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Third Thursday Thoughts: Reflections from the Executive Director

The Letter

April 21, 2022 | Third Thursday Thoughts
Dawn LaRochelle, Executive Director

You know that question, the one that goes something like, “If you were stranded on a deserted island and could only have one item, what would it be?” I don’t need to think twice: I’d bring the letter my Dad wrote for me on my bat mitzvah, in which he counseled me that my life would be measured by the degree to which I will have left the world a better place than I found it… and, more importantly, whether I could have tried even harder to do so. That letter has hung in its frame on different walls in my girlhood bedroom, my college dorm, and seven houses in three countries and four states. And my Dad’s words echo in my head daily as the new Executive Director of the Maine Jewish Museum in its bar mitzvah year.

Thirteen years ago, the Maine Jewish Museum was founded with the mission of celebrating and honoring the diversity of Maine’s Jewish immigrants in the context of the American experience. This mission is more relevant than ever today, in the vortex of a global pandemic that has exposed and exacerbated societal inequities and fanned the flames of the anti-Semitism, racism, xenophobia, and political divisiveness. The contextualized Jewish immigrant history, arts, culture, and education the Museum promotes give us a forum to see, hear, digest, and internalize myriad points of view in ways that build bridges and turn divisiveness into intergenerational and cross-cultural connectivity.

In this spirit, I look forward to collaborating with community partners to co-create programs and exhibitions that promote greater affinity and understanding among people of all backgrounds. And I am thrilled that our first such collaboration in my tenure is also the inaugural production by the newly-launched Opera in the Pines: on Thursday, May 5 and Saturday, May 7, Opera in the Pines will be presenting the Maine premiere of The Diary of Anne Frank in our beautiful Museum. It is an honor for us, as champions of the arts, to provide the space for a like-minded arts institution to shine. Maine has an outsized creative community, and when small nonprofits collaborate instead of competing, we have an outsized impact.

The opera is a one-woman show about the life story of one young woman, Anne Frank, whose diary changed the world – a reminder to us as individuals and as institutions that our voices and our work matter, even when the challenges before us seem overwhelming. We can, and must, leave the world a better place than we found it… and, more importantly, know that we could not have tried harder to do so.