The new Madge Rothschild Resource Center will preserve and share the 200 years of history of Jewish people in northeast Indiana, but it will be a resource for the larger community as well.
The public can get their first look at the $1.07-million building during an open house beginning at 2 p.m. Sunday at Congregation Achduth Vesholom on the Rifkin Campus at 5200 on Old Mill Road. The resource center was built as an addition on the back side of the Reform Jewish congregation's existing building.
Guided tours of the building will be offered at 2:15, 2:45 and 3:15 p.m. A brief program about the resource center and a presentation by author David Laskin will begin at 4 p.m.; a reception will follow.
The 3,150-square-foot resource center grew out of strategic planning that began five years ago and resulted in the re-envisioning of the congregation's building and campus as a Jewish community center, said Sally Trotter, congregation administrator, and John Stein, the co-chair with Trotter of the resource center project.
Preserving the rich history of the Jewish community in northeast Indiana was one of the underlying ideas throughout the planning process, Trotter said. So was focusing the congregation outward rather than inward, Stein said.
Trotter said a donation of $500,000 or more from the Madge Rothschild Foundation resulted in the resource center being named in honor of Rothschild, whose great-grandfather helped found Congregation Achduth Vesholom in 1848. Rothschild, who died in 2005, was the last congregation member who was a direct descendant of a founding family.
The congregation had displayed some artifacts and items in the past — including a partially burned remnant of a Torah scroll saved from the Nazis during the Holocaust — but the resource center's new Jacob L. Goldman Memorial Museum will place greater emphasis on presenting and explaining that history, Trotter and Stein said. A Torah scroll contains the first five books of the Old Testament.
Some items will be on permanent display, but other exhibits will change frequently to keep the museum fresh and to encourage people to return often, they said. Museum exhibits and graphics still need to be installed, so it could be about two months before the space is completed.
The resource center also includes the Rabbi Richard B. Safran Library, which is fully stocked with books for both children and adults. The congregation hopes to start children's storytimes there for the general public, Stein said.
A small meeting room is equipped with video-conferencing equipment, so groups can conduct meetings involving people who are not present or book clubs can hold video chats or interviews with out-of-town authors, he said.
The resource center and its 1,100-square-foot inner courtyard — the latter space eventually also will include a sculpture garden — also can be used for wedding receptions or other events for 50 to 75 people, Stein said.
"When we designed the space here, we designed it for events that are not ours," he added.
The educational aspects of the museum and library will complement the educational outreach work being done by the Jewish Federation of Fort Wayne and the IPFW Institute for Holocaust and Genocide Studies, both of which now are based on the Rifkin Campus at 5200, Trotter said.
She and Stein also believe the resource center will help visitors gain a better understanding of the Jewish faith and community.
"We are not so different," Stein said.
All of the world's major religions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam, believe in the same basic principles, he said: There is one God, and treat others the way you want to be treated.
Resource center open house
WHAT: Congregation Achduth Vesholom invites the public to see the new Madge Rothschild Resource Center during an open house. Refreshments will be served, and author David Laskin will speak on "One Family, Three Journeys: How One Family Embodied the Sweep of 20th Century Jewish History."
WHEN: 2 p.m. Sunday. Tours will be offered at 2:15, 2:45 and 3:15 p.m.; Laskin will speak at 4 p.m.
WHERE: Rifkin Campus at 5200, 5200 Old Mill Road
Note: David Laskin is the author of several books, including "The Family: A Journey into the Heart of the Twentieth Century," which explores the fate of his ancestors, one branch of which immigrated to America, one that traveled to Palestine and took part in the creation of the country of Israel, and a third branch who stayed in Europe and faced Nazi occupation.