Sam Azeez Museum of Woodbine Heritage is now officially a part of the Richard Stockton College of New Jersey. That includes a new 2,826 square foot classroom building and additional auxiliary buildings.
The building is scheduled to open for instruction in January.
“This allows us to bring in more students and more resources, and to establish a tie to the incredible history of the region, related to Jewish heritage,” Stockton College President Herman J. Saatkamp said following a formal signing ceremony on Monday, Dec. 17 at the college. “The museum and its contents are now part of Stockton College.”
According to Saatkamp, the college can now have classes in its Holocaust and Genocide Studies program both at the museum and at the college. The location at the museum also allows for continuing education, certifications and any other courses “that make sense” at that location, Saatkamp said. The college can also collaborate with Cumberland County College, as well as Atlantic Cape Community College, which has a campus in the region.
According to professors and faculty in the Holocaust and Genocide Studies program who were in attendance for Monday’s signing, there are between 350 and 500 students in the undergraduate program, 40-50 in the graduate program and about a half dozen students pursuing their Masters Degree in the subject at Stockton, generally.
Michael Azeez, the son of the museum’s namesake Sam Azeez, donated the museum to the college in September of last year. At that time, he also donated $5 million to the college, resulting in the largest gift Stockton College has ever received. The college also received related artifacts from the Philadelphia Jewish Archives at the Temple University Urban Archives.
“The motivation was to ensure longevity and to raise the museum’s profile,” Azeez said.
According to Azeez, the new building will have two classrooms and two offices, and was jointly funded by the college, the Azeez Foundation and the John Scarpa Foundation.
The museum was the Woodbine Brotherhood Synagogue, which Azeez saved. He named it after his father, who was a successful businessman who grew up in Woodbine. Woodbine was founded by Russian-Jewish immigrants in the 1890s. Michael Azeez is a member of Stockton’s Sara and Sam Schoffer Holocaust Resource Center and the Stockton Affiliated Services Inc. (SASI).
On Monday, he thanked Azeez Museum Executive Director Jane Stark, who is also an assistant to Saatkamp, for her work in moving the museum forward.
“She’s done a phenomenal job moving us to where we are today,” Azeez said. “She moved us from a small non-profit to a part of Stockton College.”
Azeez called the decision to donate the museum to Stockton a decision he didn’t take lightly.
“The college will be here not just for a century, but for two centuries or three centuries,” Saatkamp said, adding they’re building a program that will have a lasting impression on genocide studies.
“Sam Azeez once said, ‘the harder you work, the luckier you get,’” said Woodbine Mayor William Pikolycky said. “I took that and applied it to myself. We in Woodbine are so happy to have a partnership with Stockton that we hope will be there for many generations.”