The naked light bulb was more harsh than bright. It was 3 a.m. on a sleepless, sweltering Florida night, June 19, 1964, in the St. Augustine jail. In a cell with two bunks were 17 Northern Jews, imprisoned for civil rights activities down South. Just 48 hours earlier they were relaxing at a convention for Reform rabbis in an Atlantic City hotel.
This week, I wrote about the retirement of The Jewish Museum's director Joan Rosenbaum, who's led the museum for 30 years. But the story of her career raises a few fundamental questions that The Jewish Museum, and indeed all ethnic museums, must grapple with: Should ethnic museums advance the consensus opinions of their constituent group, or should they challenge those beliefs? And if the latter, where do you draw the line?