Traditional opens ‘Museum of ImaJewnation’

BY JILL KASSANDER, SPECIAL TO THE JEWISH LIGHT

The inaugural exhibit of Message Menorahs at the Museum of ImaJewnation in the Heritage Center at Traditional Congregation is a dream come true for Naomi Fishman.

“It had been an idea in my head for a long time and it is so exciting to see it actually happening,” Fishman said.

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Fishman has always loved and visited museums, especially children’s museums. She appreciates the way the museums engage people of all ages. Her unique twists to the age-old concept are to have people throughout the community create the items for the museum and to have the exhibits themselves encourage visitors to think and learn something more than common knowledge.

“The idea is to engage people’s imagination and encourage their interaction with Jewish culture,” Fishman said. “We can do that through exhibits revolving around our holidays, ritual objects, behaviors, texts, music and more.”

Fishman is the Executive Vice President at Traditional and has been a member there for over 30 years. She brought her brainstorm to the congregational board that approved her new initiative.

The challenge behind Message Menorahs was to create a message and use the Hanukkah menorah as a means to convey that message. Fishman held workshops and discussions for potential participants of all ages to help spark creative juices and did outreach to the entire St. Louis Jewish community.

“The Museum of ImaJewnation is a great outlet for the creative and artistic Jewish community to display and sell their work,” Fishman said.

There were many creative Message Menorahs on display when the museum held its grand opening of its inaugural exhibit on the first night of Hanukkah. There was a vodka and latke reception with sufganiyot and games. The opening provided a wonderful opportunity for people from the entire St. Louis Jewish community to participate and visit with one another said Fishman.

“Belleanne and Andy Curry are wonderful performers who provided the perfect complement to the evening with Hanukkah music and songs,” Fishman said.

With Hanukkah over, Fishman is already contemplating the next exhibit. She is hoping to attend a conference of Jewish museums to explore future possibilities.

“The vision is to have the museum with rotating exhibits,” Fishman said. “Just like with the Messsage Menorahs, it is important to have adults as well as young people create the work. Then we can see our world through the eyes of every generation.”