The People and the Book – 01.03.2005

January 3, 2005

Paintings and rare books from the Magnes collections on view January 24 through July 3, 2005 

Berkeley, CA – As part of the Judah L. Magnes’ effort to highlight the encyclopedic nature of the museum’s holdings, the Magnes is please to announce the opening on January 24 of The People and The Book: Paintings and Rare Books from the Museum’s Collection. Works dating from the 19th to the 20th century depict scholars and common folk, traditional and secular figures, solemn and humorous characters, men, women and children. All are people of the book. 

While Jewish texts express great reverence for scholars and scholarship, they stress that study is an obligation incumbent upon every Jew. Worldly knowledge is esteemed as well. Medieval rabbis, including Maimonides, approved the study of science and philosophy together with scripture. With the spread of the Enlightenment in 18th and 19th century Western Europe, Jewish thinkers increasingly emphasized the spiritual and intellectual value of secular culture. 

Included in the exhibition is an Arion Press limited edition of Robert Alter’s 1996 Genesisfeaturing facing English and Hebrew pages, Alter’s introduction and notes, as well as a frontispiece by American artist Michael Mazur on the theme of creation. Alter, a professor of Hebrew and comparative literature at UC Berkeley, recently published the much heralded Five Books of Moses: A Translation with Commentary. 

Sunday, February 13, the Magnes will host a panel discussion in conjunction with The People and the Book exploring benchmarks in Jewish literature, looking specifically at fiction, historical scholarship, and new research. Panel participants include Stan Holwitz, editor of Jewish Studies at UC Press; Paul Hamburg, librarian for the Judaica Collection at UC Berkeley; Daniel Schifrin, program director of literary arts, National Foundation for Jewish Culture; and Catherine Soussloff, professor of history of art and visual culture, UC Santa Cruz.

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