Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience to Open in Fall
NEW ORLEANS – Officials with the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience announced the new museum will open this fall at 818 Howard Ave. Exhibits will explore the ways Jews in the American South influenced and were influenced by their communities throughout 13 states and more than 300 years of history – including the Colonial Period, the Civil War, World War II and the civil rights movement.
“This will be the only museum in the country to focus exclusively on the history and culture of Jews across the South,” said Jay Tanenbaum, museum chairman.
Multimedia exhibits will illustrate how Jewish immigrants and succeeding generations adapted to life in the South, forming bonds with their non-Jewish neighbors. The Museum will also address issues of race and anti-Semitism and the many ways that Southern Jews navigated them at different times.
New Orleans was chosen as the museum’s home based on the city’s vibrant tourism economy, long Jewish history and historical connection to the broader southern region. MSJE will be located in the city’s “museum district” near the National WWII Museum, Ogden Museum of Southern Art and the Contemporary Art Center.
The Museum’s collection of more than 7,000 artifacts was transferred from the original Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience, established in 1986 at Jacobs Camp in Utica, Mississippi, and shuttered in 2012.
“The museum’s mission changed and grew into the Goldring/Woldenberg Institute of Southern Jewish Life, headquartered in Jackson, Miss.,” said Tanenbaum. “In order to reimagine and grow, the museum separated from the Institute, giving it the independence to become a world-class attraction.”
MSJE is working with Gallagher & Associates, an internationally recognized museum planning and design firm responsible for award-winning experiences at scores of international projects including the National Museum of American Jewish History, the National College Football Hall of Fame and the National WWII Museum.
The Museum is expected to appeal to a wide array of visitors. “You don’t have to be Jewish and you don’t have to be Southern to relate,” said executive director Kenneth Hoffman. “Our hope is that visitors come away with an expanded understanding of what it means to be a Jew, what it means to be a Southerner and, ultimately, what it means to be an American.”