By Maria Saporta
One of Atlanta’s longest serving cultural leaders will be retiring at the end of the year.
Jane Leavey, executive director of the Breman Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum, will retire Dec. 31 after 28 years in the role.
Leavey, who had been an employee of the Atlanta Jewish Federation (now renamed the Jewish Federation of Greater Atlanta), saw the need for an archives and history museum that focused on the settlement and presence of Jews in Atlanta.
That’s how she became the founding director of the Breman Museum, which has 1,200 members and welcomes 30,000 visitors each year.
Leavey’s career began in 1985 when she curated the exhibition: Jews and Georgians: A Meeting of Cultures, 1733-1983 for the Schatten Gallery at Emory University.
That’s when she recognized the need for an archives that would protect the documents of key Atlantans. She also found a great number of Holocaust survivors who had relocated to Atlanta, and she wanted to make sure their stories were preserved for history’s sake.
The Atlanta Jewish Federation supported her work by funding a Jewish Community Archives in 1985, which was expanded to include a Holocaust Resource Center in 1986.
In 1993, local philanthropist William Breman offered a lead gift to permanently house the archives and build a museum facility. The museum officially opened in 1996 with three galleries — one dedicated to the story of the Holocaust, one centered around the Atlanta Jewish community and a third space for traveling exhibitions.
During her tenure, Leavey curated major exhibitions including: Where the Wild Things Are: Maurice Sendak in His Own Words and Pictures, Zap! Pow! Bam! The Superhero: The Golden Age of Comic Books, 1938 – 1950, Seeking Justice: The Leo Frank Case Revisited, and most recently, Dr. Seuss Goes to War.
“You can see her vision and her creativity in each program and exhibition held at the Breman,” said current Board Co-President Joyce Shlesinger in a statement. “The museum is where it is today as a direct result of Jane’s tireless efforts.”
The Museum’s board has conducted a search, and an announcement about a new executive director is expected in the near future.
The Breman Jewish Heritage and Holocaust Museum is located at 1440 Spring Street in Midtown Atlanta across from the Center for Puppetry Arts.