Global India: Kerala, Israel, Berkeley (Case Study No. 4, 2013)
Global India: Kerala, Israel, Berkeley unveils the extensive holdings of The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life documenting the history of the Jewish community in Kerala, South India. The exhibition includes over one hundred individual items, many of which were never catalogued before.

Thanks to a dynamic collecting campaign conducted in the 1960s and 1970s, The Magnes became one of the world’s most extensive repositories of materials about the Jews of Southern India, along with the historic sites in Kerala and national and private collections in Israel, where most of the Kerala Jews settled after the founding of the State in 1948.

The collection includes hundreds of ritual objects, textiles, photographs, archival records, Hebrew books, and manuscripts, including liturgical texts, illustrated ketubbot (Jewish marriage contracts) and amulets, in Hebrew, Aramaic, Malayalam, Judeo-Spanish, and English. These materials constitute an invaluable source of information on the Kerala Jewish community, one of the oldest in the world, and its deep connections with India’s society and cultures and with the global Jewish Diaspora, across India, the Middle East, and Europe. Among the most notable items on display are the Torah Ark from the Tekkumbhagam synagogue in Mattancherry, Kochi, and an extremely rare amulet on parchment, designed to protect women in childbirth and newborn children.

This exhibition is the culmination of years of curatorial work devoted to assessing and documenting the holdings of The Magnes Collection, conducted in collaboration with experts in Israel and the US. It also inaugurates a new season of research, engaging the scholarly community at UC Berkeley and beyond, and intersecting Jewish and Asian Studies.


Curator: Dr. Francesco Spagnolo
Visiting Scholar: Emerita Professor Barbara Johnson (Ithaca College)
Registrar: Julie Franklin
Video editing: Gary Handman
Design: Gordon Chun Design

The Magnes Collection of Jewish Art and Life
The Bancroft Library
University of California, Berkeley
Warren Hellman Gallery and Charles Michael Gallery
September 10 - December 13, 2013
Galleries open TUE-FRI 11am-4pm
bit.ly/global-india


Acknowledgements: Dr. Shalva Weil (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem), Prof. Yuval Harari (Ben Gurion University), Marian Sofaer (Palo Alto), Jay Waronker (Atlanta), Sippora (Venus) Lane (Israel), Hoor Japhet (Israel), Samuel E. Koder (Israel), and Orna Eliyahu-Oron (Seattle).

Support provided by the Walter and Elise Haas Fund.
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