Jewish HistoryJewish Culture & Ideas
Aug 30, 2018–Jan 6, 2019
Clothing exists to cover our bodies, but it can also uncover latent histories and personal narratives. To what extent does our choice of dress suggest individual taste or reflect influences from our surroundings? The variety of costumes displayed in this exhibition attests to the diversity of Jewish communities across centuries and around the globe. In many cases, the clothes worn by Jews were similar or even identical to those worn by non-Jewish neighbors, although at times special features distinguished them from the dominant culture.
This exhibition invites us to consider the history and language of Jewish clothing in all its complexity, from cultural dress codes to modes of self-expression. Through many sartorial symbols and signifiers, these items disclose information about gender, age, geography, background, and custom, while simultaneously leaving some meanings fluid or encoded.
Regardless of origin, each ensemble tells a story—the story of its creator or wearer, of the community to which it belonged, or of its voyage across multiple generations, families, and channels of transit. These garments, dating primarily from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, are drawn from the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, the repository of the most comprehensive collection of Jewish costume in the world. Its holdings provide a unique testimony to bygone communities, to forms of dress and craft that no longer exist, and to a sense of beauty that still has the power to enthrall.
This exhibition is included in your general admission ticket. Museum admission also includes free access to all public programs and tours, unless otherwise noted. Public tours are offered daily (except Wednesdays) and are available first-come, first-serve—no reservations are necessary. Private guided tours, access tours for visitors with disabilities, and guided tours for school groups of all ages are also available.
The extraordinary range of textile designs and clothing in the exhibition illuminates the story of how diverse global cultures have thrived, interacted, and inspired each other for centuries. Jewish communities from Afghanistan, Algeria, Denmark, Egypt, Ethiopia, Germany, Georgia, Greece, India, Iran, Iraq, Iraqi Kurdistan, Israel, Italy, Libya, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Tunisia, Turkey, the United States, Uzbekistan, and Yemen are represented with the majority of pieces originating from North Africa, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Approximately 65 items of clothing will be on display, representing excellent examples from the much larger collection of Jewish diasporic clothing held by the Israel Museum. Foregrounding color, texture, function, artistry, and craftsmanship, Veiled Meanings offers an incisive and compelling examination of diversity and migration through the lens of fashion.
Veiled Meanings: Fashioning Jewish Dress, from the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem will focus on how clothes balance the personal with the social, how dress traditions distinguish different Jewish communities according to their respective local dress codes, and how they portray Jewish and secular affiliations within larger societal and global contexts. Historical, geographic, social, and symbolic interpretations will be included within the context of four thematic sections: Exposing the Unseen; Through the Veil; Clothing that Remembers; and Interweaving Cultures.
This touring version of The Israel Museum’s original exhibition Dress Codes was developed for The Contemporary Jewish Museum and The Jewish Museum in New York, which are the only two venues to exhibit Veiled Meanings in the United States to date.
The Textile Lab is a hands-on educational annex to the exhibition Veiled Meanings: Fashioning Jewish Dress, from the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem. Located in The Museum’s Stephen and Maribelle Leavitt Yud Gallery, the Textile Lab delves into the craftsmanship and embellishment of fabrics from the exhibition and explore contemporary local connections to the clothing traditions. The space offers opportunities to weave on large looms, to play with draping and dressing, and to embroider. It also features a listening station with interviews of community members from the regions represented in the exhibition, a community-driven photo montage, and pop-up programs with textile artists, musicians, and community members from Middle Eastern and North African heritage.
Share your experience @Jewseum using #VeiledMeaningsCJM
‘Veiled Meanings’ explores Jewish diaspora’s textiles and traditions, The San Francisco Chronicle
Rare, ancient garments tell a world of stories at SF Contemporary Jewish Museum, The Mercury News
Jewish “Dress Code” Explored in CJM Exhibition, SF/Arts
Dressing the diaspora: centuries of Jewish fashion at CJM, J. The Jewish News of Northern California (JWeekly)
Veiled Meanings: Fashioning Jewish Dress, from the Collection of The Israel Museum, Jerusalem is organized by The Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and is curated by IMJ's Jack, Joseph, and Morton Mandel Wing for Jewish Art and Life Associate Curator Efrat Assaf-Shapira. The Israel Museum’s curatorial team includes Curator in Charge Daisy Raccah-Djivre; Exhibition Curator Efrat Assaf-Shapira; Scientific Advisors No’am Bar’am Ben-Yossef and Esther Juhasz; Head of Traveling Exhibitions Sivan Eran-Levian and Traveling Exhibitions Coordinator Chandi Medad. Exhibition texts are based on the original 2014 Israel Museum exhibition Dress Codes: Revealing the Jewish Wardrobe and on The Jewish Wardrobe (edited by Esther Juhasz) published by the Israel Museum in 2012. The exhibition is organized at The CJM by Curator Heidi Rabben.
Lead Sponsorship in San Francisco is provided by the Koret Foundation, Gaia Fund, and Maribelle and Stephen Leavitt. Major Sponsorship is provided by The Bernard Osher Foundation and Dorothy R. Saxe. Patron Sponsorship is provided by Taube Philanthropies for Jewish Life and Culture and Suzanne and Elliott Felson. Supporting Sponsorship is provided by Judy and Robert Aptekar, Britex Fabrics, Dana Corvin and Harris Weinberg, Rosanne and Al Levitt, Siesel Maibach, Shelli Semler and Kyle Bach, Eta and Sass Somekh, Ellice Sperber, and the Ullman Family. Additional support is provided by an anonymous donor, David Agger, Morton and Amy Friedkin, Joy and Joel Kellman, Dr. Michael and Davida Rabbino, the Irving and Varda Rabin Foundation of the Jewish Community Foundation of the East Bay, Tzipi and Sam Tramiel, and Marilyn and Murry Waldman.
Generous support is provided by the Consulate General of Israel to the Pacific Northwest.
Support for this exhibition is provided by the Bernard and Barbro Osher Exhibition Fund of The Contemporary Jewish Museum.