How Jewish Museums Are Expanding Into the Digital Universe

Cultural Leaders Grapple With Paradigm Shift

After the Flood: Items recovered from Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters are on exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.
Courtesy of Museum of Jewish Heritage
After the Flood: Items recovered from Saddam Hussein’s intelligence headquarters are on exhibit at the Museum of Jewish Heritage in New York.

By Renee Ghert-Zand

Published January 06, 2014, issue of January 10, 2014.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

Last year, the National Endowment for the Arts released some preliminary findings from its 2012 Survey of Public Participation in the Arts. The survey found that more than two-thirds of American adults accessed art via electronic media, including handheld mobile devices and the Internet. This information came as no surprise to the most widely known Jewish institutions disseminating Jewish art and culture — namely, Jewish museums.

Leadership teams at Jewish museums across the country have been grappling for some time with what it means to have virtual visitors. In the age of Facebook, Twitter, Flickr and Tumblr, Jewish museums are strategizing about how to share their collections with and engage people all over the world who might never walk through their buildings’ front doors.

A further challenge is posed by the fact that in-person visitors do not expect to fully disconnect from their screens while in the galleries. For many people, a 21st century museum visit is incomplete without an interactive experience facilitated by QR codes or touch screen technology.

The subject of how new media is impacting Jewish museums will be high on the agenda of the Council of American Jewish Museums’ upcoming retreat in March, titled, “Connecting to Communities in Changing Times.”

“The CAJM retreat is focusing on the many dimensions of change that are occurring in the communal and cultural environments in which our institutions pursue their missions. Technological developments and shifting audience expectations are an important component of change,” CAJM executive director Joanne Kauvar told the Forward.

“We are going to be dealing with how to cope in our current reality, in which there are changing and fragmented modes of cultural consumption,” said Zachary Levine, one of the retreat’s co-chairs and assistant curator at Yeshiva University Museum in New York.


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.