By: Jason Schleiger
Times are tough, which explains – at least in part – why the Museum of Jewish Heritage in lower Manhattan is letting 40% of our employees go, and reducing others’ hours.
Jack Kliger, the museum’s president and chief executive, told more than 50 staff members the bad news during a Zoom conference on Monday.
“Two weeks ago, I shared with you that the Museum was facing an existential crisis caused by the coronavirus pandemic,” Kliger told staffers. “By now, you know that this crisis has forced us to make some very difficult decisions in order to ensure the Museum’s survival.”
In all, 32 employees are going to be let go, said an apologetic Kliger. Those who managed to get through the meeting with their jobs intact will nonetheless face “new roles or reduced hours.”
“The museum, which describes itself as “a living memorial to the Holocaust,” was formed with the aim of “educating diverse visitors about Jewish life before, during and after the Holocaust,” the New York Times reported.
“An audio recording of the Zoom meeting that was obtained by The New York Times included questions from employees. One asked: “What, if any pay cuts, were implemented at the executive and senior management level?” There were no pay reductions for executive and senior managers, Mr. Kliger responded.”
The irony is that the museum has been basking in the public reception of its Auschwitz exhibition, which was introduced last year and has proven to be wildly popular. The exhibition features drawings made during and shortly after the Holocaust by eyewitnesses documenting their experiences. Rendering Witness: Holocaust-Era Art as Testimony is curated from the Museum’s collection and features a majority of artworks never presented before. The exhibition will be on display from January 16 to July 5, 2020 at the Museum located in Manhattan’s Battery Park City.
“Rendering Witness is a very special opportunity to see the first-hand experiences of the Holocaust as depicted by individuals who lived through its horrors. The artists, which include a young girl, took great risks to make this art. These were tremendous acts of bravery and resistance. That these fragile works have survived is a testament to the human spirit,” said Kliger in a statement.
Each artwork reasserts the artist’s humanity and individuality, qualities that are often obscured by the iconic Holocaust photographs taken by the Nazis or their collaborators. The works were produced in Czechoslovakia, Germany, Hungary, and Poland during the Holocaust, primarily in ghettos and a slave labor camp, or immediately after the Holocaust. The artists documented the Holocaust as it unfolded around them, providing a unique personal layer to the visual culture of World War II.
Some of the art depicts iconic scenes of the Holocaust, such as ghetto topographies and deportations, while other works are more introspective and include portraits of fellow prisoners and views from cramped bunks.