The Jewish museum and the need for public information

We can only hope that recent questions regarding when the Contemporary Jewish Museum will be built will just serve to make the building’s eventual ribbon-cutting that much sweeter.

Museum Director and CEO Connie Wolf claims the San Francisco institution is in solid shape.

She says the museum has secured pledges for more than 50 percent of the capital needed for its scaled-back new building and endowment fund.

Wolf declined to disclose the museum’s fund-raising goal, saying the campaign is in a “quiet phase,” but its board president, Roselyne “Cissie” Swig, confirmed it will be “at least” $75 million.

We think it’s terrific that the museum has lined up tens of millions of dollars.

And we hope it obtains the rest and breaks ground in 2006, as its officials predict. Moreover, we’d be thrilled to attend a fall 2007 opening.

Yet it baffles us that despite the museum’s merger and de-merger with Berkeley’s Judah L. Magnes Museum, a series of overly optimistic completion dates for the Yerba Buena Gardens structure, and some horrific public relations, Wolf still acts as if her statements require no concrete support and are not subject to scrutiny.

We also fail to understand her reluctance to supply hard numbers after a critical front-page piece in the San Francisco Chronicle predicted “a dim hope for the future” of the museum.

The public always deserves to know the truth.

Wolf’s stonewalling, in our opinion, is unfortunate and unnecessary.

The museum’s critically acclaimed “100 Artists See God” exhibit reminds us what an important role the Contemporary Jewish Museum can play in this community.

The notion of a sleek, 50,000-square-foot museum hosting shows like this is nothing short of tantalizing.

And, certainly, it is refreshing to see both that institution and the Magnes hosting exhibitions simultaneously once again.

“People have rolled up their sleeves in a way they’ve never done before,” said Wolf of efforts to fund and build a new museum. “They know that, this time, it’s going to work.”

We hope she’s 100 percent right. And we hope the entire process will be more visible to the public.