Hannukah Lamp


A message from Faculty Director John Efron

December 1, 2022

John Efron

Since its founding, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life has reflected a living and ever evolving tradition, broadening our understanding of Jewish history and identity in striking ways.

Now is a wonderful time to donate to The Magnes. Longtime supporter Vallery Feldman has pledged to match first-time gifts at the curator level of $1,000. Your first gift at the curator level will go twice as far to ensure that The Magnes continues to reveal the power and relevance of Jewish art and culture. Make a gift today to join Vallery and other generous donors in sustaining the surprising connections across time and place that make The Magnes unique.

The Creation Day 6 by Ori Sherman
Ori Sherman (1934-1988)
The Creation, 1986-88
San Francisco, CA, 1988
Gouache on Paper 2006.4.1.16
Gift of Charles M. Little
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

Ori Sherman: Rooted and Responsive

Our newest exhibition is a perfect example of these connections. “In Twilight. Ori Sherman’s Creation 1986–1988,” showcases the luminous work of an artist creating in a distinctly Jewish idiom while engaging directly with the challenges of the AIDS crisis. This exhibition reveals the versatility of Jewish graphic arts and is an invitation to audiences from all backgrounds to explore contemporary themes in the context of gorgeous illustrations of foundational texts.

Born in Israel, Ori Sherman moved to San Francisco from New York City in 1958. In San Francisco he found community as a gay man and as an artist deeply connected to his Jewish origins. In his final years, after being diagnosed with HIV/AIDS, Sherman completed a cycle of 18 paintings depicting the seven days of the creation of the world as passed down in the Book of Genesis.

While researching “In Twilight,” Magnes Curator Francesco Spagnolo made a startling discovery. Hidden in the last painting in the cycle, which depicts the seventh day of creation in Sherman’s kaleidoscopic style, is a visual reference to AIDS — an image that resembles the common understanding (in the 1980s) of what a virus looked like.

Spagnolo’s insights about the depiction of the virus within Sheman’s painting led the curator to engage more deeply with Sherman’s friends and family. As a result, Spagnolo cultivated new resources from donors who will enable The Magnes to procure more of Sherman’s work. “In Twilight,” has so far proven to be a very successful exhibition — visually compelling, attuned to its sociopolitical moment, and rooted in the extraordinary Jewish tradition that is the bedrock of The Magnes’s offerings.

Prayer shawl bag
Prayer Shawl Bag
Morocco, 20th Century
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

In Plain Sight: The Jewish Legacy in Islamic Lands

Traveling to Morocco, Tunisia, Egypt, Turkey, and India in the 1960s and 70s, The Magnes founders purchased a significant collection of artifacts from Jewish life in Islamic lands. After decades of research and gathering additional holdings, we are preparing a new exhibition, “In Plain Sight.”

The Magnes aims, with this project and others, to explore the intersections of Jewish and Islamic cultures through art, share these connections with audiences, and build bridges with other cultural heritage institutions.

Stories such as these, which reveal the unexpected touchpoints of the material culture of the Jewish tradition, are at the heart of The Magnes experience.

Welcoming our new Executive Director

We are thrilled to share the news that we have hired Hannah Weisman as our first full-time executive director. Weisman, who will start on December 12, comes to The Magnes from the Boston Athenæum, where she served as director of education. She brings more than 20 years of experience in museum programming, fundraising, and preservation. As a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, Weisman knows firsthand how it is to struggle with questions of belonging. Expect to hear from her as she settles into her role and works to draw broad audiences to our programs and exhibitions.

The Magnes leadership and community are dedicated to discovering and sharing the extraordinary works and stories of the vibrant Jewish tradition. Please join us in ensuring that our shared past continues to communicate with our present by supporting The Magnes today.

With deepest gratitude,

John M. Efron
Esther and Jacques Reutlinger Director
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
Koret Professor of Jewish History

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