A new role for Rebecca Forgasz

June 27, 2019 by J-Wire Newsdesk
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After more than nine years as Director & CEO of the Jewish Museum of Australia, Rebecca Forgasz is leaving to take up a new role at the Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation, Monash University.

Rebecca Forgasz

Rebecca has been the Director of the Museum since February 2010, when she took over from founding Director, Dr Helen Light. During her time at the Museum, Rebecca oversaw the redevelopment of Calling Australia Home, the Museum’s flagship exhibition about Australian Jewish history, community and identity, and commissioned two of the most successful exhibitions in the Museum’s history – Andy Warhol’s Jewish Geniuses, in collaboration with the Jewish Museum Vienna, and Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait, a touring exhibition from the Jewish Museum London, the latter bringing the highest ever visitor numbers to the Museum. Overall visitation has grown steadily, especially in the area of school education.

Under Rebecca’s leadership, the management of the Museum’s unique and internationally significant collection of over 20,000 objects underwent a major transformation, transitioning from paper-based to electronic cataloguing, with over 4,500 objects now available to the public online. She spearheaded the establishment of Multicultural Museums Victoria, a unique alliance of five culturally-specific museums – the Chinese Museum, Hellenic Museum, Islamic Museum of Australia, Jewish Museum of Australia and Museo Italiano – which last year presented its inaugural major group exhibition project “Grandmothers” and has won several industry awards. Recently, she led the Museum’s Board through a process to develop a long-term vision for the future of the Museum, particularly in the context of the proposed new Jewish Cultural & Arts Precinct in Elsternwick.

Recognising Rebecca’s extensive community engagement experience and thought leadership in Jewish discourse, Monash University was pleased to offer Rebecca the opportunity to join the renowned Australian Centre for Jewish Civilisation (ACJC) as Associate Professor (Practice) in Community Engagement & Intercultural Communication. In this role, Rebecca will be responsible for leading the ACJC’s public and community engagement programs. She will develop new initiatives and partnerships across the community, professional bodies and creative industries. These connections will enhance the social impact of the Centre’s academic research and positively influence the student experience by providing opportunities for work-integrated learning.

Director of ACJC, Professor Andrew Markus, welcomed Rebecca’s appointment: “It is fitting that Monash University has established this position in Australasia’s largest and most dynamic Jewish studies centre to ensure that we continue to bring the world of Jewish studies into a global conversation about the most critical issues affecting our future. We are delighted to welcome Associate Professor Rebecca Forgasz. Her vast experience, exceptional talent and leadership will bring a local and global lens to the role.  Our public programs attract thousands of participants each year with an annual roster of distinguished scholars and thought leaders. We look forward to these programs flourishing further under Rebecca’s leadership and guidance.”

Further welcoming Rebecca to the Centre, Chair of the ACJC Advisory Board, Robyne Schwarz, added, “Rebecca not only has a deep knowledge of the area of Jewish Studies, but she also brings great passion for and extensive experience in working within our community. Rebecca’s appointment marks a new and exciting era in the evolution of the ACJC.”

In addition to working at the ACJC, Rebecca will also continue her involvement with the Jewish Climate Action Group, which she co-founded earlier this year. The group aims to raise awareness and inspire action around climate change in the Jewish community and will be looking to develop a framework and strategy to maximise its impact.

Rebecca will conclude her role at the Museum at the end of July and will commence her new appointment at Monash in early September 2019. “Being the Director of the Jewish Museum has been a dream job”, said Rebecca. “I have worked here on and off for over twenty years and have always loved the place. I am so proud of what we do – of the diverse opportunities we provide to Jewish people of all ages and backgrounds to engage with Jewish culture and of how we offer an open, welcoming space for non-Jewish people to learn about Judaism. I am looking forward to the challenge of this new role at Monash, which will be both creative and strategic, and will enable me to build on the experience, skills and relationships that I have established over many years in the Jewish community and the museum and broader cultural sector.”

In announcing Rebecca’s departure, the President of the Museum, Barry Fradkin said, “Rebecca has presided over an active decade of renewal and development at the Museum and built an exceptional team which will continue moving us into the future with our plans in place for renewal and ongoing development. I and the Board are proud of the accomplishments of the Museum during Rebecca’s tenure: record audience growth; emergence as a digital leader; continuing a robust exhibitions and acquisitions program; and the expansion of the Museum’s commitment to its educational and outreach programs. Our exceptional team will continue to make progress in these key aspects of our Museum in the years ahead. On behalf of the entire team, we extend our gratitude and appreciation to Rebecca and wish her well in her future endeavours. We look forward to maintaining our relationship with her and creating new opportunities for mutual benefit to our organisations and the wider community.”

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