When the William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum opens its 25th anniversary exhibition in September, it will be with a $400,000 gift from the Frances Bunzl Family Trust.
The donation, believed to be the largest single gift since the Breman Foundation and other families endowed the museum, will also be used to establish a special fund to develop future exhibitions at the museum. It’s a move that was described as “transformative” by Breman Executive Director Leslie Gordon, who announced the gift.
“A dedicated exhibition fund has far-reaching potential. It will allow the Breman to broaden its impact and welcome new and diverse audiences eager to experience engaging, interactive and pioneering exhibitions.”
The 25th anniversary exhibit, which covers Jewish life in Georgia and Alabama over the past 300 years, is entitled “History With Chutzpah.”
The exhibit has been in development since 2019 and will cover six broad themes that emphasize the “chutzpah,” or bold, decisive actions that have helped to build the Jewish South.
Many of the items on display have come from the Breman’s Southern history archives, generally recognized today as one of the most extensive collections of its type in the country. But when the museum’s founding archivist Sandy Berman took over the collection in 1985, it was, as she described, a couple of cardboard boxes in an empty closet at the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta.
One of the boxes contained the papers of Rabbi Harry Epstein, who retired in 1982 after serving Ahavath Achim Synagogue here for 54 years. The other box was filled with the Federation’s records.
During her 27 years as an archivist, Berman helped assemble many of the more than 250 documents, photographs, oral histories and artifacts that make up the museum’s anniversary exhibition.
Helping to create “History With Chutzpah” has given Berman a deep sense of personal satisfaction, she said.
“It’s one thing to collect and preserve. But the other part of the museum is that you bring it out of the darkness and you show it off and you show it to the people so that you can tell the stories about the history and the lives of everyone who came before them.”
The exhibition, co-curated by The Breman’s founding director Jane Leavey, focuses on the lives of those famous and not-so-famous Jews who helped to make history, beginning with their arrival in Savannah in 1733.
Among the stories that the exhibit tells is how a young Frances Hamburger Bunzl fled Nazi Germany and was fortunate enough to have relatives in America who were able to sign affidavits of support. Those documents made it possible for her to emigrate. She moved to Atlanta and became engaged to Walter Bunzl on the same day as Pearl Harbor was attacked, Dec. 7, 1941.
Bunzl, who died in 2019 at the age of 99, also left $5.6 million shared between Jewish Family & Career Services and the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta. It’s believed that the bequest from the Bunzl Family Trust earlier this year was the largest gift that either organization ever received.
A short preview of “History With Chutzpah” can be seen at www.thebreman.org/Exhibitions/Now-on-View/Eighteen-Artifacts-A-Story-of-Jewish-Atlanta
- Bob Bahr
- Breman Jewish Heritage Museum
- Jane Leavey
- sandy berman
- jewish federation of greater atlanta
- Leslie Gordon
- History With Chutzpah
- Rabbi Harry Epstein
- Ahavath Achim Synagogue
- Jewish Family & Career Services
- Frances Bunzl Family Trust
- Frances Hamburger Bunzl
- Walter Bunzl
- Isidor Straus
- Montag school supplies company
- Blue Horse