New museum to cross bridge that divides

The proposed merger of the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley and the Jewish Museum San Francisco is long overdue. We have written about it here many times in years past, and have urged that it happen.

We offer praise to the current board members for realizing its potential. The future of both institutions will be better guaranteed if they speak with one voice to donors and to the general public.

For too many years, the Bay Bridge has been a wall separating the Jewish communities of San Francisco and the East Bay. Jewish institutions across the bay have far greater difficulty in fund-raising and have operated in the shadow of their San Francisco counterparts.

Mergers between the city and East Bay institutions have come at too slow a pace. The Jewish Bulletin merged with the East Bay Jewish Observer about 20 years ago. The Jewish Community Relations Council merged in the last few years.

We can only hope the merger of the museums gives other institutions the same inclinations. Jewish life in the Bay Area can be much stronger if we act as one Jewish community rather than as pockets separated by bridges, freeways and traffic patterns.

Susan Morris, executive director of the Magnes, hit the nail on the head when she said, "In a community such as the Bay Area, it does not serve us well to have a division. There shouldn't be people saying 'I go to this museum' or 'I go to that museum.'"

Connie Wolf, executive officer of the Jewish Museum San Francisco, added, "Instead of the notion to divide and conquer, the idea is to put two things together. If there is to be an institution in this community, here to inspire and excite people in Jewish art, culture and history, then everyone should be a part of it."

We can be proud that the new institution, the Magnes Museum, is retaining the name Magnes, honoring the San Francisco native and Gold Rush-era rabbi who diligently devoted his life to fixing and modernizing Jewish religious life and education.

Even in death, he managed to connect two museums and destroy a wall between Jews in San Francisco and the East Bay. It is fitting that this unification's end product will carry on his name.