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5,000 years in 21 artifacts

A striking new exhibit offers a rich view of Jewish history—including the story of the epic journey of an ancient people exiled from Egypt, only to find their home in gold rush San Francisco. Last month, the Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life—the country’s third-largest assemblage of Jewish art and artifacts—reopened less than a block off the UC Berkeley campus (the university now owns the collection). On view in “The Magnes Effect: Five Decades of Collecting” will be 21 choice objects, including world-renowned hand-painted marriage contracts, an ornate container for a Torah crafted in Calcutta circa 1830, and a copper vessel owned by a Lithuanian Jew who immigrated to San Francisco in 1880 and owned a kosher butcher shop on Folsom Street. And since history means anything that’s not happening right now, the exhibition also includes several 1970s haggadot, illustrated prayer books for Passover that were cheaply printed by progressive Berkeley synagogues to radically reinterpret the Jewish faith.
Jan. 22–Aug. 10, The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life, 2121 Allston Way, Berkeley, 510-643-2526, magnes.org