The Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage was signed over to Richard Stockton College on Monday afternoon.
Michael Azeez and the Azeez Foundation formalized the donation of the museum, which is housed in the historic Brotherhood Synagogue, during a signing ceremony with Stockton President Herman J. Saatkamp Jr.
The facility educates about the heritage of Woodbine and the Russian Jewish immigrants who came to the area in the late-1800s. It is designated as the Cape May County teaching center for the New Jersey Commission on Holocaust Education, and its mission statement focuses on hate and prejudice reduction and education.
Michael Azeez, who’s father is the museum’s namesake, donated the facility along with $5 million last October. The museum is undergoing a 2,800-square-foot addition, which is set to be completed in January.
Azeez was emotional during the ceremony, which took place in the college’s Office of the President in Galloway Township, and he said the decision to turn the museum over was not one he took lightly.
“Well it’s a new chapter,” he said. “The motivation of it going to Stockton was to ensure its longevity and to also bring more people to it, to raise its profile. It’s closing the book on getting it to where I’ve gotten it to, and now letting the college take it, incorporate it, and do what they can.”
The addition will add two classrooms and two offices, allowing Stockton professors to teach at the facility.
Gail Rosenthal, director of Stockton’s Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center spoke about her experiences with Sam Azeez. She then gave an example of the importance of the facility.
“This morning, we had about 50 students from Memorial School in Wildwood Crest,” she said. “They had no place to go except here (the Stockton campus) to learn about prejudice reduction. Once we’re in full swing, I will meet them down there (in Woodbine), and we won’t have a problem funding a bus and figuring out how to get them to Stockton College. They had a wonderful day here, but I told them that today is a special day.”
Azeez said the addition was funded jointly through college, the Azeez Foundation and the John Scarpa Foundation.
Woodbine Mayor William Pikolycky spoke about meeting Michael Azeez through the Boy Scouts and about the value of the museum to his community.
“It’s been a great ride with Michael,” he said. “From when he first thought about the museum, and the concept, and doing it on behalf of Woodbine. This really charged our community up. We were able to secure a few million dollars in doing a streetscape to prepare for this.”
Saatkamp said that the addition of museum helps more than just the college.
“The college is going to be here, not just for another 10 years, but for a century, two centuries, three centuries,” he said. “One of the nice things is building a program like this that will last and continue to contribute to the community of Woodbine, and the whole area, and significantly to Holocaust and genocide studies, programs of tolerance.”
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