When visitors enter the newly renovated Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, they experience a trip back in time. That nostalgic feeling makes the heritage center an ideal location for the "JFCS: 75 Years Helping and Healing" exhibit, which details Jewish Family & Children's Service's history in the Valley, from 1935 to the present.
The exhibit, which opened Oct. 31 and runs through Nov. 24, is a collaborative effort of JFCS and the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, as well as students, artists and curators from the Phoenix community.
The heritage center's walls are lined with photographs and text, guiding the viewer from "The Early Years," circa 1935-1945, when JFCS was formed in the midst of the Great Depression, through the new millennium.
Lawrence Bell, executive director of the Arizona Jewish Historical Society, says much of the exhibit's material was drawn from AJHS archives. "We have over 50,000 photos, documents and artifacts in our archive," Bell wrote in an e-mail.
In each room of the exhibit, display cases are filled with historical artifacts, including women's hats from the 1950s, gift boxes from businesses founded by Jewish families, menorahs and tzedakah boxes. Also on display - a 1932 scrapbook from the Hebrew Men's Club and pocket-sized books designed for Jewish World War II soldiers.
In anticipation of the 75th anniversary, JFCS commissioned Stephanie McBride-Schreiner, a doctoral student in history at Arizona State University, to research and write a narrative about JFCS' history. She searched historical archives and interviewed JFCS employees and volunteers to chronicle the story. Some of the information has been published in a free book available to exhibit attendees.
Exhibit visitors can watch an informative 13-minute video about JFCS history featuring reflections by McBride-Schreiner and members of JFCS staff and board of directors. The video can also be seen on the JFCS website, jfcsaz.org.
The JFCS website also houses a 75th Anniversary blog, where visitors can post their experiences with JFCS and participate in a discussion about JFCS history. The blog also includes posts by JFCS staff that intertwine the JFCS timeline with Arizona history.
Speaking to the reason for and success of the exhibit, Frank Jacobson, JFCS vice president of marketing and development, said in an e-mail, "JFCS wanted to celebrate its 75th anniversary ... by documenting, commemorating and recognizing people in our community and the programs that made a difference in the lives of thousands of individuals and families. We have been able to accomplish this through the exhibit, book and film. History provides a framework and perspective (on) how and why JFCS came into existence and the everlasting values that still guide its mission."
- What: 'JFCS: 75 Years Helping and Healing' exhibit
- Where: Cutler-Plotkin Jewish Heritage Center, 122 E. Culver St., Phoenix.
- When: Through Nov. 24; 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Wednesday through Friday; 1-4 p.m., Sunday
- Contact: jfcsaz.org/celebrate75
- Cost: Free