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Inaugural exhibition of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
With the establishment of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC Berkeley in July 2010, unique materials documenting the Jewish experience in Northern California were gifted to The Bancroft Library by the former Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley.
The Magnes archives of Western Jewish Americana have served as an important source for several foundational studies of Jewish life in California. Researchers often relied on the combination of Magnes and Bancroft collections in their work. Now, the physically integrated collections of both institutions bring unique resources under one roof, making them even more accessible for teaching and research.
The inaugural exhibition, Gained in Translation: Jews, Germany, California circa 1849, draws on art, artifacts, books, and archival materials from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, The Bancroft Library, and the Levi Strauss & Co. Archives. The resulting synergy stretches the boundaries of California history, connecting German Jewish history before 1849 to the establishment of the Jewish community in the San Francisco Bay Area.
The focal point of the exhibition is the renowned painting by Moritz Daniel Oppenheim, Lavater and Lessing Visit Moses Mendelssohn (1856), one of the most reproduced works in the Magnes Collection, often used to illustrate the cultural dialogue framing the social and cultural emancipation of the Jews in Germany. The decade in which this work appeared was pivotal for German Jews: their hopes for emancipation were challenged by the failed revolution of 1848-49, which also spurred emigration to the United States, including to San Francisco, where the Gold Rush provided new opportunities of social success and civic engagement.
Alla Efimova, Jacques and Esther Reutlinger Director
Francesco Spagnolo, Curator of Collections
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life is supported by Koret Foundation, Taube Foundation, Hellman Family Foundation, Magnes Museum Foundation, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, Jim Joseph Foundation, Lisa and Doug Goldman Fund, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund, and Walter and Elise Haas Fund, and Lumina Foundation.
This exhibition is made possible, in part, by the generous support of the founding Friends of the Magnes: Barry and Debbie Cohn, Frances Dinkelspiel, Rosalie Eisen, Robert D. Haas, Adele Hayutin, Dana Shapiro, Janet Traub, Marjorie and Barry Traub, and Chen C. Wang.