For the Jewish Museum of Florida-FIU, celebrating its 18th year is an important milestone.
In Jewish culture, there’s no secret to the number 18. It represents life.
“Secular culture values round numbers like 5, 10, 15, 20, 25, 50 in terms of measuring time and anniversaries,” said Oren Stier, associate professor of religious studies at FIU. “In Judaism, we have a different idea that relates to classic Jewish numerology, otherwise known as gematria.”
This system of numerology, according to Stier, allows people to extract secret meanings behind Jewish words, phrases and texts. In the case of 18, the combined numerical value of letters het (ח) and yud (י) spell chai — life. This is why many Jewish people will give monetary gifts in multiples of 18. Symbolically, they are giving the gift of life.
For the museum, the symbolism of 18 years is about more than just its future. It’s also a time to celebrate its past.
Since opening its doors, the museum has offered more than 600 educational and cultural public programs, while also hosting thousands of school children and countless visitors from all across the world every year. The museum’s space has more than doubled, and its collections have expanded significantly. In addition, the museum’s leadership initiated legislation for both an annual Florida Jewish History Month and Jewish American Heritage Month to celebrate the culture, traditions and contributions of the Jewish people to Florida and the nation.
During its first 18 years, the museum also earned accreditation by the American Association of Museums, a distinction attained by less than 5 percent of the nation’s museums. With more than 70 temporary exhibits under its belt, the museum continues to promote understanding of and tolerance for all ethnic groups, as it ushers in a new era of interdisciplinary education and research now as part of the FIU family.