Thanks to the Forward’s August 12 article, “How B’nai B’rith’s Museum Went From Must-See Site to Oblivion,” readers were reminded about B’nai B’rith’s extraordinary collection of Judaica, which formed the core of the B’nai B’rith Klutznick National Jewish Museum in Washington, D.C.
It is true that the majority of the magnificent collection is currently in storage. However, we must disagree with the Forward’s tone and with certain assertions, which suggest that B’nai B’rith does not care about the Klutznick collection. Indeed, the opposite is true, as evidenced by the fact that throughout most of the museum’s existence, B’nai B’rith was the principal funder of museum operations, frequently funding 100% of the museum’s operating costs. B’nai B’rith’s devotion to the museum and to its mission is beyond question.
We are actively working to fulfill B’nai B’rith’s goal to partner with others in the Jewish community or to integrate the entire collection within an existing institution.
We currently have 79 pieces of the collection on display in our offices and we give tours on a “by-reservation” basis. But, we are eager for the day when all 1,800 items, many of which are unique, can once again be displayed in a formal museum setting.
Pending that, we have gone to extraordinary lengths to preserve the collection in its entirety, spending substantial funds each year on insurance and storage, protecting the collection at a secure fine-art storage facility that adheres to the highest museum standards. We continue to have a dedicated expert devoted to the museum collection.
We could have dispersed the collection piece by piece. We chose instead to protect and preserve it.
As noted in your piece, Vivian Mann, the former chair of Judaica at the Jewish Museum in New York, said, “There are horror stories of institutions who have sold off or wanted to sell off their artistic patrimony and I credit B’nai B’rith with keeping the collection together.”
During these tough economic times, B’nai B’rith, like so many other groups, has been forced to focus more on its primary missions — providing service to Jewish communities worldwide, defending human rights, assisting seniors, responding to disasters and promoting public policies of concern to the Jewish people.
Hopefully soon, the Klutznick collection will have a new home where thousands will be able to learn from its artifacts and from the illustrious history, traditions and contributions to which they bear proud witness.
ALLAN J. JACOBS
DANIEL S. MARIASCHIN
Executive Vice President
Chair, B’nai B’rith Center for Jewish Culture
B’nai B’rith International