Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life

April 22–October 3, 2010


Studio Armadillo: Hadas Kruk (Israeli, b. 1970) and Anat Stein (Israeli, b. 1972), Hevruta-Mituta, 2007, plastic chess board, thirty-two knitted skullcaps. Hadas Kruk and Anat Stein, Studio Armadillo.


Rituals are embedded in everyday life, whether established by religion, culture, or family, and are continuously performed and reinvented by each generation to provide meaning and sustenance for a fulfilling life. Reinventing Ritual examines a modern hybrid of the prescribed and the personal as contemporary artists tailor Judaic rituals to their own values, identities, and needs.

Reinventing Ritual is the first international exhibition to examine how artists are transforming traditional practices into opportunities for contemplation and critique. The exhibition surveys works by more than 58 artists, including Oreet Ashery, Jonathan Adler, Helene Aylon, Galya Rosenfeld, and Allan Wexler, who are exploring Judaism as a vital, multicultural, and contradictory force. Working in diverse media, like installation art, video, comics, ceramics, textiles, industrial design and architecture, the artists seek common values and authentic experiences to render Jewish practices open and inclusive.

Jewish ritual objects and their broader significance have been a major focus of the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s exhibition program, as exemplified by the invitational exhibition series. The CJM’s Invitationals invigorate Jewish material culture and heritage by inviting artists of diverse backgrounds to create new interpretations of Judaica and ritual.

Reinventing Ritual creates an invaluable platform for our diverse audience to explore the role of ritual in strengthening identity and building community. The works on view interpret Judaism as a living, changing experience, rather than one fixed in text or custom. To that end, they are arranged in four thematic nodes: Thinking, Covering, Absorbing, and Building. These themes focus on ritual as physical action related to specific acts such as eating, drinking, counting, smelling, lighting candles, and praying, essentially grounding them in things shared by all people–food, clothes, the environment.

Also on View

The exhibition also includes resource area that provides information about traditional and contemporary Jewish ritual and includes listening stations of music associated with ritual.

Several works in the exhibition also have an accompanying video, and are portions of a commissioned video featuring commentary by rabbis, artists and the exhibition’s curator. The excerpts provide insight into the show’s themes and an explanation of the highly symbolic rituals of Judaism and more.

The exhibition also invites visitors to consider their own rituals and create dialogue through a series of questions asked through the exhibition such as: Are rituals different from a habit or routine? What do you remember about rituals you participated in as a child?  Do you have a sacred space in your home?

Visitors will have the opportunity to participate in the exhibition by writing their response to these questions, on a “ritual board” in the gallery and online.

Exhibition Catalog

The accompanying catalog, published by The Jewish Museum and Yale University Press, will be available for $39.95 at the Museum Store.

Press Release


The presentation of Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life at the Contemporary Jewish Museum has been made possible by the lead support of The Bernard Osher Jewish Philanthropies Foundation of the Jewish Community Endowment Fund and the Jewish Community Endowment Fund of the Jewish Community Federation of San Francisco, the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties.  Major support has been provided through the generosity of Randee and Joe Seiger.  Additional support has been generously provided by Joyce Linker and Dorothy and George Saxe.


The Koret and Taube Foundations are the lead supporters of the 2009/2010 exhibition season.

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Reinventing Ritual: Contemporary Art and Design for Jewish Life has been organized by The Jewish Museum, New York, and made possible through the generosity of the Andrea and Charles Bronfman Philanthropies, the Leir Charitable Foundations, and the Joyce and Irving Goldman Family Foundation. Additional support was provided through the Melva Bucksbaum Fund for Contemporary Art and the Office of Cultural Affairs, Consulate General of Israel in New York.


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