Since its inception in 1962, the former Judah L. Magnes Museum distinguished itself by directing its collecting efforts outside the focus on European Jewish culture and history that was prevalent among American Jewish museums at the time. During the 1970s and 1980s, its founders, Seymour and Rebecca Fromer, actively corralled an informal team of activist collectors and supporters. Together, they were able to bring to Berkeley art and material culture from North Africa, the Middle East, and the Indian subcontinent. Their legendary “rescue missions”—collecting trips aimed at retrieving Jewish cultural objects in locations where Jews had once thrived—were further complemented by careful acquisitions carried out by exploring the catalogs of major and lesser-known auction houses, and especially by visiting art dealers in Israel, where many Jews from the lands of Islam had resettled.
Credit: Exhibition overview from museum website.