Last updated on July 2nd, 2019 at 09:34 am
As Kathie Bernstein, founding executive director of Jewish Museum Milwaukee, approaches retirement, the museum has appointed Patti Sherman-Cisler to take her place.
Jewish Museum Milwaukee, which belongs to the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, opened in 2008 with a mission to preserve and highlight the history of southeastern Wisconsin’s Jewish population and celebrate Jewish culture. Bernstein previously was the founding director of the Milwaukee Jewish Historical Society, which morphed into the museum under Bernstein’s leadership.
Bernstein, who has served the Milwaukee Jewish Federation for more than 30 years, said she is ready to retire after achieving all the goals she set for the museum and ensuring the museum is poised for future success.
“I brought it to where it is, and now somebody needs to take it to the next level,” Bernstein said.
Among her goals was creating a strong museum education program for schoolchildren and visitors and crafting exhibits that would appeal to a variety of museumgoers while teaching them about the history and culture of Jewish people.
One particularly significant exhibit she wanted to see through was “Stitching History from the Holocaust,” which tells the story of Hedy Strnad, a dress designer who perished in the Holocaust. Strnad had family in Milwaukee, and thanks to the work of the museum her dress designs were stitched to life by the Milwaukee Repertory Theater’s Costume Shop. Her exhibit of dresses, which garnered international attention, is now traveling across the country to be showcased in other cities.
Bernstein’s successor, Sherman-Cisler, will take over on June 15.
Sherman-Cisler is currently deputy director of operations for the John Michael Kohler Arts Center in Sheboygan. She has spent nine years of her career at the center, where she has held responsibilities across a spectrum of departments, including finance, human resources, volunteer engagement, information technology, facilities, security, retail, hospitality and rentals.
Additionally, Sherman-Cisler has contributed to the center’s strategic planning, fundraising efforts, marketing and special events and has manned the post of staff liaison to a variety of board committees.
Before joining the Kohler Arts Center, Sherman-Cisler was the vice president of organizational and business enterprise development for the Milwaukee Public Museum. She also spent nine years at the Milwaukee Public Museum, filling a variety of roles and overseeing contract negotiations, staff management, training and development, hospitality, retail, rental and café operations. She was particularly instrumental in launching a group sales department at the museum and shifting the business models for retail businesses, including a café, retail stores and facility rentals.
Sherman-Cisler’s early career days included working for the Marcus Center for the Performing Arts and owning and operating her own business.
As Jewish Museum Milwaukee’s leadership changes hands Bernstein hopes the museum, which she said is currently “space starved” can find a larger facility or expand its current one to accommodate its exhibits and necessary amenities, such as a film room.
Despite its cramped quarters, the museum is in “a very good place,” she said.
“It’s just been a privilege to be able to lead this project,” Bernstein said of her tenure. “I mean, how many people get to do such a thing? It’s such a privilege and I’m very lucky, and I appreciate the federation and the Jewish community for all its support.”