The National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia is looking for a new leader. Ivy Barsky, who has served as director and CEO since 2012, will be stepping down at the end of June.
Barsky took the reigns of the NMAJH just after it built and moved into its current building overlooking Independence Mall in Philadelphia. Under her tenure the museum — affiliated with the Smithsonian Institution — created and presented significant exhibitions about Leonard Bernstein, photographer Richard Avedon, Jews in baseball, and “To Bigotry No Sanction,” an examination of religious freedom at the birth of America.
“It has been a great privilege to lead our Museum that does what no other museum in this country does — uniquely preserving and interpreting American Jewish history,” said Barsky in a statement. “This history celebrates the best of America and what this country has made possible, as well as its ongoing challenges and the work yet to be done.“
Barsky did not indicate what she will be doing next. Her successor is not yet known. The museum board has asked Dr. Misha Galperin, a consultant to philanthropic and nonprofit organizations, to serve as interim leader.
Barsky came on board just as the museum was settling into its new role as a major cultural attraction, but in the years since it has not performed as planned. Nine years out, the number of visitors, members, and donors have not hit expectations. Two years ago, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer, the museum laid off 12 employees and Barsky took a pay cut.
“To the extent that it didn’t happen at the speed or in the magnitude that we aspired to, we always have to consider what all of our options are,” said Stephen Cozen, vice chair of the board. “I’m sure Ivy had to do the same.”
The struggle to grow is not unique to the NMAJH; many cultural institutions — particularly ones about religious history — have been stymied since the 2008 recession, according to industry observers.
Cozen said he was grateful for Barsky’s leadership and contributions to the museum.