Artists whimsical takes on tzedakah box color CJM exhibit

The display of tzedakah boxes at San Francisco’s Contemporary Jewish Museum invites artists and viewers alike to consider the social ramifications of charitable giving.

San Francisco artist Leah Rosenberg’s tzedakah box includes pencil and paper for donors to record daily intentions.

“Providence,” by San Franciscan Beth Grossman, is an inverted pyramid to represent economic stratification in the United States: Most of the cash is accumulated by the “1 percent.”

“TzedakahBot,” Liz Mamorsky’s canine take on the tzedakah box, at the CJM Dorothy Saxe Invitational show

Thirty-eight West Coast artists display interpretations of the tzedakah box during the 2015 Dorothy Saxe Invitational, a show held every two or three years that invites artists to reimagine Jewish ritual objects.

“The Dorothy Saxe Invitational embodies the museum’s mission of presenting artistic excellence, exploring contem-porary perspectives on Jewish culture and providing opportunities for artists to examine traditional Jewish concepts,” said Lori Starr, the museum’s executive director, in a news release.

Artist Liz Mamorsky dubbed her canine take on the concept the “TzedakahBot.” The box, designed to accept the “plink, plink” of coins dropped inside for charity, is fashioned as a cheery wooden dog on casters in the style of Mamorsky’s robotic dog sculptures.

“These little dogs are really well constructed,” said Mamorsky, who calls her SoMa studio where she constructs colorful sculptures and “artbots” an “adult playhouse.”

Mamorsky has been contributing pieces to the invitational since it started in 1984, when the CJM was still the Jewish Community Museum. Over the years, she’s contributed a Purim mask, a menorah and other ritual objects, even though she had never created Judaica before participating in the show.

“It’s been my Judaic education,” Mamorsky said.

The pieces are for sale in an ongoing silent auction that will culminate at an evening celebration at 5:30 p.m. May 12. Proceeds benefit the artists and the museum.

The 2015 Dorothy Saxe Invitational, through May 17, Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St., S.F. Bid on tzedakah boxes or buy celebration tickets at 

Drew Himmelstein
Drew Himmelstein

Drew Himmelstein is a former J. reporter who writes about education, families and Jewish life. She lives with her husband and two sons.