The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
Welcome to the Magnes!
Exhibitions, Programs, and 15,000 Objects from Around the World
The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life was established in 2010 following 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 Its remarkably diverse archive, library and museum holdings include art, objects, texts, music, and historical documents about the Jews in the Global Diaspora and the American West.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 world's preeminent Jewish collections in a university setting, it provides highly innovative and accessible resources to both researchers and the general public.
Never before the creation of the State of Israel did Jews of so many origins live together, and in such a stimulating environment, as they did in the land they soon started calling in Hebrew i-tal-yah, an “Island of Divine Dew”.
Created from the early-modern period and into the present, shiviti manuscripts are found in Hebrew prayer books, ritual textiles, and on the walls of synagogues and homes throughout the Jewish diaspora. Wrestling with ways to externalize the presence of God in Jewish life, these documents center upon the graphic representation of God's ineffable four-letter Hebrew name, the Tetragrammaton, and associate it with words and imageries that evoke mystical powers, protective energy, and angels, as well as key places and characters in Biblical and Jewish history.
The work of Roman Vishniac (1897-1990), a Russian-born photographer most notable for documenting eastern-European Jewish life in the years immediately preceding the Holocaust, has been celebrated in exhibitions and publications since the 1940s. Following the photographer's death, his daughter, Mara Vishniac Kohn, became the executor of Roman Vishniac’s estate. In 2007, the Roman Vishniac Archive was established at the International Center of Photography (ICP) in partnership with the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Its collections comprise over thirty thousand objects spanning more than six decades, and include more than nine thousand unprinted negatives, recently discovered vintage photographic prints, film footage, and personal correspondence.
Acquired by The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life in 2017 thanks to an unprecedented gift from Taube Philanthropies, the most significant collection of works by Arthur Szyk (Łódź, Poland, 1894 – New Canaan, Connecticut, 1951) is now available to the world in a public institution for the f
The holdings of The Magnes include a set of original and working copies of sketches and storyboard drawings created by Mentor Huebner for the 1971 feature film, Fiddler on the Roof, along with a small selection of set photographs. The film, directed by Norman Jewison, starred Chaim Topol in the title role, and was based on the stories by Sholem Aleichem (born Shalom Rabinovitz, 1859–1916), a founder of modern Yiddish literature.
Since its inception in 1962, the former Judah L. Magnes Museum distinguished itself by directing its collecting efforts outside the focus on European Jewish culture and history that was prevalent among American Jewish museums at the time. During the 1970s and 1980s, its founders, Seymour and Rebecca Fromer, actively corralled an informal team of activist collectors and supporters. Together, they were able to bring to Berkeley art and material culture from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent.