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STHM volunteers play 'critical role' in opening of National Museum of American Jewish History
Phil Jacobs wasn’t sure what to expect on his way to the volunteer orientation for the grand opening of the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH). But as the event coordinators described the elaborate gala down to its most precise details, their excitement quickly spread to the other volunteers.
The students, along with faculty volunteer Julie Fesenmaier, were in charge of organizing more than 200 volunteers, whom they briefed on where to go, what to do and what to expect.
“The STHM students played a critical role in ensuring that the National Museum of American Jewish History’s Grand Opening went smoothly,” said NMAJH Development Research Analyst Megan Helzner, who served as Co-Manager of Grand Opening Volunteers. “In addition to managing the volunteer check-in, they welcomed major donors, monitored volunteers throughout the museum and pitched in wherever and whenever needed.”
“After everyone was checked in, our duties quickly turned into, ‘Help where help was needed,’” Jacobs said. “We had to be flexible and roll with the punches.”
The grand opening was composed of three days of special events, highlighted by a 1,000-guest gala on Saturday night, featuring celebrities Jerry Seinfeld and Bette Midler. On Sunday, Vice President Joe Biden, Gov. Ed Rendell, Mayor Michael Nutter and senators Bob Casey Jr. and Arlen Specter attended the museum’s dedication.
Throughout the weekend, the NMAJH team was “impressed with how capable, polished and poised” the STHM students were, Fesenmaier said.
“The students brought professionalism and enthusiasm to this high-profile event,” Helzner said. “We are extremely grateful to have had their assistance.”
Jacobs and Fesenmaier were joined by students Monifa Contaste, Amanda Dinan, Sara Han, Andrew Im, Sun Kyung, Nicole Little, Masha Manojlovich, Maria Rossi and Ada Tang.
“We are fortunate to have had their assistance for this landmark event,” Helzner said, “and we would welcome the opportunity to work with them again.”
The event coordinators weren’t the only ones who benefitted from the students’ efforts. Jacobs said the experience of seeing the event’s final outcome was rewarding and enjoyable.
“While we merely learn theory in class,” he said, “it is much more beneficial to just go out and interact within the industry itself – learn by doing.”
While Jacobs, who is Jewish, said his background influenced his interest in participating, he said the museum is about much more than highlighting the American Jewish community.
“This museum is not just about or for Jews,” Jacobs said. “It is about America and the many stories, trials and tribulations of freedom that our great country was founded on.”
– Chelsea Calhoun