Einstein doodle, Inquisition-era papers mark exhibit

A Torah ark that once sailed on the Queen Mary. Spanish Inquisition papers. A penciled doodle by Albert Einstein.

These are among an eclectic mix of Jewish artifacts that will go on display starting Sunday, Oct. 26 at the Judah L. Magnes Museum in Berkeley.

Called “Brought to Light: The Storied Collections of the Judah L. Magnes Museum,” the exhibit features 130 textiles, ceremonial objects, furnishings, paintings and documents dating from the 1300s to the 1970s.

The show marks the museum’s 40th anniversary and its public reopening after a failed merger with the Jewish Museum San Francisco.

The items on display were selected by museum co-founder Seymour Fromer. Many have not been shown before.

“They’re really extraordinary,” said guest curator Sheila Braufman of the Inquisition papers collected in the early 1930s on the island of Majorca by a rabbi who studied there before moving to Berkeley.

The collection contains handwritten transcripts of trials and tortures over a 75-year period starting in the late 1600s.

The Queen Mary ark was housed in a synagogue built aboard the ocean liner in what was considered an act of defiance against the Nazis. Jewish travelers worshipped there from 1936 to 1939. After the ship was decommissioned, the ark was used by some small congregations in Southern California until it was acquired and restored by the museum about a decade ago.

The pencil sketch by Einstein was given to Russian violinist Toscha Seidel in 1934 in return for some instrumental lessons. The museum got it in the 1970s from Seidel’s widow.

“She felt this would be a good place to preserve it,” said Fromer, who noted that the museum turned to experts at U.C. Berkeley for help in understanding the physics phenomenon that Einstein was illustrating.

“Brought to Light: The Storied Collections of the Judah L. Magnes Museum” opens 2 to 5 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 26 at the Judah L. Magnes Museum, 2911 Russell St. in Berkeley, and continues through April 25. Admission: free. Information: (510) 549-6950.