OMA Award Spotlight - Columbus Jewish Historical Society

Recognizing excellence in Ohio museums during Arts and Humanities Month

To help celebrate October as Arts and Humanities Month, and to kick-off the call for nominations for this year's OMA awards, we'll be highlighting our 2019 OMA Award of Achievement winners throughout the month with our OMA Award Spotlight. We are featuring these Award Winner Spotlights during Arts and Humanities Month to help champion the amazing projects, programs and professionals that make Ohio's museum community strong.

The Awards of Achievement are presented to reflect the outstanding quality and caliber of work by Ohio museums and their professionals in two categories: Institutional Achievement Awards and Individual Achievement Awards.

Nominations for these awards are incredibly detailed. This in-depth process helps to illustrate how these institutions and individuals have gone “above and beyond” the normal call of duty to support their institution, serve their public and advance the cause of the museum community.

Each year, the review panel is overwhelmed by the outstanding projects, innovative programming and dedication to our field as exhibited in each of the institutional and individual nominations. Congratulations again to each of our 2019 award winners! 

Today, we'll be featuring our winner for the 2019 award for Best Education and Outreach under $500,000.

Columbus Jewish Historical Society - Letters Home, 1918

“Letters Home, 1918” is a multimedia, one act play, telling the true story of the lives of central Ohio Jews through the original letters of Jewish soldiers from their archives to the women at home to whom the soldiers wrote.

The power of these simple letters allowed viewers, both Jewish and non-Jewish, to hear the story of war, patriotism, and the flu epidemic in a personalized way that centered on the Jewish experience and participation at this time in history.

The play features a total of 12 actors, representing two soldiers who spent their war stateside at Camp Sherman, soldiers stationed in France and England, and the women to whom the letters are written. These actors appear with archival footage from the Department of Defense featuring Camp Sherman and the French theater of war.

The response to the play was, as the CJHS put it, “unanticipated and overwhelming.” During the original run, audience members came from Ohio, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, Virginia and Washington D.C. This exposure led to the growth of the organization’s archives with additional letters and other archival materials from WWI and WWII.

With so many requests from outside central Ohio, and even from outside the country to see the play, the Columbus Jewish Historical Society added additional letters, and filmed the performance for online release – which is now available.

This theatre production represents an innovative and exemplary way to make epistolary material come alive for audiences. As one audience member said, “I hardly know where to start in expressing my reactions to the performance of ‘Letters Home.’ It was heartwarming, realistic, technically outstanding, and – to say the least – highly emotional and personal.”

Did your museum have an innovative and impactful education or outreach program during the 2020 season? Be sure to nominate it for the 2020 award for Best Education and Outreach! Learn more here.


Toby Brief, Executive Director and Curator of CJHS, and John Stephano, Writer and Director of "Letters Home, 1918," Accept the Award During the OMA 2020 Virtual Awards Ceremony

One of the fun features of OMA's 2020 Virtual Awards Ceremony was being able to recognize our honorees "accepting" their award via video message. See below for the Columbus Jewish Historical Society award acceptance video.

Columbus Jewish Historical Society - OMA 2019 Award Acceptance Video

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