All Posts (18)

Jeffrey Solomon (Charles and Andrea Bronfman Foundation) shares insights with the CAJM audience.  At table L-R: Session co-chair and moderator Lila Corwin Berman; National Museum of American Jewish History CEO Ivy Barksy; Bloomberg Philanthropies Arts Program Lead Anita Contini; Jewish Federation of LA VP of Young Engagement Tal Gozani.

Among the many points Jeff shared was his observation that of six factors that drove the success of major Jewish philanthropies from the 1940s - 1970s, only one remains true today.  Previously:

  • Most Jews self-identified as Jews in the first instance. 
  • They were highly conscious of glass ceilings, quotas, and discrimination in American society. There was also keen awareness of the risks to Jewish communities elsewhere. Insecurity was widely felt. 
  • There was an organic connection to Israel, linked to the trauma of the Holocaust. Giving to develop Israel and support the ingathering of Jews took on a notion of redemption.
  • Philanthropy with a religious cast and to a central organization was largely in the DNA. Jewish communities in Europe had specific religious taxes and these left an imprint in habit and expectation. The Jewish community had a strong sense that it took care of its members, from birth to the cemetery. 
  • There was frankly not that much competition. The great museums, universities, and hospitals were not that keen for Jewish support because they were not that keen to have Jews on their boards. 

Today, only the first of these is true. Jews are still relatively affluent. 

Ivy Barsky made a strong case for Jewish museums' unique ability to offer shared Jewish experiences to diverse groups who might be uncomfortable in a religious or more traditionally Jewish spaces.

Anita Contini shared insights from Bloomberg's proactive efforts to fund innovation and expand museum access, while also sharing knowledge and building capacity of their recipient institutions.

Tal Gozani shared some examples of collaborative funding where LA Federation not only provided dollars but also brought organizations together for innovative partnerships.

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All About the Unconference

CAJM is proud to be offering a new feature at its 2016 conference: the "Unconference." This segment will be devoted to audience-generated conversations and content, giving attendees an opportunity to engage with colleagues on themes and lingering questions on the final day of the conference.

Conference registrants are invited to propose an "Unconference" session online any time before the deadline on Monday, March 21 at 2 p.m. All submissions must be submitted through this form:

Voting will take place in person on March 21 at 4:30 p.m., and the facilitators of winning proposals will be notified that evening. "Unconference" sessions will commence at 9:30 a.m. on Tuesday, March 22. Please only submit a proposal if you will be available to facilitate a session.

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Wondering ...

What are we wondering about?  What questions would we like to see answered?  We encourage you to think about and respond to any or all of the questions posted after the opening session of the 2015 conference, led by Nina Simon. Feel free to add new ones. You'll find six groupings (headings) under the "Forum" tab above:  The Field, Work, Museums and Other Places, Exhibitions, The CAJM Conference, Life etc.

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We've posted a few pictures from the conference in an album on CAJM's Facebook page.  Here's one from the California Historical Society on Monday evening.  If you have good ones, please add or send to and we'll share them. 

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Future of Holocaust Education

Session looking at implications for post-survivor memory and civic knowledge of Holocaust 

Since 1993, 36 million have visited USHMM: 34% students, 12% int'l, 90% not Jewish 

Michael Abramowitz: USHMM placing more emph on genocide prevention, thematic initiatives on hows and whys of Holocaust, teacher training, work w law enforcement + military 

Stephen Smith:  Origins of Shoah Fdn - survivor approached Spielberg during filming of Schindler’s list. Now 12 years worth of video testimony. New Dimensions in Testimony: survivors recorded w 3-D technology, specific questions posed, access via internet w voice recognition or as holograph in space.  Efforts need to be content led, technology supported - think hard about putting people's lives into public domain.

Smith: Holocaust survivors are fans of New Dimensions approach and are eager to participate. 

re technology: USHMM has changed its photo policy - couldn't prevent it - so provides careful instructions

USHMM uses its convening power and research $ to work with policy makers where possible


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Technology and Mission

At Tuesday tech session, Keir Winesmith says SFMOMA is rethinking shape and purpose of what museum can be - with tagline "We've temporarily moved ... everywhere." Their Art + Data day brought technologists, designers, other creative professionals together to imagine ways to give people access to collections data.  Keir says our mobile devices are smarter, more reactive, more transporting than fancy technologies museums have offered. Need to use them properly and also simpler ones: post-its, people.

Nik Honeysett oversees digital department supporting 27 cultural institutions in Balboa Park from tech support to elaborate in-gallery interactives, signage, large scale digitizations for collections access - he's aiming for single unified digital strategy for whole destination. (Good luck, Nik!) 

Laura Mann of Frankly, Green + Webb re digital and mobile projects:  Bigger budgets don’t necessarily improve the quality; they just raises the stakes.  Digital services and products are means to end, not end in themselves; should be the compelling center of mission-audience-delivery Venn diagram.

Nik reminds us that museums introduced the public to touch screens and hyperlinking.

Keir: Challenge to sort out what information should be on label, in media, in printed materials. What tool helps visitor look at work?

Nik: Can’t second-guess what visitors want to know; trend's self-discovery/user as protagonist. Museums can be authorities, create strong content around works/subject.

What investment should museums make in tech/digital? Must always relate to mission. Advice: provide free Wifi; capture everything.

Laura: Think about life span of digital project and anticipate obsolescence.

Keir's 3-18-3 rule of thumb for digital planning: evaluate at 3 mos, change content at 18 mos; replace after 3 years. 

Laura: Perception that audio guides are isolating is false; study shows guide prompts people to discuss what they saw and learned more than had they not used it.

Keir: One audience is the person doing something at museum; another is people watching the person do something. Think about both. 

Josh P asks about maximizing return on investment. Nik: no ROI right off on digital; building credit for future. Laura: before you start, ask what success is and how you'll know it. Keir: put $ in budget for evaluation.

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In Focus: An Open Conversation

Alla Efimova led presentation on the Revisions project at the Magnes, which invited artists to create new works in conversation with items from the archival collection. These included Amy Berk's reworking of stained family linens and tablecloths alongside Judaic textiles like a Kiddush Festival cloth; Naomie Kremer's (below)layering of personal family history, watercolors, silhouettes drawn from Roman Vishniac's Vanished World photographs, the photographs themselves, and an animated film combining all these elements; and Jonathon Keats' experiment with intergalactic dialogue - visual abstractions encoded into audio signals, endless loop tapes sent out into space from the museum via a microphone and Slinky antenna. Revisions a descendent of curatorial projects like Fred Wilson's Mining the Museum - itself an Open Source experiment. 

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Modern Food Rituals

Tuesday at the Magnes!  India Mandelkern talks about Modern Food Rituals exhibition, Berkeley's "Gourmet Ghetto", the origins of the modern food movement, and how principles of food activism (e.g., respect for nature, desire to make eating a sacred act) resonate with Jewish culture and thought. 

Kathleen Moran shares Victorian notion that “every meal is a lesson learned,” speaks about meals/food practices as reflections of values and about food taboos. Food cultures cross borders faster than any other cultural phenomena. And who knew? CA grows 400 different crops – more than any other state.

Sue Fishkoff on kosher food industry: 1st item with OU label was Heinz beans in 1923. Moved from province of minority > 30-40% of domestic food sales - perception of clean, higher quality. Also fits in with increase in politically and morally based diets (vegetarian, gluten-free, etc.). She says Judaism is only religion with rituals for every aspect of food process from planting to eating.

Dave from JCC SF on urban agriculture (connecting to place you live, seed libraries, observing plants) - relates to Tikkun and Shlemut (wholeness)

Ariela about Urban Adamah: one-acre farm infused with Jewish spirituality, run by 12-15 young adults, internships at food justice setting, free weekly farm stand. Food usually travels average of 1500 miles vs 2 centimeters from farm to mouth.  They teach Jewish concepts, connection between adam / adamah, pe'ah (leaving corner of field for those without access to food), ethics associated with land and animals
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From the storytelling session, Erwin McManus quote: "Whoever tells the best story shapes the culture."

Laura Callen of the Adoption Museum Project thinks that stories are more than their plotlines or narrative told from single POV; telling complexity is a matter of responsibility.

Callen also shares the framework of four (types of) truths from the International Coalition of Sites of Conscience:

Forensic truth – what happened; Personal truth – personal recollection, memory; Social truth – collection of stories told publicly; Healing truth - elicits “never again” response - and a number of labels describing the same image from different points of view

Another great quote about storytelling: "What happens is of little significance compared with the stories we tell ourselves about what happens" – Rabih Allemadine

Elana Samuels of the Museum of Tolerance quoting Elie Wiesel:  "To listen to a witness is to become a witness" 

Samuels also discusses "Memory Reconstruction: A Sacred Culture Rebuilt" an installation of family collages based on the Periodic Table that is a collaboration between the Museum of Tolerance and The Human Element Project.

Amy Hill from the Center for Digital Storytelling on "Why Story?"
- offers a way to process our experiences
- links us with community and support
- provides us with valuable information
- connects us directy with our emotions
- inspires hope and resilience

Hill says that digital storytelling blends the meaningful nature of a story with the technology we’re all using. The ones they produce at the Center are often simple recorded voiceovers illustrated with still photos and a couple of video clips. Generally easy to produce and share.

The Center facilitates oral testimony and reflective writing approaches that elevate individual voices; uses group processes in community based workshop environments; pays careful attention to ethical consideration.

Their "7 Steps of Digital Storytelling":

Owning your insight, owning your emotions, finding the moment, sharing your story, seeing your story, hearing your story, assembling your story

She mentions two good case studies relevant to museums:  the Community Narratives project at the Mizel Museum and a project with staff of science and technology centers with the Noyce Leadership Institute.

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The Anticipatory Museum

BKG - The new Jewish museum in Poland (POLIN) is not a museum of Polish history or of the Polish state; nor is it a history of Polish-Jewish relations or a Holocaust museum. It's honoring and recovering 1,000 years of Jewish history in Poland - a mitzvah and an agent for transformation around the world. It's a theater of history - a place for intangible heritage - designed to be memorable, emotional, thought-provoking, with a mode of narration that works against the expected foreshadowing and backshadowing to Holocaust/genocide.

Rabbi Noa Kushner describes San Francisco's The Kitchen - a porous, "say yes," experimental Jewish community, providing both access and content, continually researching the best ways to build Jewish life

Hil Moss of LaPlaca Cohen discusses about Culture Track and its research, the different ways people think of their “cultural” activities, shifts in behavior, loyalty and ways of participating. One finding: despite huge growth in number of mobile devices, few people are using them to enhance cultural experiences on site. But photos/selfies are huge so might tap into that more.

Less interest in being "in the know" than being with who you know - social social social. One half of milllenials will not go to an event on their own. Need to build trust and to be essential - cut through the noise. Be a third place - a civic, social place. Activate all your platforms. Transport and delight people.

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More Nina

Some of Nina's hiring practices: Why not be clear about what money you're offering? Be clear about skills you really need - don't necessarily need specific degrees; and uses a long application form that's entirely specific to the position. 

Nina's suggestions for inviting meaningful action at all levels: Ask a question to which you really want to know the answer. Make the question personal. Use what if questions.

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Opening Up the Museum

Nina Simon's emphasis on participation, social bridging, and experimentation in all aspects of the Santa Cruz Museum of Art has resulted in huge growth in participants, staff size, budget and cash reserves.

Some of her rules of thumb:

1. Invite meaningful action at all levels (e.g., their memory jar exhibition and "wanted" /wish list part of their e-blast that has led to new programs

2. be rigorous – lots of community organizing provides framework for participatory work

3. develop a theory of change - how do activities they/you do lead to the impact they/you hope to have (in their case, more bonds, social bridges, and empowered citizens)?

4. think platforms - not about program delivery; instead, how to create a platform that will encourage more people to participate without needing more staff? (e.g., a pop-up museu - ephemeral, just for a couple of hours)


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Welcome! We’re proud to launch this CAJM “Ning” to help us prepare for and build excitement around the 2015 conference. We hope that its life will extend far beyond our time in San Francisco, serving as a way for CAJM members to stay in touch and exchange ideas all year long. Check back often for conference updates and new posts and comments from your colleagues, and please add your own voice to the conversation!

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