Above image: Shenson’s Kosher Meat Market. Courtesy of Fred Levin.
This May marks the 17th annual celebration of Jewish American Heritage Month, an opportunity for all Americans to connect with the vibrant and varied American Jewish experience.
The Magnes Collection extensive Jewish American holdings 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, and as the steward of a unique mezuzah currently affixed at the entrance of the official residence of the Vice President Kamala Harris and Second Gentleman Douglas Emhoff,” said Spagnolo.
The Surprising Past!
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.
World Over Collection
The Jewish American children’s publication World Over highlighted intersections between Jewish life and American national identity from 1949-1979. It became a Jewish handbook on becoming American, outlining a cultural strategy that can still be felt today. The Magnes holds 210 issues.
Magnes Mezuzah Installed 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.
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.
September 11, 2023