"You are Part of the Story" - discussion groups
Beit Hatfutsot of America, a new initiative of the Tel Aviv based Museum of the Jewish People, hosted a diverse and select group of young lay leaders, scholars and professional leaders, 40 years of age and under, who are dedicated to the vision of Jewish Peoplehood, that unique, inspiring, unparalleled and transcending brand of collective and personal identity based on common heritage, history, faith, fate, purpose and deed, that has framed and defined Jewish civilization for generations. They gathered to review and critique the conceptual program and preliminary design plans for the proposed core exhibit of Beit Hatfutsot as presented by Avinoam Armoni, CEO of Beit Hatfutsot, and Shulamith Bahat, CEO of Beit Hatfutsot of America.
Beit Hatfutsot is undergoing a rebirth. At the heart of the new Beit Hatfutsot is an understanding that interdependence and mutual responsibility underlie the relationship between world Jewry and Israel and among Jewish communities worldwide.
The anchoring concept of the proposed exhibition -- "you are part of the story" and "without you the story is not complete" - conveys clear and authentic message that the evolving narrative of the Jewish people at Beit Hatfutsot is a global endeavor.
Beit Hatfutsot's leadership seeks, through the renewal of this vital Jewish institution, to facilitate and reinforce the partnership among Jewish communities and between world Jewry and Israel.
The group had an opportunity to weigh in on the development of future plans of Beit Hatfutsot in general and the core exhibit in particular. Steve Kalifowitz, Senior Producer, Retail & Digital Environments, R/GA applauded Mr. Armoni on the excellent articulation of the new museum vision and agreed that a strong foundation of history was needed for the exhibit. He recommended that the priority of the renewed Beit Hatfutsot should be to go virtual so that its rich resources will be easily available online. Dr. Arielle Shanok, Clinical Psychologist, CUNY Graduate Center Counseling Center, expressed great interest in the museum's plans for environmental sustainability. David Matkowsky, Director of Jewish Community Development at the 92nd Street Y, warned that it was often very difficult to promote awareness and inclusion was not always attainable. He stressed that Beit Hatfutsot must explore moving from being a curiosity to being inter-connected by means of organizational and live links. Florence Broder, Social Media Director, Jewish Agency for Israel, was covering the forum on twitter and emphasized the imperative to engage the audience by taking advantage of the new methods of social media.
Model of the New Museum of the Jewish People
Rabbi Reuven Khaskin, Educator & Program Director, Russian American Jewish Experience (RAJE), stressed that the question of what it means to be Jewish is cardinal. In an effort to reach as many Jews around the globe it is essential that the issues that unite them be addressed.. Miriam Shamelasvhilli, Freelance Write/Producer at BBC American and Lifetime Networks, suggested that the modern Jewish experience should be the first section of the exhibit that a visitor encounters upon entering the museum. By taking this approach and saying "this is who you are now" the visitors' immediate attention will be grabbed and then have them explore their identify further by discovering where they came from. Adam Smolyar, Senior Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Jewish Federations of North America, commended Beit Hatfutsot's objective of focusing on peoplehood. While it is important, from a strategic point of view to articulate well what Beit Hatfutsot seeks to accomplish, he urged that attention be paid to ways of enticing people who are not interested in exploring their own identity to come to the museum and experience it. Many participants agreed that the most important element in connecting an individual to Beit Hatfutsot is the interaction and immersion that is provided in creating one's own experience.
These brainstorming forums, including two successful ones recently held on the East Coast, already had considerable impact, on Beit Hatfutsot's evolving plans. To continue the discourse, additional forums for specific target groups will be held in key communities in the United States and around the world.
More than a museum, Beit Hatfutsot is bolstering its International School of Jewish Peoplehood Studies; creating a new family gallery; and expanding temporary and traveling exhibits and cultural programs, in addition to the new permanent exhibit. Beit Hatfutsot's treasure trove of resources (films, photos, music, documents about communities and Jewish families, etc.) and digital data bases are being updated. Beit Hatfutsot will be using the most advance technologies to connect people to their roots and to each other.
Beit Hatfutsot of America is a programmatic entity, a platform to bring a variety of cultural and intellectual dialogues and activities related to the themes of Beit Hatfutsot to North America; developing relations with compatible institutions such as JCCs and museums; cultivating leadership and broadening the universe of those engaged with, supporting and involved with Beit Hatfutsot.