Art Works Blog

More from San Francisco. . .

March 30, 2010
Washington, DC

The Jews on Vinyl exhibit at San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum features a soundtrack of Jewish-American pop music from the 1940s through the 1980s. Photo by Drew Altizer, Contemporary Jewish Museum

On his recent multi-city Art Works visit to California, Rocco stopped in at San Francisco's Contemporary Jewish Museum. For a quarter of a century, the museum has provided a welcoming space for exploring contemporary perspectives on Jewish culture, history, art, and ideas. As you'll see when we post the photos from Rocco's visit to San Francisco, one museum offering particularly caught his attention.

?You can?t help but smile when you come into this exhibit,? says Connie Wolf, the museum's director. She's referring to Jews on Vinyl, a unique exhibit currently on view. Based on the book by Roger Bennett and Josh Kun, And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl: The Jewish Past as Told by the Records We Have Loved and Lost, the exhibit reflects the authors' odyssey of collecting albums with a Jewish connection. Spanning everything from Bagels and Bongos to Israeli Disco Fever to a bare-chested Neil Diamond on Hot August Night, Jews on Vinyl has been a great fit for the museum. The exhibit was originally scheduled to run from February to June of 2009 but has been held over ever since with frequent visitor requests to make it permanent.

Why is it so popular?

Wolf says, ?Well first you have to see the space.?

The exhibit has been structured to replicate a 1950s mod suburban living room with period furniture and high angular ceilings punctured with 36 diamond-shaped skylights. One wall is plastered with replicas of album covers from the book. Visitors relax on the furniture and choose from different listening stations.

?Look in the exhibit hall and you?ll see people tapping their feet, or dancing. These songs bring back memories,? says Wolf. ?From the famous Barry Sisters to Sammy Davis Jr., from comedy to cantors, from Yiddish lessons to Charlton Heston reading the Old Testament, Jews on Vinyl has something for everyone.?

She cited this comment card from a visitor: ?I recently visited the museum and particularly fell in love with the Jews on Vinyl exhibition. The living room setting in the gallery was just the perfect way to listen and relax---what a great way to learn about the history of Jewish music. However, I do have one suggestion---the experience would have been even better if the museum served martinis in there!?

You can learn more about Jews on Vinyl and other exhibits at the Contemporary Jewish Museum here.

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