family sitting around a table in a redwood forest.


Jewish American Heritage Month at the Magnes

April 30, 2024

Above image: San Francisco Jewish Family in the Redwoods, California, ca. 1900.

This May marks the 18th annual celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, an opportunity for all Americans to connect with the vibrant and varied American Jewish experience.

The extensive Jewish American holdings at the Magnes provide unique access to rich texts, vibrant images, and objects that shed light on these experiences, paying tribute to the generations of Jewish Americans who helped form the fabric of American history, culture and society.

“The Magnes founders reflected the rainbow of identities of American Jewry,”  said Magnes Curator Francesco Spagnolo. “Seymour Fromer hailed from a Yiddish-speaking East European family from the Bronx, NY, while Rebecca Camhi Fromer descended from a Sephardic family from Salonika, in the Ottoman Empire.” 

Since its inception, The Magnes has been firmly rooted in American Jewish history, establishing the Western Jewish History Center in 1967. The Center’s paintings, sculptures, and ritual objects are now a part of the museum collection. The Western Jewish Americana Archives at UC Berkeley’s Bancroft Library preserve the Center’s collected history of Jewish immigration and community engagement in the San Francisco Bay Area and the American West since the Gold Rush.

“The Magnes continues to reflect and document the many trajectories of American Jewish life, including recently acquired major collections featuring works by immigrant Jewish artists such as Arthur Szyk and Roman Vishniac.” said Spagnolo.

Jewish American Heritage Month is a national month of recognition of nearly four centuries of American Jewish life. Recognized each year by Presidential proclamation, it provides an opportunity for people to learn about and appreciate Jewish heritage and reflect on the specific history and experiences of the American Jewish community.

Join the Magnes on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter as we celebrate #JewishAmericanHeritageMonth and #OurSharedHeritage during the month of May.

Jewish American Heritage Month Programming

children's smiling faces

Sunday, May 19, 2024 | 11:00am-2:00pm

In person at the Magnes. Admission is free.

Stop by the Magnes’s Community Day in celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month. This special open house is for families of K-5th graders in collaboration with Berkeley Unified School District. Hands-on arts activities, treasure hunt of the Global Diaspora, snacks and more!

Highlights from the collection

Saved by the Bay

The stories of scholars, writers and artists – many of them Jewish, related to Jews, or political dissidents – who escaped the rise of Nazism and fascism in Europe in the 1930s and ‘40s and brought their talents and dreams with them to UC Berkeley.

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Torah Ark from Rock Springs, Wyoming

The story behind the portable Torah Ark of Rock Springs, Wyoming built by Louis Morrison in the early 20th century and the small “basement” Congregation Beth Israel that used it.

– Learn more

Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff installing mezuzah

Mezuzah at the Vice President’s Residence

A sterling silver mezuzah from the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life now hangs at the official Washington, DC residence of Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff.

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Seymour and Rebecca Fromer

The Undefeatable Legacy Behind the Magnes Collection

Beginning with a vision and a few objects on display, founders Seymour and Rebecca Fromer created what is now the third largest Jewish museum in the United States.

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Magazine Cover Art

Digital reproductions of the front and back cover art from World Over, a bi-weekly children’s periodical focused on the intersections between American and Jewish cultures and published between 1946 and 1973.

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