Aaron Berger, Executive Director
Aaron Berger hails from Chicago and attended the College of Charleston but has called Georgia home since 1999. He worked as the director of two museums before joining the Breman.
“I’ve made Atlanta home,” he said about living in Sandy Springs with his partner and spoiled dog.
Berger eats, breathes and sleeps the museum. He said the Breman takes up an enormous amount of his life, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. In the months before opening “Atlanta Collects,” Berger spent countless hours recruiting, confirming and visiting collectors’ homes.
“Never in my professional career have I been so exhilarated and exhausted at the same time. The quality and quantity of ‘Atlanta Collects’ is extraordinary,” he said.
Elinor Breman said, “Aaron and the other people who work there do it because they love the museum and want to see it bloom.”
“He’s a fine man,” 20th anniversary honoree Jarvin Levison said. “He is bringing exhibitions that appeal to the Jewish community and the general population.”
In December, Berger celebrates his fifth anniversary as the museum director.
Elinor Breman, Founder
Elinor Breman was born in Chattanooga and moved to Atlanta in 1940. She has been a member of The Temple for 66 years, living intown in neighborhoods including Garden Hills and Buckhead. A real estate agent and art enthusiast, she studied at Atlanta College of Art (later merged with SCAD).
In the early 1990s she met Bill Breman. After they were engaged, Elinor was introduced to Jarvin Levison. She recalled working together on the founding of the museum but floundering about what to call it. “I’m the one who said it should be called a museum,” she said, “not just a center.”
Opening night, June 23, 1996, Elinor was due onstage for the ribbon cutting. The party was busy with cocktails, hors d’oeuvres and speeches when the air conditioning broke. It was hot, and Elinor was a nervous wreck. Bill’s family had traveled from around the world, including Israel.
Jane Leavey “tracked me down in the ladies room, where I was hiding, and gave me a Coke,” she laughed.
She has consulted with the Breman since before her husband’s death in 2000. “His legacy must be carried on. Not only was the museum a jewel, but so was Bill. He was quiet, conservative, unselfish. He was hands-on, not just a donor,” Breman said. “We felt like the museum was our baby.
“As Jarvin and I said to each other, we will worry about the museum till we die. We want people to take advantage of it.”
Jarvin Levison, Visionary
Jarvin Levison, an Emory-educated lawyer, has lived in Atlanta most of his life. Described by friends as wise and shy, Levison was involved with the Breman from the beginning.
Lois Blonder said his loyalty and involvement are unmatched by anyone else.
Levison was first general counsel to the Atlanta Jewish Federation.
“The museum has expanded enormously in 20 years. It is now established as a significant institution in Atlanta for both the Jewish and general community. Its archives and exhibits are appealing and important to all,” Levison said.
Lisa Brill, Collector
When Lisa and Ron Brill moved to Atlanta in 1979, they began collecting kaleidoscopes. Soon their collections moved into paper art in the form of large wall pieces and sculptures.
“We got into collecting glass when we needed to fill a corner space in the bedroom,” she said. After she looked for the perfect piece for a year, something in a Florida gallery caught her eye.
“We met the gallery owner and learned about it. We still have the piece,” she said.
The couple displayed 20 to 30 glass pieces of their personal collection at the High Museum years ago.
The Brills’ sons, Matt and Jonathan, grew up surrounded by art in their bedrooms and bathrooms, in addition to the main living areas.
“The boys’ friends would ask, ‘Mrs. B., what’s new?’ It was always interesting to see appreciation coming from the kids,” she said.
Today all the Brills collect. Matt collects photography — a great medium to grow with — and Jonathan loves guitars.
“We all have the collection addiction,” she said. “In the scope of life, it’s art. We can all appreciate it.”