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Press Release

After more than seven years at the helm of The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Executive Director Lori Starr announces she will step down in December 2020


(San Francisco, CA, March 12, 2020) Executive Director of The Contemporary Jewish Museum (The CJM), Lori Starr, announced today that she will conclude her more than seven-year tenure there on December 31, 2020 to pursue new opportunities and professional projects. The Board of Trustees will launch a search for her successor that will begin immediately.

“I am so proud of all that we have accomplished together at The CJM,” said Starr. “Working with The Museum’s extraordinary staff, Board, volunteers, and community of supporters, we have made remarkable strides in realizing The CJM’s potential, expanding its reach and base of support, and advancing its mission to make the diversity of Jewish life relevant for twenty-first-century audiences. When I began my tenure in June 2013, I felt that The CJM could become a leader in its field, a pacesetter for intellectual and artistic content that would resonate in today’s global, multicultural environment. Bringing that vision to fruition has been one of the great honors of my five decades in the museum and cultural sectors, and I am so grateful for the opportunity. With the conclusion of The CJM’s current strategic plan on the horizon, this is the ideal time to let a new Director write the next chapter in The Museum’s history.”

“Lori will have been our leader for seven and a half years, and we wish her only the best in her new endeavors,” said Elliott Felson, President, Board of Trustees, The CJM. “She has been very important to The Museum, and she leaves us with an exceptionally talented team to continue its success. We are thankful for her commitment to ensuring a successful transition for The CJM and the extended timeline she has given us to find The Museum’s next leader.”

During her tenure as Executive Director, Starr has overseen a dynamic exhibition and publication program that has featured critically-acclaimed original exhibitions, including Designing Home: Jews and Mid-Century Modernism; From Generation to Generation: Inherited Memory and Contemporary Art; Cary Leibowitz: Museum Show; Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid; Show Me as I Want to Be Seen; and the current presentation of Levi Strauss: A History of American Style, all of which have made significant contributions to the field. Throughout her directorship, Starr has championed the presentation of work by emerging artists from diverse backgrounds, and strengthened The CJM’s commitment to Bay Area and California artists, in particular. 

Starr also secured many high-profile traveling shows that appeared at The CJM, providing Bay Area audiences with unique opportunities to experience marquee exhibitions, such as Amy Winehouse: A Family Portrait; Bill Graham and the Rock and Roll Revolution; Stanley Kubrick: The Exhibition; The Art of Rube Goldberg; and, opening in September 2020, Leonard Cohen: A Crack in Everything.

In her time at The CJM, Starr presided over the rapid expansion of The Museum’s Access programming, an institution-wide commitment to providing visitors with a range of disabilities access to exhibitions and programs. A model in the field, The CJM’s Access initiative includes tours for those with low vision, deafness, Alzheimer’s, and movement workshops for those with limited mobility. In 2019, The Museum received The Community Champion Award from the San Francisco Veterans Affairs in honor of its work with the Joe Goode Performance Group. The CJM, a Blue Star Museum, continues to support veterans and their families by providing free admission throughout the year.

Under Starr’s leadership, The CJM increased support for K-12 School and Family Programs, including procuring funding to offer free admission for youth aged eighteen and under all year long. During her term, Starr diversified The CJM’s interdisciplinary public programs; increased attendance and public engagement; expanded The Museum’s digital impact and reach, including the redesign of launched in 2018; expanded the curatorial department; and to date raised over $40 million in annual and campaign contributions.

An energetic fundraiser, Starr also oversaw the development and construction of the Helen Diller Institute, an internal innovation space that includes a beit midrash, or “house of learning”, where distinguished visiting scholars and CJM staff work together to create Jewish content and programs. The Institute has hosted several notable Jewish thought leaders, including Rabbi Rani Jaeger of the Shalom Hartman Institute, Rabbi Benay Lappe of Svara, and writer, musician, and Torah teacher Alicia Jo Robinson, among others. 

The CJM has received numerous grants under Starr, including allotments from the National Endowment for the Arts, Righteous Persons Foundation, David Berg Foundation, Andy Warhol Foundation, and the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (OES) through the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Most recently, The Museum was selected to participate in the American Alliance of Museums’ Facing Change: Advancing Museum Board Diversity, and Inclusion initiative.

Starr plans to remain in the San Francisco Bay Area in order to pursue new professional projects.

“I’m thinking of this as my shmita,” said Starr, referring to the Hebrew term for the sabbath or sabbatical year, based on the seventh year of the seven-year agricultural cycle mandated by the Torah, when crops are rotated. “As I move into this next stage of my career, I hope to continue to be of value to the field at large, and I’m excited to have the space for new ideas and opportunities.”

About The Contemporary Jewish Museum

With the opening of its new building on June 8, 2008, The Contemporary Jewish Museum ushered in a new chapter in its twenty-plus year history of engaging audiences and artists in exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. The facility, designed by internationally renowned architect Daniel Libeskind, is a lively center where people of all ages and backgrounds can gather to experience art, share diverse perspectives, and engage in hands-on activities. Inspired by the Hebrew phrase L’Chaim (To Life), the building is a physical embodiment of The CJM’s mission to bring together tradition and innovation in an exploration of the Jewish experience in the twenty-first century.

Major support for The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s educational programs for youth, young adults, and families with young children comes from Jim Joseph Foundation. The Museum thanks the Koret Foundation for major support of Jewish Peoplehood exhibitions and programs. Additional major support is provided by an anonymous donor;  Bank of America; The Covenant Foundation; Suzanne and Elliott Felson; Gaia Fund; Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation; Grants for the Arts; Walter and Elise Haas Fund; The Hearst Foundations; Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties; Wendy Kesser; Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt; Nellie and Max Levchin; 706 Mission Co LLC; The Bernard Osher Foundation; Lisa Stone Pritzker; John Pritzker; Dorothy R. Saxe; Seiger Family Foundation; Taube Foundation for Jewish Life & Culture; United States Department of Homeland Security; and The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts.

Major support for The Museum’s Helen Diller Institute is generously provided by The Helen Diller Family Foundation.

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