JBuzz News February 7, 2012: Jenna Weissman Joselit: Jewish Culture Gets A ‘Master’ Class at George Washington University




Jewish Culture Gets A ‘Master’ Class

Jenna Weissman Joselit.

Jenna Weissman Joselit.

New G.W. graduate program to develop next generation of arts administrators for cultural institutions.

In the last decade, study after study has shown that Jewish culture — films, music, books — rather than traditional institutions like synagogues or day schools, has become an increasingly important part of American Jewish identity.

As if to drive home that point, a glittering array of newly built cultural institutions — from the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, which opened in 2005, to the National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia, unveiled in 2010 — have become landmarks for all American Jews.

All this has thrilled Jenna Weissman Joselit, a leading historian of Jewish culture and a professor at George Washington University. But what worried her was that there was no clear training for the future leaders of these institutions.

Many heads of new and older Jewish cultural venues, like JCCs, tended to have rabbinical training or success in the corporate world, she said. “But not all of them were all that clued in to Jewish history and Jewish culture.”

Conversely, she added, leaders who had come from the arts world — theater directors, say, or museum curators — didn’t necessarily have the business sense.

But the new master’s program she has created in Jewish Cultural Arts at George Washington University, announced last month, hopes to rectify that.

“The distinctiveness of the G.W. program is that it combines both the arts education and the administrative training,” she said, adding that both are necessary to run a cultural institution.

Elise Bernhardt, the president and chief executive officer of the Foundation for Jewish Culture, applauded the program’s arrival as well. “There are many such programs in the secular world,” she said. “But given that there’s a focus on Jewish culture that didn’t exist in the world before, [this program] makes sense.”…READ MORE