The largest Jewish-themed children’s museum in the US, the Jewish Children’s Museum in Brooklyn emphasizes tolerance though education and entertainment. With exhibits on topics ranging from biblical history to contemporary Jewish life, the JCM aims to provide children from all backgrounds a positive perspective and awareness of Jewish heritage.
But it’s not just for kids. To bring in the young professional crowd and create a dedicated community of support, every year the museum hosts a gala fundraiser where the young at heart can mix and mingle in the unique environment of the exhibitions. This year, the June 7 gala also features a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the newly renovated fourth floor. Jspace caught up with co-chairs Eric Brody and Nola Weinstein before the fun starts to find out more about the museum, the cause and the party that celebrates it all.
Jspace: What is the Jewish Children’s Museum Gala about?
Nola Weinstein: The Young Leadership Committee as a group made a goal to endow an exhibition. We chose the “Noah’s Ark” exhibit on the new fourth floor. It’s a positive play area, so it has these amazing animals and a ball pit and a reading area and games and toys. It’s meant for younger kids. That was a $360,000 commitment, which we hope to finish raising the funds for at the gala.
Eric Brody: While we’ve had galas annually to bring the young professionals to the museum, this gala is the culmination of all that hard work. What we’ve always strived for at the JCM Young Leadership is to have people who are highly motivated, people who are extremely loyal to the program and it has created this atmosphere of people who have really cared. It’s really going to be a fantastic party because our committee members and the people who have been involved worked so hard and finally have achieved their goal. So it’s sort of in their honor that we have this party.
What is the history of Young Leadership at the JCM?
Nola Weinstein: In the summer of 2008, a bunch of us got together to figure out what would be the face of the Young Leadership committee, what would be our goal, our purpose, and how we could help the museum and benefit the greater community. We decided our goal would be to gather like-minded individuals, and what people really gravitated towards was the museum’s message of tolerance. Aside from it being a place where Jewish children could be comfortable and learn about their own heritage, it’s also an incredible teaching tool for children of all backgrounds. Every year tens of thousands of New York City public school kids visit the museum, experience Jewish life, what it’s like to be Jewish in a fun, educational way. The first time I walked in, I was really taken with just how exciting it made things seem. It felt like an Epcot for Jews.
Does the museum’s location in Brooklyn have greater relevance?
Nola Weinstein: The museum was donated in memory of Ari Halberstam, who was murdered on the Brooklyn Bridge in one of the first acts of terrorism in New York City. It’s also extremely poignant that the place that teaches tolerance to children is in a neighborhood that was razzed by the Crown Heights riots. The location is special because it’s in an area that was filled with tension. Teaching tolerance and understanding in that place is especially important.
What is the gala going to be like?
Eric Brody: The party is going to be top notch. We have the same DJ that we always have, Alex Edge, who has always donated his time. It’s a very well dressed crowd. We have tons of food, live entertainment; it’s top shelf. It’s like a normal party. But what is most interesting is the environment. Guests will actually be able to see the exhibits because the whole museum is open. So it’s one of these surreal parties where not only are you excited to see the crowd and the music and everything else, but you also get to be part of the museum and see all of the exhibits.
Nola Weinstein: Our first gala took place in the fall of 2008, and we had these young professionals wearing suits and ties crawling through the Challah Tunnel with a martini in their hands. They’re just as excited about this, regardless of their jaded “seen it all” attitude. The power to teach and to inspire and to create is exciting for children, but it appeals to the young at heart as well. Every year we bring in hundreds of young professionals for this event and you just see the excitement on their faces, which is remarkable and quite gratifying.
Can you tell us a bit more about the Young Leadership involvement in this?
Eric Brody: One of the interesting facets of the museum is that they are consistently looking into the future. They’ve only been established for a few years, but they want to exist forever. And it’s the only one of its kind. So they felt it was necessary to reach out to the post-college generation so that they could learn about the museum, so that they’ll either want to bring their children or want to support it. I think it’s really important to any non-for-profit’s existence to reach out to the younger generations now.
Nola Weinstein: That’s why we want everyone to come to the gala. The more people we see, the more people become attached and give to the museum later. It becomes part of their life. They bring their nieces, nephews, children, friend’s kids. That’s the point. To get them involved while they’re still younger to form a relationship with the museum.
What makes this Gala special?
Eric Brody: Sometimes these sorts of things feel uptight and stuffy. Because of the atmosphere for which you’re going to be in, you can throw that all out the window. This is going to be smiles. There’s no pretentiousness. You’re going to be around bright colors and fantastic looking people. This should be something really relaxing, a lot of fun, and a place that you want to come back with your cousins or nieces or nephews or daughters.
Nola Weinstein: I think people really feel like they get to embrace their inner child in a way. It’s still very grown up and sophisticated and you’re in a tuxedo, but you’re embracing the kid at heart. There’s going to be a DJ, an awesome raffle and silent auction with prizes including stays at the W Hotel, tickets to Yankees and Mets games, and designer pocketbooks. We have gift certificates to places like Flywheel and Soul Cycle and Barry’s Bootcamp. It’s going to be amazing.
Find out more about the gala event and purchase tickets here.