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JWeekly: One Era Ends, Another Begins for Under Appreciated Magnes Museum – 07.08.2010

JWeekly: One Era Ends, Another Begins for Under Appreciated Magnes Museum – 07.08.2010

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Frances Dinkelspiel, One Era Ends, Another Begins for Under Appreciated Magnes Museum, JWeekly 07.08.2010.

The author shares her memories as a Trustee of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, and her vision around the recent creation of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC Berkeley.

http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/58569/one-era-ends-another-begins-for-underappreciated-magnes-museum/
Frances Dinkelspiel, One Era Ends, Another Begins for Under Appreciated Magnes Museum, JWeekly 07.08.2010.

The author shares her memories as a Trustee of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, and her vision around the recent creation of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at UC Berkeley.

http://www.jweekly.com/article/full/58569/one-era-ends-another-begins-for-underappreciated-magnes-museum/

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Categories:Topics, Art & Design
Published by: The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life on Jul 12, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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7/12/10 1:25 PM. | One era ends, another begins for underappreciated Magnes MuseumPage 1 of 2http://www.jweekly.com/includes/print/58569/article/one-era-ends-another-begins-for-underappreciated-magnes-museum/
Frances Dinkelspiel 
One era ends, another begins for underappreciated Magnes Museum
Thursday, July 8, 2010 | by Frances Dinkelspiel
In the fall of 2004, when I was a relatively new member of the board of directors of the MagnesMuseum, I got a tour of the museum’s rare book collection. Among its many volumes was a smallbook from Cochin, a now-defunct Jewish community in India.The book was handwritten in Malayalam and Hebrew and contained poems written by women andsung in temple. Only 13 of these poetry books are known to exist, and family members hold most of them. The Magnes, though, got one when it sent a group to India in the 1960s to gather material thathad been left behind when the bulk of the Cochini community immigrated to Israel.I remember feeling astonished as I held a book that probably had been heldby another Jewish woman 60 years earlier and a half a world away. Then Ithought to myself, why hasn’t anyone written a dissertation on the Jews of Cochin, drawing on the Magnes’ extensive collection? Why don’t more peopleknow about the museum?Therein lies the conundrum of the Judah L. Magnes Museum — and why itsought a merger with U.C. Berkeley.Go overseas, to Amsterdam or Berlin or Jerusalem, and you could easily findJews who would rave about the Magnes’ collections and its almost 50 years of contributions to preserving and interpreting Jewish life, culture, art andhistory.But go to San Francisco and mention the Magnes and you’ll hear, “Oh, yes,I’ve heard of it but I have never been there.” Tucked away on a tree-lined residential street in Berkeley, the Magnes Museumwas one of the BayArea’s best-kept secrets. It had a 10,000-piece world-class collection of Jewish ritualobjects, paintings (think Moritz Daniel Oppenheim), prints (think Marc Chagall), photos (think Leonard Nimoy)as well as letters, diaries, photos and other material from early Jewish settlers.The museum’s founder, Seymour Fromer, loved to cultivate budding artists, scholars and archivists, sothemuseum became the incubator formany things now inthe Jewish mainstream: the klezmer music revival, the renewed use of ketubahs in Jewish weddings,the San Francisco Jewish Film Festival and the Jewish Music Festival, among others.Still, most people didn’t know about the place.The staff and board of the Magnes fought valiantly for years to change this. The museum designedexhibitions that were critically praised and traveled to Jewish museums in New York and Amsterdam.The museum briefly, and unsuccessfully, merged with the Jewish Museum of San Francisco in 2002.The board tried to move the museum to downtown Berkeley, most recently to an old school buildingPrint this pageClose X

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