We changed our name, dropping “Diaspora” and calling ourselves The Museum of the Jewish People at Beit Hatfutsot. We are working on changing our exhibits and the physical space. We are also creating a global online presence based on our extensive databases. We will hold our New York gala on Dec. 14, taking one more leap into the Jewish present and future.
Why so much change? Because the Jewish world is more nuanced and complex than it was in 1978 when the museum opened. It was started by remarkable founders who thought the diaspora would effectively end with the rebirth of the State of Israel. They made a museum that among other things would capture the artifacts of what they imagined might become an endangered species: the diaspora Jewish community. They meant it as a sign of respect for the past, perhaps not anticipating that the diaspora would remain vibrant and robust even WITH a State of Israel. The history of Israel was not included in the Diaspora Museum, but it has to be included with our new name: The Museum of the Jewish People. If we are one people, we must all be included in one museum.
No one has to change his or her religious views or practices. It does mean that the ideas of what a people are as a collective must evolve and develop over time. We at the museum would never get rid of our exquisite synagogue models, but if we never change the exhibits, you won’t come back. And we want you to come back, again and again.
Dan Tadmor, “Which People Are Included in Jewish Peoplehood?”, The Jewish Week (4 December 2015), 30.