Further, the membership of 19,000 now extends into all 50 states, an important achievement for a museum that envisions itself as a player on the national stage.
At the same time, though, Rosenzweig noted in an interview how precarious those successes may be, given the institution's unusually heavy reliance on philanthropy, large and small, to keep the doors open. Half of its $10 million operating budget has come from donations - well above the national average of 37 percent, according to a 2009 survey by the American Association of Museums.
That dependence is worrisome in a down economy because, as Rosenzweig said, "people don't look the same way" at giving to a cultural institution.
While substantial gifts typically go to a museum's endowment, Rosenzweig said donors were being asked to earmark 20 percent for operating expenses. It is, he concedes, an "unusual approach."
He added that the museum would not be comfortably self-sustaining until the endowment grew to at least $100 million. It currently is $10 million.
Philadelphia developer Ronald Rubin, cochairman of the museum's board of trustees, said he was not overly worried about the museum's future, based on its successful courtship of major donors in the past.
"It's always a challenge to raise money," Rubin said, "but we have raised almost $155 million to build the place."
Little money, however, has gone into marketing it.
It's not unusual for new museums to "build [attendance] through word of mouth," said Meryl Levitz, president and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism and Marketing Corp., which promotes the city to tourists.
But in its first year, the museum relied exclusively on it. Financial considerations kept officials from doing any advertising.
They're now circling back with a campaign, hoping to increase the local and national profile of "the new kids on the block," said Ivy L. Barsky, the museum's director and chief operating officer.
Barsky, director of a Holocaust museum in New York before coming to Philadelphia this summer, said she wanted to figure out how the museum should present itself not only to Jewish visitors but also to non-Jews. Should it be "boutiquey?" Or should it serve a similar community function as Manhattan's storied 92nd Street Y, one of the linchpins of Jewish life in New York?
She also is hoping to attract more student groups, especially from the Philadelphia School District. Museums, Barsky contends, need to "really pick up the slack" resulting from education funding cuts.
Rotating exhibits are not scheduled to begin until the end of 2013. In the meantime, the museum's 25,000-square-foot permanent exhibit could be in for some tweaking.
Part of it currently is given over to a Rosh Hashanah observance. Visitors can stick small notes to the walls about what has led them to reflect during the last year - the holiday's key theme.
To gain greater national recognition, officials are relying on the museum's exclusivity as the only one in the country devoted to Jewish American history, what Rosenzweig calls "our ace in the hole."
Many people who buy memberships - ranging from $54 to $3,600 - "may never come," he said. But they'll do it to support "the cause" of Jewish history.
To learn more about the
National Museum of American Jewish History, go to http://www.philly.com/jewishmuseum
Contact staff writer Anthony Campisi at 215-854-5015, email@example.com or @campisia on Twitter.