During his annual state address on Wednesday, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York promised to expand the Museum of Jewish Heritage in Manhattan so that it will become “a learning destination for school children across the state.”
“New York would not be New York without the Jewish community,” he said during his speech, reacting to a series of violent antisemitic attacks across the state, including the stabbing of five worshipers during a Hanukkah celebration at the home of a rabbi in Monsey, New York.
“In New York we stand up to those who try to sow division and fear,” Cuomo told lawmakers. “We will not let the cancer of hate and intolerance weaken us. We will continue to stand up and denounce it every time it rears its ugly head.”
Yet the grant announcement appears to have caught the museum off guard, and it remains unclear when grant discussions between the state and the institution took place. Contacted by Artnet News, a spokesperson said there are no additional information to share.
The cultural center already has a robust education department that teaches more than 60,000 schoolchildren annually. And it remains to be determined what shape the proposed expansion will take, considering the museum’s location on the Hudson River. (Representatives from the governor’s office did not respond to requests for comment.)
Earlier this week, the governor pledged $45 million in additional funding to protect New York’s religious institutions, nonprofits, and cultural centers. Since 2017, the state has supported more than 500 anti-hate-crime projects with over $25 million in grants.
The Museum of Jewish Heritage’s anticipated expansion will likely be financed by the same program, one report suggests.
Located in Battery Park City, the museum is committed to educating visitors about Jewish life before, during, and after the Holocaust. It also serves as a place of memory for Holocaust survivors.
The announcement also comes as Cuomo continues to look for ways to exert his influence over New York City politics over the objections of his perennial competitor, Mayor Bill de Blasio. In October, the governor pledged $750,000 for a statue honoring Mother Cabrini, the Catholic saint who was reportedly snubbed by the mayor’s administration when it decided not to raise a monument in her honor.
But none of that has stopped the Museum of Jewish Heritage from celebrating.
“Our thanks to Governor Cuomo for his tremendous leadership in addressing the rise of antisemitism in New York and his call for increased cultural understanding,” said Jack Kliger, the museum’s president and CEO, in a statement issued to Artnet News. The institution, he added, “stands ready to teach all of New York—especially schoolchildren—the lessons of the Holocaust and what hate can do.”
Other proposals on the governor’s agenda for 2020 include legalizing recreational marijuana, supporting environmental projects around the state, and bolstering education budgets.
Follow artnet News on Facebook:
Want to stay ahead of the art world? Subscribe to our newsletter to get the breaking news, eye-opening interviews, and incisive critical takes that drive the conversation forward.