The William Breman Jewish Heritage Museum, located in the Selig Center in Midtown Atlanta, is a cultural center, archive, and repository of artifacts and information about Jewish history. It particularly focuses on the Holocaust and the experience of Jews in Georgia. The largest such museum in the Southeast, the Breman opened in 1996 and is named for William Breman, a prominent Atlanta businessman and philanthropist who also endowed several other religious, educational, and social service agencies for the Jewish community of Atlanta.
The museum, which is affiliated with the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta, is home to two permanent exhibitions, Creating Community: The Jews of Atlanta from 1945 to the Present and Absence of Humanity: The Holocaust Years. Creating Community was developed in partnership with the Atlanta History Center, where the exhibition was on display from 1994 to 1995. The Holocaust exhibition was designed by Benjamin Hirsch, a child survivor of the Holocaust and an Atlanta architect. The themes of the two exhibitions reinforce the mission of the Breman, which is to celebrate Jewish culture and to explore the universal themes of human dignity and respect for others. The Breman also highlights aspects of the relationship between minority and majority cultures and the importance of individuals making decisions for the benefit of society at large.
The museum is home to the Marlene J. and William A. Schwartz Special Exhibitions Gallery, which houses locally and nationally developed traveling exhibitions. Temporary exhibitions have included Every Picture Tells a Story: Teaching Tolerance through Children’s Literature; Where the Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak in His Own Words and Pictures; Zap! Pow! Bam! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938-1950; and Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited, which chronicled the 1913 trial of Jewish factory worker Leo Frank.
The museum organizes programs and special tours around its exhibitions. The Lillian and A. J. Weinberg Center for Holocaust Education, which is housed at the Breman, offers the Annual Summer Institute for Teaching the Holocaust as well as a speakers bureau of survivors and other educators who are available to speak in schools.
To preserve papers, artifacts, and genealogical records, the museum is also home to the Ida Pearle and Joseph Cuba Community Archives and Genealogical Center. Since the archives were created in 1985, more than 2,000 manuscripts and 15,000 photographs have been added to the collection. These materials are available for research projects and for the development of future exhibitions at the museum as well as at other cultural institutions.
The Breman has also begun to collect and preserve religious items, family photographs, and business records of Jewish families from Georgia. This project contains oral histories that preserve the memories of Jewish life in small-town Georgia for future generations. Breman volunteers have established the Jewish Cemetery Association of Georgia, which maintains a database of cemeteries and burial sites of Jewish people across the state. The association is a source of communication about and advocacy for the preservation of such cemeteries, as well as for the identification of Jewish burial sites that may have already been abandoned.
The Breman Museum received the Governor’s Award in the Humanities in 2004.