Museum Appoints Senior Historical Advisor

Award-winning historian Michael Cohen joins Museum’s efforts to create meaningful, accurate, and engaging exhibits.

The Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience has contracted Dr. Michael Cohen to serve as its Senior Historical Advisor as it researches, designs, and installs its exhibits, ahead of its 2020 opening in downtown New Orleans. Cohen chairs Tulane University’s Department of Jewish Studies, where he holds a Sizeler Professor. He earned his A.B. with honors from Brown University and his Ph.D. from Brandeis University. He is the author of Cotton Capitalists: American Jewish Entrepreneurship in the Reconstruction Era (New York University Press, 2017), The Birth of Conservative Judaism: Solomon Schechter’s Disciples and the Creation of an American Religious Movement (Columbia University Press, 2012), as well as several articles.

Professor Cohen lectures widely throughout the country and across the globe, including cities such as London, Sydney, Cape Town, New York, Tokyo, and Jerusalem. He chairs the Association for Jewish Studies’ Directors Group, where he is also the Division Chair for Modern Jewish History in the Americas. He serves on the Executive Committee of the Academic Council of the American Jewish Historical Society and is an academic advisory board member for the Pearlstine/Lipov Center for Southern Jewish Culture. Professor Cohen is also a board member of the Southern Jewish Historical Society, and he has served as a scholar-in-residence for the American Jewish Archives “Travels in American Jewish History” program.

“We’re delighted to be working with Michael on this exciting project,” said Museum Executive Director Kenneth Hoffman. “Michael has been advising us on a volunteer basis for two years; now he will take a more active role in helping us develop our exhibits. As we strive to tell a complex and often-overlooked story, Michael will guide our historical thinking and serve as our connection to scholars and historians across the country.”

“I am thrilled to formalize my relationship with the Museum of the Southern Jewish Experience,” Cohen said. “Southern Jewish history is an important story that needs to be told, and I am excited to partner with the Museum to share that story.”

The Museum is also working with world-renown exhibit designers Gallagher & Associates, who helped create the exhibits at The National WWII Museum, The National Museum of American Jewish History, and at scores of institutions across the country and around the world. Together with Gallagher and Dr. Cohen, the Museum’s staff and board of directors will create exhibits that give a broad overview of Southern Jewish history in thirteen states, highlight a unique collection of artifacts, and provide opportunities for all visitors—Jewish and non-Jewish alike—to gain an expanded understanding of what it means to be a Southerner, a Jew, and ultimately, an American.

The Museum already has a strong relationship with Tulane University. Board members Jay Tanenbaum and Rusty Palmer, as well as Kenneth Hoffman, are alums, and board member Morris Mintz has a long history of support for the university. The Museum has established an active internship program that provides Tulane students opportunities to gain real-world experience in the museum field. Working with Dr. Cohen further strengthens that relationship.