Chicago's Spertus Institute changes name, whether innocents to be protected TBD

Chicago's Spertus Institute changes name, whether innocents to be protected TBD
Spertus Exterior by William Zbaren (courtesy Spertus)

Spertus Exterior by William Zbaren

Spertus Exterior by William Zbaren (courtesy Spertus)

The Spertus Institute of Jewish Studies has changed its name to the Spertus Institute for Jewish Learning and Leadership, the Michigan Avenue educational institution announced today.

Readers who aren't familiar with Spertus might recognize the organization's main campus -- a 10-story glass building at 610 S. Michigan Avenue which cost $55 million, as Blair Kamin reported in the Tribune on Nov. 25, 2007.

The name change is part of an "organization-wide effort to sharpen its mission," according to the Spertus release, which represents a "new identity [that] accentuates the nearly 90-year-old institution’s commitment to providing dynamic learning opportunities for adults. These opportunities are rooted in Jewish wisdom and culture and designed to enable both personal growth and the development of community leaders."

That's a lot of PR-speak, which may not satisfy all Chicagoans that Spertus is moving beyond its embarrassing censoring of Imaginary Coordinates, a 2008 exhibit of Israeli and Palestinian maps of the Holy Land.

Following pressure at the time from unnamed donors, who disapproved of works that were critical of Israel, the exhibit was temporarily, and then permanently closed. "This has nothing to do with censorship," then-Spertus president Howard Sulkin said. "We would like to believe that there be just a blip about that."

It will be interesting to see in the coming weeks and years to what extent, if at all, Spertus -- new name and all -- grapples with timely and relevant topics and themes in its museum, or whether it self-identifies more as a space that celebrates Jewish kitsch.

Leave a comment

  • ChicagoNow is full of win

    Welcome to ChicagoNow.

    Meet our bloggers,
    post comments, or
    pitch your blog idea.

  • Advertisement:
  • Meet The Blogger

    Menachem Wecker

    An art critic and painter, Menachem Wecker holds a master’s degree in art history from George Washington University and writes for "Houston Chronicle," as well as various religious publications. He is coauthor, with Brandon Withrow, of Winebrenner Theological Seminary, of the forthcoming book, "Consider No Evil: Two Faith Traditions and the Problem of Academic Freedom in Religious Higher Education" (Cascade Books), and is the former education reporter at "U.S. News and World Report."

  • Monthly Archives

  • Categories

  • Latest on ChicagoNow

  • Advertisement:
  • Fresh Chicago News