A crowd enjoys the music at a concert celebrating the late singer Jewlia Eisenberg in front of the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, Oct. 2, 2022. (Photo/Robbie Sweeny)
A crowd enjoys the music at a concert celebrating the late singer Jewlia Eisenberg in front of the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco, Oct. 2, 2022. (Photo/Robbie Sweeny)

‘Shabbat at the Jewseum’: New Saturday programs start at CJM in the fall

Six years ago, the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco hosted “Sabbath,” an exhibit featuring new works by artists on the theme of remembering the seventh day. The museum will return to that theme with a series of Saturday afternoon programs starting this fall that emphasize the joyful and regenerative aspects of the Jewish day of rest.

The “Shabbat at the Jewseum” programs will include gallery walks, craft activities and discussion groups, along with live music and deli food from Wise Sons for sale. (Kathy Jaller, who worked in marketing at CJM from 2009 to 2014, coined the term “Jewseum.”)

Each program will coincide with a Jewish holiday. The first three are scheduled for Sept. 23 (High Holidays), Dec. 9 (Hanukkah) and March 23 (Purim). A fourth is expected to take place sometime in 2024. All of the programs will be included with the price of admission to the museum.

“Time has become slippery in ways that it wasn’t before,” Gravity Goldberg, CJM’s director of public programs, told J., citing the impact of the pandemic. Shabbat is about “marking time, and so we want to erect a ‘palace in time’ and infuse ritual and sacredness into that, but by doing that in a way that comes from a museum of art and culture and history.” (Goldberg’s reference to a “palace in time” comes from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s 1951 book “The Sabbath.”)

While “Shabbat at the Jewseum” is open to all, the series is geared toward young adults who are looking for creative entry points to Jewish life, according to CJM’s director of education and civic engagement Fraidy Aber, who is organizing the series with Goldberg. Members of the Orthodox community are welcome, though Aber acknowledged that they may face logistical challenges if they do not live near the museum in downtown San Francisco.

“For many who don’t have the same access to Shabbat in their weekly life and don’t have as much of a practice [as Orthodox Jews], it’s a time to open that door a little bit more,” she said.

Several local Jewish organizations are partnering with the museum to offer this series, including Congregation Emanu-El, New Lehrhaus, Jewtina y Co., Keshet, Honeymoon Israel and OneTable.

As part of the Sept. 23 “Shabbat and the Days of Awe” program, artist Ari Bird of Oakland will offer a workshop on ASMR, or autonomous sensory meridian response, which refers to the tingly sensation brought on by certain auditory or visual stimuli. ASMR artists are particularly popular on online platforms such as YouTube and TikTok.

During a separate ticketed event on Sept. 23, chef Adeena Sussman will give a live cooking demonstration. A native of San Francisco, Sussman now lives in Israel and is the author of the forthcoming cookbook, “Shabbat: Recipes and Rituals from My Table to Yours.” Each $40 ticket comes with a copy of the book.

The current exhibits at CJM include “Mika Rottenberg: Spaghetti Blockchain” and “Cara Levine: To Survive I Need You to Survive.” The museum is searching for an executive director to replace Chad Coerver, who is stepping down this summer.

Andrew Esensten
Andrew Esensten

Andrew Esensten is the culture editor of J. Previously, he was a staff writer for the English-language edition of Haaretz based in Tel Aviv. Follow him on Twitter @esensten.