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National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia. Photo: Wikipedia.
National Museum of American Jewish History, Philadelphia. Photo: Wikipedia.

National Museum of American Jewish History Files for Bankruptcy

The National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia—a Smithsonian affiliate that was founded in 1976—has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, which will keep creditors at bay as it develops a new financial and operating plan. The museum’s debt, which has ballooned to more than $30 million since the construction of its new building on Independence Mall ten years ago, has also been exacerbated by falling visitor numbers.

“The museum has more debt than it can sustain,” Lawrence G. McMichael, an attorney with Dilworth Paxson, told the Philadelphia Inquirer. McMichael, who also oversaw the Philadelphia Orchestra bankruptcy in 2011, said that the debt burden can scare off future donors and that a Chapter 11 filing is the only path forward for the institution. Phil Darivoff, chair of the museum’s board of trustees, said that the debt not only affects donors, “it affects our confidence in our future.”

Museum management stressed that bankruptcy proceedings, which will take at least six months, will not disrupt the institution’s programming and that there are no plans to lay off staff members at this time. The museum currently has twenty-five full-time employees, six full-time hourly workers, and an operating of budget of between $7 and $8 million.

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