Programs History

The Magnes has a fifty-year history of presenting exhibitions that break new ground in Jewish Studies research, build upon the collaboration between curators and UC Berkeley faculty and students, expand Judaica connoisseurship, introduce under-recognized Jewish artists of the 20th century, and take risks with experimental projects by contemporary artists. Many of its exhibitions drawn on selections from its extensive collections, or commissioned works that use the collections as inspiration. 

This page is a growing archive of the exhibition history of the institution since its founding in 1962. The description of each exhibition is augmented by texts and label texts, images, press releases, links to press coverage and artists and contributors websites.

Visitors to the website who have been involved with any of the exhibitions created by the former Judah L. Magnes Museum and wish to contribute additional materials are encouraged to do so, reaching out to our staff through our contact information page.

Melting Pots Compared? Italian Jewry and Contemporary Israel | Sergio Della Pergola (Hebrew University of Jerusalem)

Wed, Dec 14, 2016 5:00pm to 7:00pm

Contemporary Israel's model of large-scale heterogeneous Jewish migration followed by complex processes of absorption and integration is not unique in Jewish history. To some extent the long-term experience of Jewish communities in Italy anticipated it and provided some yardsticks for comparisons. Of course the quantitative scale of migrations and population size was different, and while Jews in Italy were a tiny minority of total society, Jews in Israel formed a significant majority of the total population.

Book Talk | Walter Zev Feldman. Klezmer: Music, History, and Memory

Thu, Dec 01, 2016 5:30pm to 7:30pm

Join musicologist and klezmer music pioneer, Walter Zev Feldman, for a fascinating talk based on his new book, Klezmer: Music, History, and Memory.

Klezmer: Music, History, and Memory (Oxford University Press 2016) is the first comprehensive study of the musical structure and social history of klezmer music, the music of the Jewish musicians' guild of Eastern Europe. Emerging in 16th-century Prague, the klezmer (Jewish musician) became a central cultural feature of the largest transnational Jewish community of modern times - the Ashkenazim of Eastern Europe. Much of the musical and choreographic history of the Ashkenazim is embedded in the klezmer repertoire, which functioned as a kind of non-verbal communal memory.

PopUp Exhibition | Nick Underwood From Shund to Avant-garde: Yiddish Theatre in the City of Light

Wed, Nov 30, 2016 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Known as a center of early 20th-century avant-garde and experimental theatre, Paris does not tend to figure on the map of pre-World War II Yiddish theatrical production specifically. This pop-up talk will realign our understanding of Yiddish theatre in Paris and ask whether or not we can consider Paris as the capital of a Western European Yiddish theatre during the first half of the twentieth century.

Perspectives on Jewish Art & Islamic Art

Tue, Nov 22, 2016 12:45pm to 2:30pm

The Graduate Theological Union would like to acknowledge and thank the Walter & Elise Haas Fund for their generous support of the Center for Islamic Studies and Center for Jewish Studies Madrasa-Midrasha program, which seeks to advance study, dialogue, and understanding on Jewish and Islamic texts and contexts within academia and the larger

PopUp Exhibition | Ashley Bacchi on Hellenistic Jewish Myths and Oracles

Wed, Nov 16, 2016 12:00pm to 1:00pm

This presentation will discuss the Hellenistic Jewish text of the Sibylline Oracles which combines Greek oracular form and myth with themes from the Hebrew prophets to create a unique oracular voice that weaves together foundational narratives from both cultures. Examining this blend of traditions helps us frame questions on the elusive nature of identity constructions and what primary sources reveal about boundary formations and the complex spectrum between cultural acceptance, rejection, and adaptation.

The Bagel and the Archive: Celebrating Noah’s Bagels Legacy at The Magnes

Sun, Nov 13, 2016 10:00am to 12:00pm

The Magnes is pleased to announce the acquisition of the Noah’s New York Bagels Collection (1989-1996) documenting the early history of Noah’s New York Bagels. Founded in Berkeley by Noah Alper, resident entrepreneur, consultant, and philanthropist, the Noah’s Bagels brand rose to national prominence as the largest kosher retailer in the U.S., until sold to Einstein Bros. Bagels in 1996.

PopUp Exhibition | Howard Freedman on 78rpm Records and the Sound of American Jewish Experience

Wed, Nov 09, 2016 12:00pm to 1:00pm

The pinnacle of Jewish immigration to the United States at the turn of the twentieth century coincided with the rise of the phonograph disc (which was itself invented by a Jewish immigrant). This presentation will offer a guided tour of sounclips from the first decades of the twentieth century, including rare 78rpm discs from the Magnes collection, focusing on what these records tell us about the encounter of immigrant Jews and American culture.

Music & Activism: Israeli superstar Noa (Achinoam Nini) in conversation with Professor Ben Brinner

Mon, Nov 07, 2016 6:30pm to 9:00pm

Achinoam Nini, also known as Noa, an Israeli of Yemenite descent who was raised in the U.S., is Israel’s leading international singer/songwriter. Noa’s strongest influences come from such singer-songwriters of the 60s as Paul Simon, Joni Mitchell, and Leonard Cohen. These musical and lyrical sensibilities, combined with Noa’s Yemenite roots and Gil Dor’s strong background in jazz, rock, and classical music, have created Noa and Gil’s unique sound, heard in hundreds of songs they have written and performed together.

PopUp Exhibition | Zachary Bleemer with Aiko Gonzalez and Clayton Hale (URAP) on The Passover Haggadah: Digital Perspectives

Wed, Nov 02, 2016 12:00pm to 1:00pm

How do Jewish communities in the global diaspora transform the Passover Haggadah to meet their local needs (visually, symbolically, and textually), and what information do these transformations provide about the common beliefs held by each community?

PopUp Exhibition | Karen Barkey, Choreographies of Shared Sacred Sites: Mixed Attendance at Greek Orthodox Churches in Istanbul

Wed, Oct 26, 2016 12:00pm to 1:00pm

The talk will describe and analyze Professor Karen Barkey’s two seasons of ethnographic study of the sharing in Greek Orthodox Churches in Istanbul, Turkey. The study explores identities, practices and patterns of participation in church rituals and life. The presentation will delineate between different choreographies of sharing, the borrowing of traditions, and the bricolage of practices that occurs as generations of Muslims and Christians accommodate to each other’s religious needs and negotiate in public their otherness.

PopUp Exhibition | Mira Amiras on The Future of a Legacy: Seymour Fromer and the Making of The Magnes

Wed, Oct 19, 2016 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Dr. Mira Amiras, Professor Emerita of Comparative Religious Studies, San Jose State University, received her PhD in Anthropology from the University of California, Berkeley. She is the daughter of the founders of the Judah L. Magnes Museum, Seymour Fromer and Rebecca Camhi Fromer.

PopUp Exhibition | Patricia Munro and Claude Fischer on Coming of Age in Jewish America: the Curious Case of the Bar and Bat Mitzvah

Wed, Sep 21, 2016 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Drawing on Dr. Patricia Munro's research in Bay Area synagogues, Professor Claude Fischer and Dr. Munro will focus on how the Bar and Bat mitzvah developed into a major American Jewish ritual, how it has both responded to changes in the Jewish community (particularly rising egalitarianism and intermarriage), and how it has changed the Jewish community.

PopUp Exhibition | Rita Lucarelli on Ancient Egyptian and Jewish Magic

Wed, Apr 27, 2016 12:00pm to 1:00pm

Pharaonic magic has broadly influenced magic in Antiquity; in particular, ancient Jewish magical texts and practices reveal interesting points of contact with earlier Egyptian sources. During this talk, a few issues concerning a comparative study of magic in Antiquity will be discussed by bringing as a case-study the comparison between ancient Egyptian and Jewish magic.