Programs History

The Magnes has a fifty-year history of presenting exhibitions that break new ground in Jewish Studies research, build upon the collaboration between curators and UC Berkeley faculty and students, expand Judaica connoisseurship, introduce under-recognized Jewish artists of the 20th century, and take risks with experimental projects by contemporary artists. Many of its exhibitions drawn on selections from its extensive collections, or commissioned works that use the collections as inspiration. 

This page is a growing archive of the exhibition history of the institution since its founding in 1962. The description of each exhibition is augmented by texts and label texts, images, press releases, links to press coverage and artists and contributors websites.

Visitors to the website who have been involved with any of the exhibitions created by the former Judah L. Magnes Museum and wish to contribute additional materials are encouraged to do so, reaching out to our staff through our contact information page.

En Route: A Porcelain Set Between Paris, Istanbul and Berkeley

When: 
Fri, Oct 23, 2020 12:00pm to 12:30pm

From our series, "Zooming In: Weekly Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life."

Each week, Curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi present insights and connections emerging from the holdings of UC Berkeley's Magnes Collection, one of the largest Jewish museum collections in the world. Throughout the series, guests will join them to explore Jewish art and life, one object at a time. 

Pushing Buttons, Old and New: Prayer Shawls, Karaite Jews, and Subversive Rituals (with Artist Nicki Green)

When: 
Fri, Oct 16, 2020 12:00pm to 12:30pm

From our series, "Zooming In: Weekly Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life."

Each week, Curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi present insights and connections emerging from the holdings of UC Berkeley's Magnes Collection, one of the largest Jewish museum collections in the world. Throughout the series, guests will join them to explore Jewish art and life, one object at a time. 

On Hitler's Balcony: Historian Koppel Pinson in Europe (1945-1946)

When: 
Fri, Oct 09, 2020 12:00pm to 12:30pm

From our series, "Zooming In: Weekly Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life."

Each week, Curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi present insights and connections emerging from the holdings of UC Berkeley's Magnes Collection, one of the largest Jewish museum collections in the world. Throughout the series, guests will join them to explore Jewish art and life, one object at a time. 

From San Francisco to Paris (and Back): Theresa Herman and the Stein Family

When: 
Fri, Oct 02, 2020 12:00pm to 12:30pm

From our series, "Zooming In: Weekly Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life."

Each week, Curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi present insights and connections emerging from the holdings of UC Berkeley's Magnes Collection, one of the largest Jewish museum collections in the world. Throughout the series, guests will join them to explore Jewish art and life, one object at a time. 

The Social Medium that Once Was: Postcards in the Global Jewish Diaspora

When: 
Fri, Sep 25, 2020 12:00pm to 12:30pm

From our series, "Zooming In: Weekly Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life."

Each week, Curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi present insights and connections emerging from the holdings of UC Berkeley's Magnes Collection, one of the largest Jewish museum collections in the world. Throughout the series, guests will join them to explore Jewish art and life, one object at a time. 

Nature in the Song of Songs: An Early-20th century carpet from Jerusalem

When: 
Fri, Sep 11, 2020 12:00pm to 12:30pm

From our series, "Zooming In: Weekly Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life."

Each week, Curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi present insights and connections emerging from the holdings of UC Berkeley's Magnes Collection, one of the largest Jewish museum collections in the world. Throughout the series, guests will join them to explore Jewish art and life, one object at a time. 

Graduating in Style: Ethnic Diversity at the University of Padua (Italy, 17th century)

When: 
Fri, Sep 04, 2020 12:00pm to 12:30pm

From our series, "Zooming In: Weekly Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life."

Each week, Curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi present insights and connections emerging from the holdings of UC Berkeley's Magnes Collection, one of the largest Jewish museum collections in the world. Throughout the series, guests will join them to explore Jewish art and life, one object at a time. 

Arthur Szyk and The Right to America

When: 
Fri, Aug 28, 2020 12:00pm to 12:30pm

From our series, "Zooming In: Weekly Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life."

Each week, Curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi present insights and connections emerging from the holdings of UC Berkeley's Magnes Collection, one of the largest Jewish museum collections in the world. Throughout the series, guests will join them to explore Jewish art and life, one object at a time. 

Hebrew Amulets: Practical Magic (and Health Insurance) in Early-Modern Times

When: 
Fri, Aug 21, 2020 12:00pm to 12:30pm

From our series, "Zooming In: Weekly Curatorial Conversations from The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life."

Each week, Curators Francesco Spagnolo and Shir Kochavi present insights and connections emerging from the holdings of UC Berkeley's Magnes Collection, one of the largest Jewish museum collections in the world. Throughout the series, guests will join them to explore Jewish art and life, one object at a time. 

India, Israel, and Berkeley

When: 
Wed, Aug 05, 2020 5:30pm

Join Magnes Curator, Francesco Spagnolo and panel guests as they discuss ties between Israel, India, and Berkeley by examining Indian-Jewish artifacts from the Magnes Collection.

Deputy Consul General Zamir will talk about his experiences stationed in Mumbai. The history of Jewish culture in India and the present-day Indian-Jewish culture in Israel will also be discussed.

Francesco Spagnolo on Threads of Jewish Life

When: 
Fri, May 22, 2020 12:30pm to 1:15pm

Take a lunch break & join Francesco Spagnolo, Curator of the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, University of California, Berkeley, for a presentation on a current exhibition of The Magnes, presented at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco: Threads of Jewish Life: Ritual and Other Textiles from the San Francisco Bay Area

In this virtual program, Spagnolo will explore early Jewish life in San Francisco through the textiles and objects on view in the exhibition, including the mysterious origins of the exhibition's extraordinary Torah ark.

Scent & Sensibility: Researching and Collecting around a Ritual Spice Box

When: 
Wed, May 13, 2020 4:00pm to 5:00pm

Francesco Spagnolo (Curator, The Magnes) and Molly Robinson (Graduate Student, Folklore) discuss their research about a ritual spice box recently displayed by The Magnes, how exhibitions can serve as “archives,” and the meanings of ritual (including the ritual of “collecting”) in a time of social distancing. 

"Zooming In": Teaching Online with the Magnes Exhibition "In Real Times"

When: 
Wed, Apr 15, 2020 5:00pm to 6:30pm
When, at the beginning of the semester, Prof. Francesco Spagnolo, Curator of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, worked with Prof. Isabel Richter, DAAD Professor of History to plan a class visit to The Magnes for her course on Politics and Culture in 20th-Century Germany: Fascism and Propaganda, social distancing requirements were not a consideration. However, due to the global Covid-19 pandemic and governmental shelter-in-place orders, an in-class visit was no longer possible. 

Tapestry of Tongues: The Multilingual Matrix of Modern Hebrew Literature

When: 
Sun, Feb 23, 2020 5:00pm to 7:30pm

Tapestry of Tongues: The Multilingual Matrix of Modern Hebrew Literature

Screening of “Amos Oz:” selected scenes from a work-in-progress for “Ha’Ivrim” created by Israeli filmmaker Yair Qedar followed by

Conversation with Professors Robert Alter & Chana Kronfeld.

Sunday, February 23, 5:00 pm, at the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, Berkeley

Free and open to the public.

RSVP: HaIvrimRSVP@gmail.com

Cold Case in Constantine: Anti-Jewish Violence and the Colonial Situation in French Algeria

When: 
Tue, Feb 11, 2020 5:15pm to 7:00pm

Cole’s prize-winning book solves the mystery of the Constantine riots of August 1934, an episode of violence between Muslims and Jews in French Algeria that resulted in the deaths of 25 Jews and 3 Muslims. The murders in Constantine were the most lethal episode of anti-Jewish violence in peacetime in modern French history. Cole argues that we have long misunderstood the violence in Constantine. Contrary to widespread perceptions, it was neither the culmination of ever-growing Muslim-Jewish enmity, nor the rupture that in time led to the end for the two groups’ cohabitation in Algeria.

David Kertzer | In the Name of the Cross: Christianity and Anti-Semitic Propaganda in Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany

When: 
Wed, Feb 05, 2020 4:00pm to 6:00pm

Heated debate surrounds the question of the role Christianity and Christian churches played in the Nazi and Italian Fascist demonization of the Jews. This talk brings to light similarities and differences in the Nazi and Italian Fascist uses of Christianity in their efforts to turn their populations against the Jews through examination of two of their most influential popular anti-Semitic propaganda vehicles: La difesa della razza in Italy and Der Stürmer in Germany.

In Global Transit: Forced Migration of Jews and other Refugees (1940s-1960s)

When: 
Mon, May 20, 2019 4:00pm to 8:00pm

Additional program dates:

  • Tue, May 21, 2019 9am-3pm
  • Wed, May 22, 2019 9am-5pm

In Global Transit Forced Migration of Jews and Other Refugees (1940s – 1960s)
May 20 – 22, 2019
German Historical Institute | Pacific Regional Office at the University of California, Berkeley
Second Conference in the Series “In Global Transit” organized by the German Historical Institutes in Washington and London
In cooperation with the Max Weber Stiftung Branch Offices in Delhi and Beijing, and The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, University of California, Berkeley

Conveners: Wolf Gruner, USC Shoah Foundation Center for Advanced Genocide Research, Los Angeles; Simone Lässig, German Historical Institute Washington; Francesco Spagnolo, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, UC Berkeley; Swen Steinberg Queen's University, Kingston

The Sixteenth Annual Judith Lee Stronach Memorial Lecture on the Teaching of Poetry

When: 
Sun, May 19, 2019 3:00pm to 6:00pm

Almog Behar is a poet, novelist, and critic. Born in 1978, Behar now lives in Jerusalem. He has published three books of poetry: Zim'on Be'erot (Well's Thirst, 2008), Chut Moshekh Min Ha-Lashon (A Thread Drawing from the Tongue, 2009) and Shirim Le-Asirei Batei-Ha-Sohar (Poems for the Prisoners, 2016); a collection of short stories, Ana Min Al-Yahoud (I am on one of the Jews, 2009); and one novel, Chahla ve-Hezkel (Rachel and Ezekiel, 2010) that was translated into Arabic and published in Cairo in 2016.

17th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day

When: 
Sun, Apr 28, 2019 11:30am to 1:30pm

The City of Berkeley announces the 17th Annual Holocaust Remembrance Day Program honoring survivors, and remembering those who were murdered, those who resisted, and those who rescued victims of the Holocaust.

Over 11 million people were targeted for extermination by the Nazis, including 6 million Jews, Roma people, Poles, people with mental and physical disabilities, homosexuals, political dissidents, communists, socialists and dissenting clergy.