James Snyder to Lead New York’s Jewish Museum as Next Director


James Snyder, the former director of the Israel Museum in Jerusalem, has been appointed as the next Helen Goldsmith Menschel Director of the Jewish Museum in New York. He will start his new role in November, succeeding Claudia Gould, who stepped down in June after 11 years.

Snyder is widely recognized for his transformative 22-year tenure at the Israel Museum, where he led the museum through the most dramatic period of growth since its founding and secured its stature as one of the world’s foremost museums. Under Snyder’s leadership, the museum more than doubled its annual attendance to nearly one million visitors and increased its endowment more than fivefold to $200 million. He also realized a series of successful initiatives to upgrade and enhance the experience of art and architecture across the museum’s 20-acres campus, culminating in its comprehensive $100 million, 300,000 square-foot expansion and renewal.

Prior to joining the Israel Museum, Snyder served as deputy director of the Museum of Modern Art in New York for 12 years, where he oversaw a range of administrative and operational functions. He also held positions at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the American Federation of Arts.

James Snyder to Lead New York’s Jewish Museum as Next Director
James Snyder to Lead New York’s Jewish Museum as Next Director

A Vision for the Jewish Museum

The Jewish Museum announced Snyder’s appointment on August 14, following a rigorous and expansive search process led by a committee of board members. Robert A. Pruzan, chairman of the board of trustees of the Jewish Museum, said that Snyder embodies the spirit of the museum’s mission and is the ideal director to lead the museum at this time.

“As a highly esteemed leader with deep roots in both the museum and Jewish philanthropic worlds, James embodies the spirit of our mission and is the ideal Director to lead the Jewish Museum at this time,” Pruzan said. “He will help us leverage the impact of our innovative exhibition programming, advance our connections with the Jewish community across the global cultural landscape, and continue our DEAI efforts to be more inclusive across all areas of the Museum.”

Pruzan also praised Gould for her role in fostering the museum’s growth and innovation, and thanked Darsie Alexander, senior deputy director and Susan & Elihu Rose chief curator, for serving as acting director during the interim period.

Snyder said he is honored and excited to join the Jewish Museum, which he described as “a singular institution that celebrates both art and Jewish culture.” He said he looks forward to working with the museum’s staff, board, and supporters to enhance and expand its impact as a leading arts and Jewish world institution.

“The Jewish Museum has long been a beacon for me – a place where I have always found inspiration in its exhibitions and programs that explore art through a Jewish lens,” Snyder said. “I am eager to build on its remarkable legacy and to work with its talented team to shape its future.”

A Challenge for Cultural Institutions

Snyder’s appointment comes at a time when cultural institutions are facing unprecedented challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic, social unrest, and rising antisemitism. Pruzan suggested that Snyder could steer the museum into new territory by taking on current issues such as antisemitism, a departure from its tradition as a center for art and culture.

“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,” Pruzan said.

In a recent article in Sapir Journal on the future of museums, Snyder argued that amid the rise in polarization and extremism around the world, cultural institutions have a special responsibility. He called on museums to embrace “cultural diplomacy” and “explore and celebrate the wonders of social and communal inclusion and integration that give strength to the backbone of world history.”

Established in 1904 in the library of the Jewish Theological Seminary, the Jewish Museum is considered to be the first museum in [the United States] to focus on a specific culture. It has a collection of over 30,000 works of art, ceremonial objects, and media reflecting [the global Jewish experience]. It also offers a diverse range of exhibitions and programs for visitors of all ages and backgrounds.


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