Inaugural Exhibition of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life: Gained in Translation. Jews, Germany, California circa 1849 – 02.04.2011

February 4, 2011


ContactDamaris Moore
Director of Communications
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Gained in Translation: Jews, Germany, California circa 1849
Inaugural exhibition of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life

The Bancroft Library Gallery, University of California, Berkeley
March 1 – July 1 2011
Gallery hours: Monday-Friday 10am-4pm 

With the establishment of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in July 2010, the unique archives 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 Archives to stretch the historical and geographic boundaries of San Francisco Jewish history, connecting the history of the Jews in Germany before 1849 to the establishment of the Jewish community in the San Francisco Bay in the second half of the 19th century.  

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

Opening Program
Wednesday, March 2, 2011, 5 pm
Morrison Library, in Doe Library
John Efron, Koret Professor of Jewish History, University of California, Berkeley
Marc Dollinger, Richard and Rhoda Goldman Chair in Jewish Studies and Social Responsibility, San Francisco State University

Opening Reception
Wednesday, March 2, 6 pm
The Bancroft Library

About the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life at The Bancroft Library was established in 2010 after the transfer of the Judah L. Magnes Museum to the University of California, Berkeley. Its remarkably diverse archive, library and museum holdings include art, objects, texts, music, and historical documents about the Jews in the Global Diaspora and the American West. As one of the preeminent Jewish collections in the world, it provides highly innovative and accessible resources to both scholars and visitors. The Magnes’s new home in downtown Berkeley (Fall 2011) will accommodate deep research, as well as offer the general public a place to gather for exhibitions, lectures, performances and other events that foster community, learning, and growth.

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life is supported by Koret Foundation, Taube Philanthropies, Hellman Family Foundation, Magnes Museum Foundation, Friends of the Magnes, Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties, Walter and Elise Haas Fund, and Richard and Rhoda Goldman Fund.

About the Bancroft Library

The Bancroft Library is the primary special collections library of the University of California, Berkeley. It was acquired as a gift/purchase (November 25, 1905) from its founder, Hubert Howe Bancroft, with the proviso that it retain the name Bancroft Library in perpetuity. The collection consisted of 50,000 volumes of historical materials on the history of California and the North American West, from the Isthmus of Panama to Alaska and from the Trans-Mississippi West toHawaii, including the great Pacific voyages of discovery of Cook, Malaspina, Vancouver, La Pérouse, and Otto von Kotzebue. At the time it was the largest such collection in the world, and remains so today.

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