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Seinfeld, Midler to headline Jewish museum opening

NEW YORK (JTA) — Jerry Seinfeld will emcee and Better Midler will headline the official unveiling of the renovated National Museum of American Jewish History in Philadelphia.

The Nov. 13 gala will celebrate the $150 million project to move the museum to Philadelphia’s Independence Mall and to expand the museum from about 10,000 square feet to more than 100,000. 

The museum, which traces the history of American Jews from the 1654 arrival of 20 Jews from Brazil in New Amsterdam until today, will aim to attract some 250,000 visitors per year — 10 times what it has traditionally attracted since it opened in the mid-1970s.

“The opening is a celebration of an institution that is focused most of all on connecting American Jews more closely with their heritage, and inspiring in all Americans a greater diversity of the American experience and the contribution they have made to this country,” the museum’s president and CEO, Michael Rosenzweig, told JTA. “It was important for us to keep these purposes front of mind. And these two individuals [Seinfeld and Midler] are highly successful and both very proud of their Jewish heritage.

The museum, which received a lead $25 million gift from Jones Apparel owner Sidney Kimmel, has attracted some of the biggest names in Jewish philanthropy, among them Steven Spielberg, the Tisch and Milstein families, and Raymond and Ruth Perelman.  

Ticket prices for the gala have not yet been announced, but proceeds will go toward the museum’s operating budget. Having Midler and Seinfeld, who are both being paid to perform, will likely give the event a boost, Rosenzweig said.

“They were at the very top of our list. There were other individuals we were interested in, but they were both our first choices,” he said. “We hit a home run in all respects.”

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