Indiana State Museum to start Jewish heritage collection

(June 13, 2014)

The Indiana State Museum is reaching out to Jewish families statewide in an effort to build a new collection that will bear the name of two local rabbis, Rabbis Dennis and Sandy Eisenberg Sasso.

Similar to efforts underway to build collections from African-Americans and Latinos, this collection will provide the museum with artifacts that will help curators tell the story of Indiana’s Jewish population.

In 2012 Jews comprised about 0.3 percent of Indiana residents; in 1899, there were 25,000 Jewish people in Indiana, according to the Jewish Virtual Library, which made up about 1 percent of the state population. Only Louisiana has seen its Jewish population shrink more than Indiana’s.

But the Indiana State Museum holdings do not reflect the role that Jewish people in Indiana’s history, said Susannah Koerber, vice president of collections and interpretation.

The “single most compelling artifact” that the museum currently has is a Kiddush cup from the 1840s, she said.

As part of this effort, the museum will also be looking to interview objects’ donors about them.

“What we’re really looking for are stories of individuals and families that really connect to those objects, that really bring them alive,” Koerber said.

The museum announced the collection Thursday night at a dinner at which Sandy Sasso received the 2014 Heritage Keeper Award. Sandy Sasso is rabbi emerita at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck, where Dennis Sasso is the rabbi. The Sassos were the first husband-wife rabbinical pair in Jewish history.