Blue Star Museums Blog (Archive)

What's on View at the Jewish Museum Milwaukee?

Milwaukee, Wisconsin

(Photos courtesy Jewish Museum Milwaukee)

The Jewish Museum Milwaukee is located on Milwaukee's East Side in the Edward Durrell Stone-designed Helfaer Community Service Building at 1360 N. Prospect Avenue.  The Holocaust Memorial, commissioned in 1983, is located immediately outside the museum.

The Jewish Museum Milwaukee (JMM) first opened its doors in 2008, but its history began in 1984 with the creation of the Archives/Roots Committee by the Women’s Division of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation. Twenty years later, in 2004, the program had become the Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society and---through a Community Capital Campaign---was planning the construction of the JMM to be housed in the Helfaer Community Service Building, designed by renowned architect Edward Durell Stone.

The introductory panel in the museum states: 

Jews first arrived in Milwaukee in the 1840s. This museum celebrates the story of those Jews, their descendants, and later immigrants. It chronicles their struggles, achievements, and contributions to the city, the nation, and world. Their chapter in American history is also part of a much older narrative---the story of the Jewish people.

When Marc Chagall designed this tapestry in 1972 especially for the atrium of the building where JMM is located, it was one of only ten Chagall tapestries in the world.

At the Jewish Museum Milwaukee, a program of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, the Milwaukee Jewish story comes alive with photographs, artwork, interactive exhibits, documents, and the artifacts of their lives. With its growing collections, the JMM utilizes materials not only to preserve the past, but to use in demonstrations, classes, and scholarly research. Education is a strong focus of the museum, with specified class programs tailored to meet the needs of school and group tours, and a team of docents available to enhance the visitor’s experience. The museum offers exciting and informative programming, such as a Genealogy 101 course, book talks, and the Coming to America lecture series, all of which show how the past connects with our present and the future of Milwaukee’s Jewish community. 

Executive Director Kathie Bernstein knows the JMM has an important role in Milwaukee’s Jewish community, and doesn’t take this responsibility lightly: “Our goal is to engage people at all levels and ages. We are privileged to share the Milwaukee Jewish experience with our Jewish community and with the broader Milwaukee community, state of Wisconsin, and beyond.”

Exhibits developed for the Ettinger Changing Exhibit Gallery allow the Museum to address the constantly evolving continuum of the Jewish experience. Growing Up Milwaukee: Camping explores the holistic camping experience and its impact on the formation of the Jewish community.

The Museum recently opened a new exhibit entitled Growing up Milwaukee: Camping, which will run through November 28. It includes photos, memorabilia, and artifacts that recall the Wisconsin summer camping experience, and will also present two special events in connection with the exhibit, bringing summer camp alumni together to reminisce and reconnect. Program Coordinator Molly Dubin is confident the exhibit will bring back great memories. “So many children and families in the Jewish community of Milwaukee have fond and profound memories connected to summer camp, regardless of which camp they attended. The shared recollection of experiences that impacted their Jewish identity was always imparted with fervor and appreciation, and I think this exhibit reflects that.”

Through hard work and creativity, the Jewish Museum Milwaukee has flourished and provided educational, insightful, and thought-provoking exhibits and programs that invite the community to engage in meaningful cultural dialogue. “Our Museum and its exhibitions are an important way to establish Jewish relationships with different communities. We want to promote the public’s awareness and stimulate interest in all aspects of our culture,” said Executive Director Kathie Bernstein.

Summer isn't quite over yet and neither is Blue Star Museums! There's still time to visit one of the more than 900 participating  venues. Visit the Blue Star Museums web page for a complete list.

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