The Breman Museum celebrates 25th anniversary with the exhibit ‘History With Chutzpah’

Elinor and Bill Breman and Bill’s 90th birthday celebration at The Breman Museum in 1998.

William Breman

For its 25th anniversary Silver Jubilee, Atlanta’s Breman Museum has decided to show us its “chutzpah” and celebrate for three whole years. The exhibition commemorating the Museum’s rich 25-year history with fresh takes on stories of remarkable Southern Jewish figures, “History with Chutzpah,” opened earlier this fall and is expected to remain on display through 2024. “City Lights” host Lois Reitzes was joined by Museum executive director Leslie Gordan, curator Jane Leavey, and theater director Adam Koplan who serves as board chairman. They discussed the fantastic tales of bravery and boldness the new exhibition reveals through a closer look at Atlanta’s Jewish community.

Interview highlights:

How do we define ‘chutzpah?’

“The interesting thing about ‘chutzpah’ is there was a lot of discussion around the meaning. For us, it means nerve and guts and moxie, and all of those things that make you a dynamic and daring soul,” said Gordan. “What brought people over the line who remembered the early Yiddish meanings that were negative, was an article in Forbes magazine that said, ‘Chutzpah is the new charisma.’”

What sets the ‘Chutzpah’ experience apart:

“We began to pick out the stories we like, the stories that we thought told different aspects of the Jewish experience, and we realized after a while that the stories we were choosing sort of organized themselves into different sections,” said Leavey. “Courage and conformity, hope and survival, success and loss, patriotism and perseverance, benevolence and community, and murder and mayhem; and there were people within these sections who displayed ‘chutzpah.’”

“The stories in this exhibition are surprising and fantastic,” said Koplan. “First of all, the experience of it is unlike anything I’ve been a part of in Atlanta or certainly at the Breman. You walk into this little antechamber that’s reminiscent of the cabinets of curiosity of old, sort of what the experience of being in a very tailored and small museum might have been like 150 or 200 years ago, and you press a secret button, and it opens up into this world of these six different categories with these stories featured through the objects that bring them alive, as well as streaming interviews and video feed.”

The treasured and notorious ancient bagel of Sam Greenblatt:

“I was sitting with a buddy of mine… and he said, ‘Would you believe, my mom has a bagel from the Spanish-American War?’” recalled Koplan. “An ancestor of his went as a soldier under Teddy Roosevelt off to the Spanish-American War, and Mom, like any nice Jewish mother, packed him up with a load of bagels, and they sat at the bottom of his rucksack.”

Koplan continued, “Whether it was fumigated, or just the incredible amounts of unwashed soldier gear and B.O., or whatever it was, something about this combination basically petrified this bagel so that it became something that was rock hard and perfectly preserved in its rock hard status. And then this bagel just sat in the family home, with the family lore. We like to think that this may literally be the oldest existing bagel in the world.”

“History With Chutzpah: Remarkable Stories of the Southern Jewish Adventure” is open to the public at the Breman Museum in Midtown Atlanta and is expected to remain on view for the next three years. More information and tickets are available at