Agency Viewpoint | Local

Preserving history, moving forward at JHM

Bryan Davis
Bryan Davis

This past year, 2015, has been an historic year for an institution whose focus is the preservation of history. In December 2014 the Jewish History Museum received a lead gift that propelled our organization and our community into a yearlong effort to transform the Jewish History Museum campus. On Feb. 21, 2016 we will open the fully renovated campus that will bring together the Jewish History Museum and Holocaust History Center into one contiguous downtown space dedicated to Jewish life, learning and memory.

The campus will include a newly curated core exhibit in the Jewish History Museum, featuring sculptures by Jacques Lipchitz on loan from the University of Arizona Museum of Art; an expanded Holocaust History Center that will provide local Holocaust survivor testimony in multimedia formats and highlight contemporary human rights issues on an ongoing basis; and memorial and sculpture gardens that will provide reflective outdoor spaces.

Mark your calendars now for the Feb. 21 grand opening celebration.

Bill Kugelman, a survivor of Ausch­witz from Sosnowiecz, Poland, now 91 years old, told me that Holocaust survivors in our community began a conversation 50 years ago in someone’s living room about creating a local institution dedicated to teaching youth about the Holocaust. We are realizing that dream now, half a century later. Most everyone who had that conversation in the 1960s has passed; we are enacting the concept of l’dor v’dor (from generation to generation): together we are realizing this imperative.

The growth of the Jewish History Museum and the establishment of the Holocaust History Center are a vital part of the larger revitalization of downtown Tucson, and the campus will provide a Jewish community foothold in our downtown area. We were thrilled to partner with so many local cultural organizations and businesses throughout the year, and we are confident that by enriching the cultural life in Tucson we are helping to make our community a better place. The new Jewish History Campus will be a place where we honor Jewish pioneers for their contributions to the development of Southern Arizona, celebrate our Jewish community today and learn about and remember those who were victims of Nazism. In other words, the Jewish History Museum is a place where people will learn about the complexities and multiple dimensions of Jewish history and Jewish life. It is a place that will challenge and disrupt monolithic notions of who the Jewish people are.

There are numerous ways to be involved with and support the work of the Jewish History Museum. Please be in touch and help us to realize this potential together.

Contact the Jewish History Museum at (520) 670-9073 or The museum is currently closed for renovation and will reopen Feb. 21.

Bryan Davis is director of the Jewish Community Relations Council and the Holocaust Education & Commemoration Project at the Jewish Federation of Southern Arizona, and interim director of the Jewish History Museum.