Augusta Mayor and Dignitaries Celebrate Phase One Renovation of the Augusta Jewish Museum
Updated: Jul 5
left to right: Mr. Heard Robertson, Mayor Hardie Davis, Mr. John Clarke, Mr. Jack Weinstein, and Mr. George Bush
Augusta, GA, June 17, 2020 - The start of Augusta Jewish Museum's renovation to the historic Court of Ordinary was celebrated at a press conference conducted by Mr. Heard Robertson, President of Historic Augusta with speeches by Augusta Mayor Hardie Davis, Mr. Jack Weinstein, President of the Augusta Jewish Museum Board, Mr. George Bush, Historic Augusta and AJM Board Member, and Mr. John Clarke, Augusta Commissioner. Also in attendance were members of the CSRA community including representatives of other local Museums and the local media.
Phase One, the Court of Ordinary, scheduled to open to the public by the end of 2020 will be followed in the future by Phase Two, an expansion into additional museum space and event venue by adding the adjacent Temple, the oldest standing synagogue in Georgia.
This link will take you to the Channel 6 WJBF TV spot with Jack Weinstein, President of the Augusta Jewish Museum Board of Directors.
Mayor Hardie Davis' speech at the Press Conference
Thank you, Mr. Heard Robertson, President of Historic Augusta, I appreciate that. I am excited to be here on this afternoon. What a tremendous occasion, to come and to celebrate this great work that is about to take place here in the city of Augusta. As Heard has already indicated, we know much of the history of this facility, and I'd like to take somewhat of a different role. In 2015, the commission had the willingness to approach this conversation because of the work of leaders in the community. Those who are yes, a part of the Jewish community, but also Historic Augusta in the work that they do. I think we'd be remiss if we didn't take an opportunity to acknowledge their longstanding work in helping us to be conscious of what history means and its relevance to our city's past, present, and without question it's future. To EricK Montgomery and his team, and those who are part of Historic Augusta, we applaud you today.
All of the requirements have been met. Phase One will be to convert the former Court of Ordinary Buildings to a museum. Phase Two involves restoring the adjacent Congregation Children of Israel Synagogue, which as you've heard, is the oldest standing synagogue in Georgia. While I want to talk about those things, I'm sure there are others who are more adept at doing that. I want to talk about this from the perspective of why today's important. I do have a series of pages here, but sometimes you have to look at things and then go back to where you've been. As I tell my 18 year old, always begin with the end in mind. For me today, the end is to share a story with you that I think really brings to light why this is so important. More importantly, why we have to be engaged in this work of preserving
There is a tremendous relationship between the Jewish community and the Black community, not just here in Augusta, but really across the world. A lot of times, we don't get a chance to talk about that. This museum, the Center, will help us to create a Center of learning and awareness for the community, not only including exhibits and programming that chronicles the life history and the contributions of the Jewish community and the CSRA. I will challenge those of you who are here today to go beyond the contributions to Augusta. Those contributions are much more far ranging and reaching than that. I talk about this connection, one that we've as African Americans and certainly the Jewish community have had the unfortunate history of inhumane treatment and injustices that have been handed down.
That brings a collaboration, but more than anything, I want to talk about my trip in 2012 to Israel that I think really signifies this contribution. One of the things that were my key takeaways, and I shared this with my good friend, Rabbi David Sirull and the AYS Congregation, a couple of years ago. This was the third thing that I shared in my note, and that is to preserve and proclaim your story. What was one of my key takeaways and my experiences in Israel? I'm often asked what moved me the most, the emotional connections, the gravity of it all. There were two particular sites that left an indelible impression in my mind and on my heart. It was the Yad Vashem that will live with me forever. Why is that important as it relates to this building? This too can become our own Yad Vashem.
It can become a place of where we draw our own connections with members of our Jewish community who have made contributions to not only Augusta, but to the world that we live in, who too find themselves having shared stories and to learn and listen to stories of those who came before them. Yad Vashem gives a voice and a name to each of the victims and the survivors of the Holocaust. That's why this building is so important. Too many times, we have a knack of tearing buildings down in the Augusta area. We're very good at that, but we should pause before we just tear things down and ask ourselves, "What does that mean? What opportunities do we have to bring cultural context and learning from those things?"
This is an opportunity, as I saw the faces of so many of the survivors of the Holocaust, and then Masada which served as a doorway, one of the earliest and most heroic feats of the Jewish people. Combining these two, they stand as a powerful tribute to the notion that the Jewish people the world will never forget. I'll pause here and say this. As you embark on this great work, as you come together and the city comes together, you not only make it possible, but to see it through to completion. May we too never forget the contributions that our Jewish brothers and sisters have made and will continue to make and their generations and generations to come that will never, ever be erased. That is why we're here today. That is why the city looks forward to continuing being a partner in making this possible in the City of Augusta. Thank you.