Jay Ipson at the Executive Mansion Photo By Isaac Harrell
While the board of the Virginia Holocaust Museum may have been unmoved by his supporters' rallying cry of "Jay must stay," at least one well-known Virginian made no secret of his faith in Jay Ipson even as controversy swirled about Ipson's removal as the museum's president and executive director.
On July 13, the office of Gov. Bob McDonnell announced that it had named Ipson to the Virginia-Israel Advisory Board. Ipson, whom the release did not deviate from describing as "president and executive director of the Virginia Holocaust Museum," is the only Holocaust survivor among the five appointees.
"I've been an active member of this community in education and justice for a long time," Ipson says, "and I assume [McDonnell] realized the talents I've got to offer."
Ipson's first meeting with the new board was Aug. 2, but already he's confident that he'll be an asset to the McDonnell administration. "The state of Israel has made many investments in this community — in the state of Virginia — and it's a benefit to both countries," he says.
Meanwhile, Ipson is both in and out at the museum he co-founded in 1997, with a collection of artifacts drawn primarily from his family's personal effects. In the wake of public pressure, Ipson was named by the Virginia Holocaust Museum's board as an emeritus president late last month, but it's not yet clear what that title will mean.
"The very next day after the meeting, they changed the locks," he says. "They called me that morning to tell me, don't be surprised if your key doesn't work."
Ipson says he's taking a positive approach to his newly free schedule — and to his newfound popularity online. His JayMustStay Facebook page had more than 1,500 "likes" as of early August.
"I've started a new page," Ipson says. "Instead of 'JayMust Stay' on Facebook, there's facebook.com/pages/Jay-Ipson-Holocaust-Survivor , where people can write in and ask me a question about the Holocaust, or ask questions of me. I will eventually give lectures through Skype — I'll be all over the world instead of being limited to my driving range."
As always, Ipson says, his new work will impart a clear message to his audience, one at the heart of his time at the Holocaust Museum: "I'll teach them how to become good neighbors and not bully anybody."