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Living by the Book explores Jewish Bible

By Kathleen Maclay |

AUGUST 27, 2015


rom sacred to everyday, objects from clothing and artwork to tourist memorabilia are
assembled in a new exhibition on the influences of the Jewish Bible opening today at the

Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, part of UC Berkeleys Bancroft Library.

Living by the Book: The Jewish

Bible and the Everyday Power
of Text, was curated by
Magnes acting director
Francesco Spagnolo, and Daniel
Fisher, a Berkeley Ph.D.
candidate in Near Eastern
studies and a Magnes Graduate
Fellow. It is open to the public
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesday
through Friday until June 2016,
with a closure for winter break.
The Jewish, or Hebrew, Bible
corresponds closely to the
Christian Old Testament.

This 1984 color lithograph and etching by artist Theo

Tobiasse celebrates the festival of Shavuot, held in
observance of the harvest and commemorates the
anniversary of God giving the Torah to Israel. (Courtesy
of the Magnes.)

Its words are written in

manuscript scrolls and printed
books, housed in synagogues
and homes, embellished with
decorative objects, encased in treasured chests, and dressed with precious textiles, says an
introduction to the exhibition. This core physical presence of the Bible has offered Jewish life
definition and structure, operating in the background to color the experience of time, space
and the self.
A free, open-to-the-public reception for Living by the Book will take place from 5 to 7 p.m.
Wednesday, Sept. 9, at the Magnes, 2121 Allston Way, just a block from the western edge of
campus. Reservations must be made by Monday, Sept. 6.

In addition to Spagnolo and

Fisher; speakers will include
Peachy Levy of Santa Monica, a
collector of biblical objects;
Magnes faculty director George
Breslauer; and Robert Alter, a
Berkeley emeritus professor of
Hebrew and comparative
literature. Alter writes
extensively on the literary
aspects of the Bible and is
known for his award-winning
A souvenir of an occupation such as this 1917 collection
of pressed flowers may have provided a memory of the
Holy Land for tourists there. (Courtesy of the Magnes.)

translations of Genesis and

the Five Books of Moses

(Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus,
Numbers and Deuteronomy).
He also is the author of The

Literary Guide to the Bible.

Also opening today is a related, but smaller, exhibition, Larger than Life: Jonah and the Fish,
which explores the Book of Jonah, the Hebrew Bibles only prophetic book. Jonah and its look at
the relationship between man and God, free will and Gods will and more is read from
beginning to end in the synagogue on Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement.
Objects on display at Living by the Book also include a Torah crown, a Torah shield and a pair
of silver phylacteries cases that were among items recently given by the Peachy and Mark Levy
Family Juaica Collection. This was the largest donation of objects to the Magnes since its
founding in 1962, and the largest Magnes addition since the 1967 purchase of the Siefried S.
Strauss Collection of objects, rare books and manuscripts.
Larger than Life features a translation of the Book of Jonah by Alter, whose latest work to
appear in print is Strong



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