitions presented to date [see listing], the Museum has mounted seminal shows for emerging artists, surveys of leading mid-career and elder artists; cutting-edge exhibitions illuminating Jewish issues, including contemporary artistic responses to the Holocaust, the history of African-American and Jewish relations since 1654 to the present, the impact of family violence on the works of contemporary Israeli and American women artists, and the current situation in Israel and contemporary Israeli identity; landmark exhibitions establishing new directions for contemporary Jewish ceremonial art; group exhibitions reflecting new interpretations of Biblical text; and exhibitions of significant private collections, reflecting Jewish identity and consciousness, which have advanced the definition of Jewish art in the 20th century. Over 20,000 visitors participate in the Museum's exhibitions and programs each year. The Museum's reach is amplified by its active traveling exhibition program, through which scores of exhibitions generated by the Museum are placed in Jewish museums, university art museums, and cultural centers throughout North America. Today contemporary artists, peer museums, art publications, critics, and the general public recognize the Museum as the premier venue in New York for the presentation of contemporary art exploring Jewish identity and themes. Leadership:
Guiding the Museum's mission and the planning of exhibitions and related programs is a volunteer, 30-member Museum Advisory Committee. The Museum Advisory Committee is comprised of distinguished art historians, art collectors, museum curators, educators, and faculty and administrators of the College-Institute. Professional leadership for the Museum is provided by a director, curator, registrar, public relations director, and public programs manager. In 2000, the Museum inaugurated the Docent Program, training a cadre of 30 dedicated individuals who guide adult and school groups throughout the year. The Museum offers a challenging internship program for highly qualified high school, university, and graduate students throughout the year. Educational Programming:
The Museum is committed to educating the general public as well as the faculty, students, and staff of the College-Institute. It presents an array of cultural and educational programs, organized in conjunction with exhibitions, which disseminate Jewish history, culture, contemporary creativity, and foster interfaith and multicultural understanding. The Museum welcomes students and instructors from a broad spectrum of Jewish, public, and parochial schools, who benefit from customized docent-led tours of the Museum, as well as opportunities to meet with HUC-JIR faculty and students, attend student recitals, and visit the College-Institute's Petrie Synagogue and Klau Library. In conjunction with Facing History and Ourselves, the Museum presents teacher workshops that relate exhibitions to curriculum fostering human rights education. The Museum's programming and staff are integrated into the New York School of Education's Master of Arts degree and certificate programs, which trains educational administrators and curriculum developers for adult, family, and informal Jewish education. The Museum collaborates with leading Jewish publications, including Reform Judaism magazine and Lilith magazine to present exhibition-related public programs of interest to the larger public. Intensive audience development strategies, including direct mail, advertisement, e-mail listservs, and reviews and listings in secular and Jewish publications, are designed to attract diverse visitors, including school and adult groups, Jewish lay and professional leaders, interseminary students, the arts community, and the general public.
The Museum has a commitment to documentation of all exhibitions through catalogs, brochures, and other printed materials. With the support of special grants, the Museum has been able to publish significant catalogs documenting exhibitions, including Thirty Pieces / Thirty Years: Sculpture by Ann Sperry, Yaacov Chefetz: There They Will Change My Name, Ora Lerman: I Gave You My Song, Living in the Moment: Contemporary Artists Celebrate Jewish Time
, Daily Rage: Edith Isaac Rose, Deborah Rosenthal: Eve's Vocabulary, Robert Broner: A Life in Print, A Treasury of Sacred Melodies: The Edouard Birnbaum Collection of Musical Manuscripts, Rage/Resolution: From Family Violence to Healing in the Works of Israeli and American Women, Drawing from the Source: Miriam, Women's Creativity and New Ritual, Ron Oron: Planes, Ben Katchor: Drawings from Julius Knipl, Real Estate Photographer,Breaking the Tablets: Works by David Newman, Inside the Ark: Ora Lerman, The Chosen: Five Hundred Years of Sephardic Enlightenment - Sculpture by Sandi Knell Tamny, The Collector's Room: Selections from the Michael and Judy Steinhardt Collection, Renewing Rituals: A Passover Celebration in Contemporary Crafts, Ceramic Transformations: Mosaic Sculptures by Susan Tunick, Blacks and Jews: The American Experience, Chaim Gross and His Universal Themes, The Work of Our Hands: Illuminated Hebrew Manuscripts, Hana Geber: Sculptures of Religious Passion, and Mizrah: Compass for the Heart.
These catalogs feature essays by celebrated Judaic scholars, art historians, and critics, including Dr. Norman J. Cohen, Dr. William Cutter, Dr. Martin A. Cohen, Dr. Mark Kligman, and other members of the HUC-JIR faculty; Geoffrey Hartman, Dore Ashton, Raimund Abraham, Pepe Karmel, Matti Megged, Yochanan Muffs, Aimee Brown Price, Mary Tompkins Lewis, Cissy Grossman, Phyllis Braff, and Arlene Raven.
The Museum is supported by the Museum Advisory Committee and by grants from leading arts and education foundations, including The Krasner Pollock Foundation, The Sun Hill Foundation, The Cynthia G. Edelman Family Foundation, the Richard Florsheim Art Fund, the J. M. Kaplan Fund, the Agnes Gund and Daniel Shapiro Foundation, the Frishman Fund, the Gimprich Foundation, the Claims Conference on Jewish Material Culture, the Lucius N. Littauer Foundation, and the Dr. Bernard Heller Foundation; corporate grants from Fisher Pharmaceuticals, Oscar Gruss & Son, Pro Pack Inc., and Elbit Electronics; grants from Israel's Ministry of Culture, the New York-Israel Cultural Foundation, and the Consulate General of Israel in New York; and by the support of the alumni of HUC-JIR.