This past Sunday I went with my spouse to the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.  I would highly recommend to members of the Alameda County Library System that they take advantage of the free museum passes that they may borrow for one week’s time to visit this museum.

The current exhibits at the museum include Curious George Saves the Day:  The Art of Margret and H.A. Rey, Black Sabbath:  The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations, and Reclaimed – Paintings from the Collection of Jacques Goudstikker.

Curious George, the monkey protagonist of many adventures, would never have seen the light of day if it were not for the determination of his creators, the illustrator H. A. Rey and his wife, author and artist Margret Rey.  Born in Hamburg to Jewish families, they left Germany and lived together in Paris from 1936 to 1940.  Hours before the Nazis marched into Paris in 1940, the Reys fled on bicycles, carrying drawings for their children’s stories including one about a mischievous monkey, then named Fifi. The Reys themselves were saved by their illustrations when authorities found them in their belongings, which established their occupation as illustrators of children’s books.  This may explain why saving the day after a narrow escape became the theme of most Curious George stories.  The exhibit features two activity rooms for younger visitors and features a whimsically illustrated corner of Paris, based on the illustrations of the Reys.

Black Sabbath: The Secret Musical History of Black-Jewish Relations is a musical journey through a unique slice of recording history – the Black-Jewish musical encounter from the 1930s to the 1960s.  Little attention has been paid to the history of the influence of Jewish music, life, and culture on many Black musicians and singers.  From  Cab Calloway’s mixing his own hepcat jive with Yiddishisms, to Johnny Mathis singing “Kol Nidre,” to The Tempations’ take on “Fiddler on the Roof,” visitors can learn how Black artists treated Jewish music as a resource for African-American identity, history, and politics.  There are several tables where visitors can put on headsets and hear examples of the African-American vocal artists singing tunes based on Old Testament themes, or taken directly from Yiddish and Hebrew music. 

Reclaimed commemorates a remarkable story of post-Holocaust restitution and the extraordinary life and legacy of Jacques Goudstikker, a preeminent art dealer in Amsterdam. Goudstikker’s vast collection of Old Master paintings was stolen by Hermann Goering during the Nazi Occupation of the Netherlands and was not restored to members of the Goudstikker family until February 2006. The exhibit has on display examples of many lesser known Old Masters, including portraits, landscapes and religious works. 

Materials of interest relating to these exhibits available to members of the Alameda County Library include:

“Curious George” »  The Complete Adventures of Curious George / Margret & H.A. Rey    JPB  REY, M

 Cecily G. And The 9 Monkeys               JPB REY,H

  Whiteblack The Penguin Sees The World         JPB REY, M

The lost museum : the Nazi conspiracy to steal the world’s greatest works of art / Hector Feliciano    709.44 FELICIANO

The rape of Europa [videorecording] / Actual Films ; in association with Agon Arts & Entertainment presents ; written, produced and directed by Richard Berge, Nicole Newnham and Bonni Cohen ; co-producer, Robert M. Edsel ; an Actual Films production, in association with Agon Arts & Entertainment and Oregon Public Broadcasting                  DVD 364.162 RAPE

Black music in America : a history through its people / James Haskins ; illustrated with photographs     781.7 HASKINS

The music of black Americans: a history  / by Eileen Southern       780.973 SOUTHERN