Auction doubles revenue for Jewish museum
By Paul Haist
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The Oregon Jewish Museum fifth annual art auction May 7 grossed more than $150,000 and attracted 360 guests.
The gross revenue was more than twice what was raised at the museum's 2005 art auction, while the number of guests this year topped last year's total by 100.
Museum Executive Director Judith Margles, whose tenure at the museum has encompassed all five annual auctions—the first in a small Chinese restaurant, this year's at the Multnomah Athletic Club—was almost euphoric.
"We have a future in front of us that we fully intend to make the best of," she said. "Based on the success of the evening, we know we are poised to create a permanent home for the OJM."
She was referring to the museum leadership's goal of finding a permanent home for the collection and archive, which is housed now in rental space in Portland's Old Town. The lease on the space expires this year.
Margles praised co-chairs Bev Getreu and Toinette Menashe: "They really raised the level of the auction by creating esprit d'corps among committee members."
Referring to the entire committee she added, "Each one them worked diligently at their tasks, procuring objects, sponsorships and inviting people."
The evening began with a reception that afforded auction goers the opportunity to browse some 200 items donated for the silent portion of the auction. It included artwork, craft items, trips, restaurant outings, fine wines and more.
Margles praised Leslie Glasgow and Gail Marger, who co-chaired the silent auction.
"They put everything together with such artistry that you gasped when you walked into the silent auction room," she said.
After the reception, auction goers sat down for a banquet dinner, after which the oral auction got under way.
A total of 21 items were up for bid. Auctioneer Chris Sheik urged the bidders on to an oral auction total of $23,500, slightly ahead of the total for last year's oral auction.
Mel Katz's tall sculpture entitled "Three Cs" fetched the highest bid of the evening, $3,800. Runners up included the late Michele Russo's large serigraph "Hat's Off," which went for $2,300, and Dr. William Rosenbaum's large stone sculpture "Mother and Child," which fetched $1,500.
A total of nine items sold for more than $1,000.
Perhaps the highlight of the evening was the Mitzvah Moment, which occurred midway through the oral auction. Bidding on art objects paused then and auction goers were challenged to dig deep for the satisfaction merely of helping the museum.
At last year's auction, the Mitzvah Moment generated $15,100.
This year, the Mitzvah Moment brought in nearly $70,000, including an anonymous $25,000 challenge grant—more than 4 times last year's total.
"The support is very gratifying," said auction co-chair Getreu. "It shows how we've grown over the years."
"So many people have become newly aware of the Oregon Jewish Museum," said co-chair Menashe. "The kind of energy the people are putting behind it make it an exciting time in the museum."
When the bidding paused for the Mitzvah Moment, OJM founder Rabbi Joshua Stampfer spoke of the mitzvah underlying OJM's mission.
"One of the great mitzvoth of Jewish life is preserving memory," said Stampfer. "This is the mitzvah of memory that is performed every day by the Oregon Jewish Museum?.This we owe to the future, to remember the past. When you participate in the Mitzvah Moment, you are participating in a most important mitzvah."
$15,000 of the funds raised in the Mitzvah moment are earmarked for the OJM archive project. The balance goes to the museum's endowment.
Both co-chairs spoke highly of all involved in making the auction a success.
Getreu singled out OJM President Julie Gottlieb, whose three-year term ends this month.
"Julie is wonderful and supportive," said Getreu. "She showers us with her friendship, caring and support, not only of the museum but all of us."
Menashe praised silent auction co-chairs Glasgow and Marger as "tireless" in their efforts.
And Getreu called Director Margles "the perfect person to be in that position."
"She is the perfect liaison between the community and the museum," said Getreu.
Gottlieb said the level of enthusiasm and volunteer support for the event were very high, which she said was exemplified by all who turned out to help set up for the auction.
"Everybody on the auction committee was there. And the volunteers who helped set up, there were probably close to 35 women and men and kids, everyone was there," said Gottlieb, who added that she would retire as OJM president "on a big high."
She said she was "thrilled" and "satisfied" by the museum's success during her tenure, although she declined to take credit.
"It's not me," said Gottlieb. "I always felt like the Oregon Jewish Museum was a big yellow school bus and I just happened to be in the driver's seat. It was going to go, anyhow."
Gottlieb will remain on the OJM board.
All of the museum leadership stressed the critical role of sponsors in making the auction a success.
A total of 43 sponsors provided $39,250 to help make the evening possible. The cost of the event was less than sponsors provided. The unused portion goes to benefit the museum directly.