Luxury shoe designer Stuart Weitzman has made a transformative gift to the National Museum of American Jewish History (NMAJH), in recognition of which, the Museum has been renamed the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History, or “The Weitzman”.
This gift builds on many years of prior support from Weitzman for the landmark institution on historic Independence Mall in Philadelphia and, importantly, seeds the Museum’s endowment.
“I have been inspired by the NMAJH since my first visit in 2012,” Weitzman said. “I was drawn to their iconic artifacts that demonstrate the very foundations of religious freedom in America. We are truly thrilled to be able to make this gift to the Museum and humbled that this support will help to ensure that stories of American Jewish history are told and preserved for generations to come.”
In 2013, Stuart Weitzman was the first person featured in the Museum’s “Dreamers and Doers Speaker Series,” which tells the stories of Jewish individuals who embody an entrepreneurial, philanthropic, and uniquely American spirit. In 2018, his support enabled the Museum to highlight its “First Families” Gallery which details the lives of early Jewish settlers in colonial era America.
This gift also effectively concludes the quiet phase of the Museum’s capital campaign, assuring the Museum’s future as the preeminent national institution exploring and celebrating the intersection of American ideals and Jewish values in the birthplace of American democracy on Philadelphia’s historic Independence Mall.
“The Weitzman NMAJH now has the strong financial footing to continue exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience, and we are the only museum in the nation dedicated to that mission,” said the Museum’s Board Co-Chair, Sharon Tobin Kestenbaum. “At a time when so many issues divide us as Americans, this gift ensures that our Museum can be a welcoming beacon for all visitors to explore and celebrate how Jews and our nation’s diverse communities have contributed to our country. Through exhibitions and programs supported by our now-growing endowment, thanks to Stuart Weitzman, we are in a strong position to do this important work.”
The Weitzman gift will enable the Museum to purchase its James Polshek-designed building from philanthropist Mitchell Morgan and his family. Morgan is a former Trustee who generously provided the funds to allow NMAJH to emerge from its Chapter 11 Reorganization. The Morgan Family, along with a number of the Museum’s other benefactors have also forgiven significant loans to complete the institution’s emergence from Chapter 11.
“Stuart Weitzman exemplifies the American Dream,” said Dr. Misha Galperin, the Museum’s CEO. “He created a business that reached the highest echelon and is now building on his success to serve future generations. He exemplifies what it means to give back with generosity that follows in the Jewish and American traditions of philanthropy. With this historic gift, Stuart has helped secure our museum’s future.”
“We as the Museum’s leaders are grateful for this commitment from Weitzman. We look forward to highlighting the Jewish contribution to America, the stories of aspiration, innovation, and leadership. Stories of American Jews you’ve heard of—Albert Einstein, Estee Lauder, Jonas Salk, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Steven Spielberg, Sandy Koufax—and stories of those you haven’t,” said Phil Darivoff, Chairperson Emeritus & Trustee. “The United States has given American Jews the freedom and opportunity to create, contribute, and change the world. Today’s news makes me confident that our treasured Museum is on track to continue educating and inspiring future generations.”
Stuart Weitzman grew up apprenticing under his father, Seymour Weitzman, at the Mr. Seymour shoe factory in Haverhill, Massachusetts. In 1986, he launched his namesake company, which went on to become a leader in the world of designer shoes. Weitzman’s designs, recognized for combining fashion and function, are frequently found on Hollywood red carpets. In 2018, Weitzman retired after more than five decades in the footwear industry.
He remembers his time in Philadelphia very fondly. His deep connection to the city began when he was an undergraduate at The University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. Currently, he lectures and holds classes there; and in 2019, the University named its School of Design after Weitzman.
In addition to Weitzman’s support of Jewish causes, educational institutions, and medical research, he is currently working with Sephardic Jews from around the world to build a museum celebrating Spanish-Jewish history in Spain, the country in which his footwear has been produced for over 50 years.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, the Museum has been operating virtually with a robust online programming schedule that attracted millions of participants. With a clear financial path forward, it is now preparing for a 2022 reopening and working on the strategic plan for the next 10 years.
On Monday, December 6 at 6 pm ET, the Museum will host a “Miracle on the Mall” celebration honoring the key supporters who made this moment possible, including Weitzman, who will participate virtually.
“It really does feel like a miracle,” said Lyn M. Ross, Museum Trustee, Honorary Chair, and co-founder, who, along with her husband George Ross z”l, has been the institution’s greatest champion throughout the decades. The building, which is named for the Rosses, will retain that designation as the Museum itself takes on the Weitzman name.
“Stuart is truly fulfilling the mitzvah of tzedakah,” said Board Co-Chair Joseph S. Zuritsky, referring to the Hebrew word meaning righteousness, of which philanthropy is an important component. “He is creating a legacy that will ensure that our American stories of Jewish identity and heritage will be celebrated for generations to come.”
ABOUT THE WEITZMAN NATIONAL MUSEUM OF AMERICAN JEWISH HISTORY
Established in 1976, and situated on Philadelphia’s Independence Mall, the Weitzman National Museum of American Jewish History is the only museum in the nation dedicated exclusively to exploring and interpreting the American Jewish experience. The Weitzman NMAJH presents educational programs and experiences that preserve, explore, and celebrate the history of Jews in America. Its purpose is to connect Jews more closely to their heritage and to inspire in people of all backgrounds a greater appreciation for the diversity of the American Jewish experience and the freedoms to which Americans aspire. https://nmajh.org