Why Are There So Many Jewish Museums?

From Maine to Florida and beyond, the Jewish museum is a nationwide (and worldwide) phenomenon. Why do Jews keep building them?


Visitors to the exhibition Obedience: An Art Installation in 15 Rooms by multimedia artist Saskia Boddeke & British film director Peter Greenaway at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images.
Visitors to the exhibition Obedience: An Art Installation in 15 Rooms by multimedia artist Saskia Boddeke & British film director Peter Greenaway at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. TOBIAS SCHWARZ/AFP/Getty Images.
Response
Feb. 9 2016
About the author

Diana Muir Appelbaum, a writer and historian, is at work on a book about nationhood and democracy. Her museum reviews have appeared in the Claremont Review, the New Rambler, and elsewhere.


What is the point of building so many Jewish museums? There are more of them in the world than you might think: hundreds, possibly more than a thousand even if we don’t count the ones in Israel. The real question is why Jews build so many when so few people visit them. This is not a question that Edward Rothstein addresses in his sweeping and persuasive examination of “The Problem with Jewish Museums,” but it’s one that began to intrigue me as I had the opportunity to visit scores of such museums.

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More about: Arts & Culture, Jewish museums