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Third Thursday Thoughts: Reflections from the Executive Director

Free Lunch

November 17, 2022 | Third Thursday Thoughts
Dawn LaRochelle, Executive Director

Okay, I admit it: I’m a full-on English nerd. Pull a book off my shelf or move that pile of papers on my desk, and you’re likely to find an old bookmark with random vocabulary scrawled all over it. Ask me why I refuse to use the express lane in my local supermarket, and be prepared for a tirade about the grammatically wince-worthy “10 items or less” sign. But it’s etymology — the history of words and phrases and what they reveal about human nature – that really gets my blood pumping.

Take the idiom “there’s no such thing as a free lunch,” for example. While it is often mistakenly attributed to the American economist Milton Friedman, it can actually be traced back to mid-1800s taverns, which would advertise a “free lunch” to lure people during the mid-day hours. The proprietor would tell prospective customers that if they bought a drink, they’d get a free lunch. Of course, the lunch was not truly “free” if they were expected to buy something in order to get it, and the cost of the drink was often raised to make up for the cost of the food.

The Maine Jewish Museum, unlike nineteenth-century taverns, really does provide many things for free to our visitors, from our exhibits to our Artist Talks to our rich programmatic offerings. Unfortunately, that “free lunch” comes at a steep cost to the Museum. Running a Museum is an expensive endeavor, and without membership, admission, and programming fees to offset our costs, we rely on voluntary contributions to keep our doors open. This is why our Annual Appeal, which kicked off this month and goes through January 31, 2023, is so very important. It is only with your support that we can deliver on our mission of celebrating and honoring the contributions and diversity of Maine’s Jewish immigrants in the context of the American experience. It is only through your altruism that we can realize our vision of building bridges of appreciation and understanding among people of all backgrounds.

This year, we hope to incentivize you with a new and exciting Annual Appeal raffle, where you can win a stunning original painting by celebrated local artist Rush Brown (estimated value: $10,000)! For every $500 you donate to the Annual Appeal, you will receive one raffle ticket (so, $1,000 gets you two tickets, $1,500 gets you three tickets, etc.). And get this: on Giving Tuesday (November 29), we will double your raffle tickets (i.e., every $500 donation will get you two tickets)! You’ve gotta be in it to win it – don’t miss out!

Also new this year are three mini–Annual Appeal fun(d)raisers designed to make donating accessible and enjoyable for all. First, we have an Envelope Wall at the Museum – literally a wall of brightly-colored envelopes by our staircase. Here’s how it works: each envelope is labeled with an even dollar amount from $2 to $200. You pick your dollar amount and put that amount into the envelope (check or cash). You can put your name on the envelope or just write “Anonymous” on it. No envelope can be used more than once. If everyone who donates to the Annual Appeal also participates in our “Envelope Challenge” until all the envelopes are filled, the Museum will have gained an extra $10,100! Easy-peasy! Of course, we would be thrilled for you to fill an envelope regardless of whether or not you are donating to the Annual Appeal . Every dollar counts, and every dollar is appreciated.

Additionally, for the first time ever, we are offering holiday gift wrapping every Sunday, 1:00 -3:00 PM, from November 27 to December 18 (the first night of Chanukah). Bring us your gift from an outside vendor or purchase a gift at our fabulous Museum gift shop, and we’ll box it, wrap it, tie it with ribbon, and top it with a bow for you. If, like me, you have been known to make your husband wrap his own birthday gifts because you cannot wrap to save your life (true story!), this service is a real mechiah! Wrap well and do good – talk about a win-win!

Finally, in another first, on Saturday, January 7, 6:30 – 9:00 PM, we are hosting Chug Sameach: Trivia Night at the Museum! Chase away those post-holiday blues and show off your mad trivia skills while enjoying pizza, craft beer, and fun with friends – all while supporting MJM’s Annual Appeal. Not for nothing, but if you need an English nerd on your team, I know someone who may be a good fit…

Circling back to that English nerd thing, did you know that the word “generous” stems from the Latin root genus, meaning “race” or “stock?” The original word was generosus, which translates into “of noble birth.” True generosity, however, has nothing to do with social status and everything to do with magnanimity of spirit and kindness of heart. We would not exist without your generosity to our Annual Appeal and other fundraising activities, which provide the lifeblood of our day-to-day activities. All the random vocabulary I scrawl on those bookmarks is inadequate to express the depth of my gratitude to you, now and always.