This East Side museum isn’t just a place to learn about Jewish history. It’s a space to have meaningful conversations about oppression, justice and tolerance through the perspective of Jewish history, art and values. Founded in 2008, the museum is home to a permanent collection, special themed exhibits and events that highlight the pains and accomplishments of Jews throughout history.
Our mission is to tell the story of the Jews through the lens of southeastern Wisconsin and to use the history of the Jews to promote tolerance and build bridges between people and communities. Jewish history is unique in that there are centuries of intolerance and antisemitism. But the Jews have also contributed to history in so many meaningful ways. We use that history to spark conversation in a divided time.
We get kids on field trips here, and they’ll sometimes say their docent is the first Jewish person they’ve ever met. When you learn a Jewish person is just another person with a story to tell, they become “known.” They’re no longer the other.
Know an individual or group committed to bridging divides in our community? Nominate them for a Unity Award by Oct. 31.
We also try to build bridges between communities. What I love about this museum is the ability to use this rich and varied history to find similarities with other communities, and to foster dialogue between them. There is so much more antisemitism than people know, but there’s also so much hate speech and crime toward other communities, even here in Milwaukee. We have to find ways to support each other.
We also use Jewish history to address important contemporary issues that affect all of us. In our “Scrap Yard” exhibit last year, we looked at the history of Jewish immigrants as scrap peddlers, who ultimately became the forerunners of recyclers. Through that lens, we explored environmental justice issues and the intersection of waste, race and health.
Whether someone’s visiting for an exhibit or a special event, we ask people to put on their critical thinking hats to think about what’s going on today in our culture, and what lessons we can take away from history and art as they pursue justice in their own way.
– Patti Sherman-Cisler
A fresh perspective on … DIVERSITY
Diversity isn’t just about inclusion. It’s about including various communities in a meaningful, deep way. If your diversity doesn’t equate to relationships and meaningful conversations, it’s not diversity. True diversity is the step toward learning about each other and finding our shared humanity.