At Large  August 14, 2023  Rebecca Schiffman

Jewish Museum Appoints James S. Snyder Director

Photo: Elie Posner. Courtesy of the Israel Museum

Portrait of James S. Snyder 

The Jewish Museum announced on Monday that James S. Snyder will be the next leader of the museum, beginning his post as the Helen Goldsmith Menschel Director in November. 

Snyder comes to the role as the current executive chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation and has held high-level and director positions for over forty years combined at the Israel Museum and the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). He succeeds Claudia Gould, who announced her departure in June, after twelve years at the institution, and Darsie Alexander, who has served as Acting Director in the interim period.

Harriet Schleifer, co-chair of the board of trustee’s search committee, said that Snyder “stood out as a visionary leader who understands what Jewish identity means today, in its varied expressions and in relation to other cultures.”

Wikimedia Commons

The Jewish Museum, exterior 

Snyder began his career as an intern at MoMA in 1974, working his way up to deputy director. In 1997, he moved to Jerusalem to direct the Israel Museum. During his twenty-year stint there, he oversaw a $100 million expansion of the museum, doubled attendance, and increased its endowment to $200 million. In 2018, Snyder moved back to New York and by 2019, he was appointed executive chairman of the Jerusalem Foundation. 

Snyder’s passion for Jewish art and history, knowledge of donors, and extensive strategies for social, cultural, and economic development for museum growth make him a perfect candidate for the job. 

In his own words, in an article for Sapir Journal on the role of museums post-Covid, Snyder said, “Museums dedicated to specific cultures, like Jewish museums and others devoted to singular themes or subjects, can and should take advantage of the opportunity to look at examples of their cultures in the context of when and where they were created," 

Wikimedia Commons

Installation view of the 2009 exhibition 'Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker' at the Jewish Museum.

In the announcement, first reported by the New York Times, Snyder remarked how the Jewish Museum’s location in the previous home of Felix and Frieda Warburg and its closeness to other institutions along Fifth Avenue's Museum Mile grounds the museum in New York City history. He mentioned that collaboration with other culturally specific museums, such as El Museo del Barrio, the Studio Museum of Harlem, and the Hispanic Society Museum & Library, would be an “important part of the Jewish Museum’s future.”

“The opportunity is to explore how we can play a leadership role around societal issues like antisemitism and demonstrate the importance of culturally specific institutions in advancing the dialogue on these topics through our exhibitions and education programming," said Robert A. Pruzan, the museum’s board chairman, about Snyder's appointment.

With everything that Snyder has to say on the future of museums, his track record at various institutions, his connections with the Jewish art world and the art world at large, and his fundraising skills, he has the makings to continue the great legacy of the Jewish Museum. 

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