Shabbat at the Jewseum

  • by David-Elijah Nahmod
  • Monday September 18, 2023
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Celebrations from a previous 'Shabbat at the Jewseum' at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (photo: Contemporary Jewish Museum)
Celebrations from a previous 'Shabbat at the Jewseum' at the Contemporary Jewish Museum (photo: Contemporary Jewish Museum)

On September 23 the Contemporary Jewish Museum will launch "Shabbat at the Jewseum," a new quarterly program that lets attendees immerse themselves in Jewish ideas of rest and rejuvenation while engaging in the ritual of Shabbat through an afternoon of activities at the museum.

Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath. It begins each Friday at sundown and continues through to Sundown Saturday. During this time Jews take a break from the hectic pace of the week and relax as they contemplate their relationship with G-d.

The first program will be "Shabbat and the Days of Awe," which is tied in with the Jewish High Holy Days of Rosh Hashana (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Repentance). Yom Kippur begins this year the evening after the museum event.

Gravity Goldberg, the CJM's Director of Public Programs and Visitor Experience; Fraidy Aber, the CJM's Constance Wolf Director of Education and Civic Engagement (photos: Contemporary Jewish Museum)  

reconciliation and connection
"This is a time in the Jewish calendar with a heightened focus on reflection and interpersonal reconciliation and connection," said Gravity Goldberg, the CJM's Director of Public Programs and Visitor Experience. "The New Year's traditions hold resonance for many, and many people are particularly seeking touchstones during this time of year that connect them to Jewish life and culture. We centered our first Shabbat on this time of year to offer a space for that connection and draw upon the themes of awe and wonder that the high holidays hold."

According to Fraidy Aber, the CJM's Constance Wolf Director of Education and Civic Engagement, "Shabbat at the Jewseum" will include activities that are designed in partnership with community organizations, such as Keshet, a Jewish LGBT advocacy organization. They will be leading an activity for making sacred matchbooks with which to light the Shabbat candles. Keshet will also be teaching an LGBTQ candle-lighting blessing.

Also participating will be Jewtina, a Jewish/Latinx organization, who will lead with a Challah (ritual Shabbat bread) cover making inspired by papel picado, which is a traditional Mexican decorative craft made by cutting elaborate designs into sheets of tissue paper.

"One Table, another Jewish partner, will develop accompanying educational materials drawing on sources that they use for their Shabbat dinner events," Aber said. "Congregation Emanu-El has been a fabulous partner around the Adeena Sussman book launch."

Sussman is the author of a new cookbook and will engage attendees in conversation and a cooking demonstration. This is a separately ticketed event that will cost $40 and includes a copy of Sussman's book as well as entrance to the museum and to the "Shabbat at the Jewseum" programming.

The current exhibit, 'RetroBlakesberg: the Music Never Stopped' includes Jay Blakesberg's photo, 'Red Hot Chili Peppers, Lollapalooza, Shoreline Amphitheatre, Mountain View, CA, July 18, 1992.' (¬© Jay Blakesberg) (right)¬†Wise Sons  

Worship, art, food
"Rabbi Noah Westreich and Rabbi Sarah Joselow Parris of Emanu-El will be available for drop in conversations at the Chat Up a Rabbi booth," said Goldberg. "There will also be a Sabbath Bride photobooth, drawn from the poetic idea of welcoming Shabbat like one would welcome a bride that's in partnership with Honeymoon Israel. The hope is for guests to feel engaged in Jewish thought in multiple ways while connecting with others, and above all to feel joy, community and a sense of awe."

There will also be experiences directly related to the current museum exhibitions, such as giving visitors the opportunity to tour "RetroBlakesberg: the Music Never Stopped" with the photographer Jay Blakesberg.

"This program is the first Shabbat day program that the CJM has ever developed," said Aber. With each piece of the program visitors can both develop relationships with tradition and hallmarks of Shabbat and create traditions anew. The CJM is intentionally building a program where visitors from all backgrounds can meaningfully engage with and explore a core tradition from Jewish culture. Think of this like being invited over for a delicious conversation-filled Friday night Shabbat meal."

"What Makes Me," a new interactive installation, will be opening on that date. This is a visitor created yarn map which invites participants to reflect on three questions around personal identity: What Makes Me Me, What Makes Me Grow, and What Makes Me Feel Connected.

"Visitors answer these by winding differently colored yarn around the words that resonate with them, creating a stunning visual representation of community connections," said Goldberg. "The installation can be found in the Zim Zoom Family Room on the first floor of the museum."

Visitors who get a little hungry from all that activity can have a bite to eat at Wise Sons, a local Jewish Deli with an outpost at CJM. In addition to their usual menu, they will be offering a special schnitzel sandwich that day, and will be including a Challah twist with every purchase. They will be serving until 4pm, staying open later than usual.

"Museums hold space for seeing the world in new ways, being surprised and delighted, and many enter into a museum experience for the possibility of transcendence from the everyday," said Goldberg.

"These same ideas are the tenets of Shabbat," added Aber. "To offer a different relationship to time, work and the everyday grind by setting aside a day of the week that's purpose is to uplift, rejoice, and rejuvenate. The CJM is bringing the space of the museum and these ideas of Shabbat into deeper synchronicity."

The next Shabbat at the Jewseum will be December 9 and will coincide with Hanukkah, the Festival of Lights, followed by Shabbat and Purim on March 23.

Shabbat at the Jewseum: Shabbat and the Days of Awe, September 23, 1-4pm. Free with museum admission. Contemporary Jewish Museum, 736 Mission St. All ages welcome. www.thecjm.org

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