(JTA) — The most prominent American Jewish history museum is extending a free admission program that began when it reopened following the pandemic.
The elimination of ticket fees through at least the end of 2023 reflects a vote of confidence in Philadelphia’s Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, which was fighting to survive three years ago. Confronting a construction debt of $30 million, it declared bankruptcy right as COVID-19 hit and shuttered cultural institutions worldwide.
The Smithsonian-affiliated museum, located near historical landmarks such as Independence Hall, received a large donation from shoe designer Stuart Weitzman the following year. That gift allowed it to buy back its building and provided it with an eight-figure endowment (and a new name). When it reopened in May 2022, a $500,000 grant from the Jane and Daniel Och Family Foundation enabled the museum to provide free admission.
Now, a followup grant of $300,000 from the same foundation, plus a $200,000 donation from the Sofia and Mikhail Segal Foundation, will continue the policy.
The museum first experimented with free admission during the summer of 2019, and the museum found that the policy increased the number of visitors by 37%. A set of 500 exit interviews the museum conducted with visitors also found the vast majority of visitors that season were not Jewish. During the rest of the year, when admission was not free, the museum said that 75% of museum goers did identify as Jewish.
This year, the museum says its attendance numbers are rising, though they aren’t yet at pre-pandemic levels. In May and June 2023, more than 6,600 people visited the museum, as opposed to 3,700 from the museum’s reopening date of May 13 to the end of June in 2022. In May and June of 2019, the museum attracted 8,000 visitors.
Misha Galperin, the museum’s president and CEO, said in a statement that the free admission policy aims to combat prejudice. Galperin is on the board of governors of the Combat Antisemitism Movement and consulted on the White House strategy to combat antisemitism — which recommends education in museums as a tool to combat anti-Jewish bigotry.
“This is how we cultivate empathy and promote civil discourse,” he said. “We create tangible connections with stories of real Jews and this work provides an antidote to antisemitism.”
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UBC student union has voted against posing a referendum question about whether Hillel House should be evicted from campus
The student union at the University of British Columbia rejected a referendum question on its upcoming election ballot that would have, among other things, called for the eviction of Hillel BC from its Vancouver campus. The Feb. 28 meeting of the Alma Mater Society (AMS/Student Union) lasted several hours and ultimately ended with a 23-to-2 […]
‘Antisemitism Has No Place in Society,’ Says Prince William, Heir to British Throne
The heir to the throne of the United Kingdom spoke of his concern at the rise in antisemitism since the Hamas pogrom of Oct. 7 in southern Israel during a visit to a synagogue in London on Wednesday.
William, Prince of Wales, told Jewish students and representatives of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) that he and his wife, Princess Catherine, were “extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism.”
Wearing a navy blue kippa for the encounter at the Western Marble Arch Synagogue, the future king “heard how organizations like the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) are delivering programs to tackle hatred and encourage cross-community cohesion,” the London-based Jewish Chronicle reported.
In a conversation with three Jewish students and three HET ambassadors, the prince condemned the antisemitism that the students described experiencing on campus. “Prejudice has no place in society,” he said.
“I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again — I want you all to know you can talk about it and your experiences,” he continued.“Both Catherine and I are extremely concerned about the rise in antisemitism that you guys have talked about this morning and I’m just so sorry if any of you have had to experience that. It has no place… that’s why I’m here today to reassure you all that people do care and people do listen and we can’t let that go.”
The UK experienced a record year in 2023 for antisemitic outrages, with over 4,100 incidents recorded mainly in the period after the Hamas pogrom, according to a recent report from the Community Security Trust (CST), a voluntary organization serving the Jewish community. Speaking at the CST’s annual dinner on Wednesday night, British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak condemned the upsurge, pledging an extra $68 million in funding to combat the continuing spread of antisemitism.
Edward Isaacs, president of the Union of Jewish Students, told Prince William that antisemitism had transformed the experiences of Jews studying at Britain’s universities. “If you haven’t been a victim, you know someone who has been,” Isaacs said. “It has created a fear like never before.”
The prince also met with Renee Salt, a 94-year-old survivor of the Holocaust, in the synagogue’s main sanctuary. An inmate of both the Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen concentration camps, Salt told William of her fear that “some of the young people don’t even believe it [the Holocaust] ever happened. It is very bad.”
Clasping her hand, the prince responded, “It will get better.”
Emma Levy, a Jewish student who attended the meeting, praised the prince for his stance. “You could really tell that he cared when he was speaking to us,” she said. “The prince’s unequivocal condemnation of antisemitism is what we need more people to do.”
The post ‘Antisemitism Has No Place in Society,’ Says Prince William, Heir to British Throne first appeared on Algemeiner.com.
IDF Opens New Mental Health Center for Soldiers Leaving Gaza
The IDF opened a new mental health center on Thursday which is aimed towards treating soldiers leaving Gaza. The center is opening due to the growing risks the IDF said it sees in the soldiers potentially falling victim to PTSD from their experiences in battle.
“The Iron Swords War presented significant challenges to the mental health system in the IDF both in terms of quality and scope. The establishment of the Center for Mental Health Services expresses more than anything the commitment of the IDF to take care of its servicemen as well as to provide answers to the challenges we are already facing as well as emerging challenges. As part of the establishment of the center, new answers are being discovered and established that are adapted to the special needs of the various populations serving in the IDF,” said Col. Dr. Jacob Rothschild, who heard the new center.
The army has said that since the war’s outbreak, more than 30,000 soldiers have met with mental health representatives. According to them, roughly 85% of soldiers that met with the professionals returned to full service. Unfortunately, 202 fighters were forced to be released from duty, in almost every case due to horrid scenes they witnessed in the aftermath of the October 7 massacre. This includes an additional 1,700 that were referred for additional scanning and treatment.
On the day of the massacre, Hamas terrorists rampaged southern Israel, brutally killing more than 1,200 Israelis and taking hostage over 250. First responder reports depicted scenes such as decapitations and mutilations of bodies by the terrorists.
The new center, situated at the Tel HaShomer base, is staffed by some of the top psychologists in the country, the IDF said, and will include a immediate combat reaction wing and post-trauma department. It replaces the temporary facility that was set up in a WeWork office in Tel Aviv.
While 30,000 soldiers have met with mental health professionals since the war began, the IDF says they were “pleasantly surprised” that an overwhelming majority of soldiers ended up returned to service.
Lt. Col. Prof. Elon Glazberg, the Chief Medical Officer of the IDF Medical Corps, said in a statement about the opening “From the first moment of the war, mental health was present in the torture from the field to the home front. In light of the great importance of the issue, we chose it as one of the main axes of focus these days – and we are now working to expand it.”
The post IDF Opens New Mental Health Center for Soldiers Leaving Gaza first appeared on Algemeiner.com.