January 8, 2011
Michael Glickman, Chief Operating Officer for the Center for Jewish History in New York City, recently took some time to answer a few questions via email for the New Vilna Review about the work of the center and the important role it is playing in helping to preserve, protect, and share Jewish history.
NVR: For our readers who may not have heard of the Center for Jewish History, can you give us a brief overview of what the center does?
The Center for Jewish History, now celebrating its tenth anniversary, is an institution dedicated to the preservation of the history of the Jewish people. More specifically, it is home to five distinguished archival and museum organizations, each of which focuses on specific aspects of modern Jewish history. Our focus is on the preservation and perpetuation of the combined collections of these partners – American Jewish Historical Society, American Sephardi Federation, Leo Baeck Institute, YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and Yeshiva University Museum. The Center for Jewish History is home to collections totaling more than 500,000 volumes and more than 100 million documents, including thousands of pieces of artwork, textiles and ritual objects, as well as music, films and photographs. These collections represent the largest repository of the modern Jewish experience outside of Israel. By collecting these works of historical and cultural significance, preserving and digitizing them, sharing them through programs and exhibitions both on site and online, and by making these materials available to scholars around the world, the Center will continue to create new opportunities for the stories of modern Jewish history to be told.
NVR: What inspired the creation of the center?
The Center was founded and conceived by our Chairman, Bruce Slovin. Archives and libraries are extremely expensive operations to run, and the financial environment of the 1990s made it clear that, in order to survive and thrive, cultural institutions were going to have to find new, innovative ways to collaborate and to share the challenges of institutional life. Mr. Slovin, then the Chairman of the Board of YIVO Institute for Jewish Research, believed that the only way to ensure the survival of these extraordinary institutions was to form a coalition that would provide a shared physical space and recognize a host of efficiencies and value.
NVR: The center seems to have quite a range of different programs and events – how do you decide which programs to sponsor? Is there an over-arching vision that informs these decisions?
The mission of the Center for Jewish History is to perpetuate the study of and engagement with modern Jewish history through scholarship, culture and ideas. In terms of the programs held at the Center, I would say that when we choose to sponsor a program, our goal is to bring the highest-possible quality of product to our constituents, in any area in which the Center is somehow engaged. In other words, the vision is simple – programs that help carry on the core mission of the Center are those with which we want to be associated.
In addition, each of the Center’s five partner organizations create and execute their own calendar of public programs and events. While we do collaborate throughout the year on any number of these programs, partner programs are by and large done independently of the Center. But it is equally fair to say that, in all cases, the goals of our public offerings are essentially the same – to continue the mission of our institutions.
NVR: What are some of the center resources that can be accessed online via your website?
The Center’s website and online portals are some of our proudest accomplishments, and are always the focus of ongoing work to improve our interface with all of our users, whether they’re conducting academic research, accessing the resources of the Ackman & Ziff Family Genealogy Institute, or looking at our upcoming calendar of programs and exhibitions (as well as participating in those programs through webcasts and virtual tours). One of our greatest accomplishments is the Online Public Access Catalog (OPAC), a rarity in the library world that allows users to search through the combined collections of our partners with a single click, whether archival materials, library books, museum objects or digitized images of any of these. We continue to develop new features to better interface with our users, including the development of innovative search tools, finding aids and collection based websites. The website offers FAQ sheets to assist patrons with genealogical research, links to every image digitized through the Center’s Gruss-Lipper Digitization Lab, and a wide array of additional research and archival resources.
NVR: Can you tell us a little about your own background and how you came to work for the Center for Jewish History?
I came into the Center for Jewish History nine years ago as a fundraiser for YIVO and have been running the institution since 2005. My background is in public affairs and prior to the Center I worked for a governmental agency and a private liberal arts university. I came to the Center because I was intrigued by the idea of such collaboration among not-for-profits and I have always enjoyed working in an educational environment. More specifically, I enjoy a good challenge, and raising money and running an independent research and cultural organization certainly has its challenges. It has been a truly amazing opportunity and I continue to be inspired by what I believe our future holds.
NVR: Is there anything else you would like to add?
I encourage everyone to come explore the Center for Jewish History in person and online. We are located at 15 West 16th Street in New York City and at www.cjh.org online.
Welcome to the New Vilna Review
*A Note From the Publisher - February 8, 2012*
Dear readers and contributors,
The New Vilna Review has been going through some changes the past few
months, and our focus has shifted to offering an expanded selection of
poetry, fiction and arts writing. We are once again accepting submissions,
and look forward to continuing to publish some of the most interesting and
thought provoking work in the world of Jewish arts and letters.
-Daniel E. Levenson
Publisher and Editor-in-Chief
The New Vilna Review
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