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Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid

Sep 28, 2017–Jan 28, 2018

This exhibition presents newly commissioned works by sixteen contemporary artists in response to a selection of tales from Jewish folklore. Acting as modern maggids—storytellers, transmitters of knowledge, secrets revealers—they explore the many facets of these stories’ characters, themes, and metaphors. Artists include: Michael Arcega, Julia Goodman, Dina Goldstein, Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth Hope, Vera Iliatova, David Kasprzak, Mads Lynnerup, Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor, Mike Rothfeld, Tracey Snelling, Chris Sollars, M. Louise Stanley, Inez Storer, and Young Suh and Katie Peterson.

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Share your experience with us @jewseum using #FolktalesCJM

about the exhibition

Utilizing the rich Jewish tradition of stories that incorporate religion, horror, and superstition, Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid combines scholarly research into this cultural tradition with the creation of newly commissioned works by artists reacting to selected stories, their themes, and characters. The exhibition leans on the writings of anthologist Howard Schwartz, and most especially his anthology Leaves from the Garden of Eden: One Hundred Classic Jewish Tales (2009), which compiles stories from a vast array of countries and centuries, and from both oral and written traditions. In their works, the artists explore concepts such as transformation, metamorphosis, power, the degrees of good and evil, ethics and moral education, as well as illusions and metaphors.

The Hebrew concept of maggid has multiple meanings and layers, with the most basic definition that of a religious teacher and teller of stories. Contrasted with the more formally trained rabbis, the lay maggids acted as repositories and transmitters of cultural knowledge, folklore, and social norms and mores. In Jewish mysticism, or kabbalah, the term maggid also was used to describe a sort of ethereal or heavenly being—oftentimes an angel—that revealed mystical secrets to the chosen few. With this exhibition, The CJM invites contemporary artists to act as modern maggids—interpreting traditional Jewish folktales and characters and delivering new insights to twenty-first century audiences.

Folktales in many civilizations across continents have been passed down through oral storytelling, manuscripts, illustrations, printed books, etc. and this exhibition showcases alternate forms of narration through the artists’ works in sculpture, photography, painting, installation art, and new media. Jewish Folktales Retold will be accompanied with a digital catalog that includes insights on the tales the artists have chosen to retell, the artworks on view, as well as curatorial and scholar essays on the many topics of the show, and recordings of the tales by contemporary storytellers.

gallery photos
digital catalog

The CJM is excited to offer a digital catalog for our original exhibition Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid. The website,, includes videos of the artists in their studios, photographs of their works of art, readings of folktales by professional storytellers, essays, plus extras like background curatorial research on the exhibition themes.

Studio Sneak peek

Artist Laurel Roth Hope reveals what she was drawn to in the Jewish folktales that form the basis of Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid.

take a tour

Want to know more? Join a public tour of the exhibition during your visit. Public tours are offered daily (except Wednesdays), no reservations necessary, and are available first-come, first-serve for twenty people. Have a larger group? Book a private, one-hour, customized guided tour. Access tours are also available for visitors with disabilities, and guided tours for school groups of all ages are customizable to the needs of your group. 

studio sneak peek

Artist M. Louise Stanley reveals what she was drawn to in the Jewish folktales that form the basis of Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid.

  • Michael Arcega (San Francisco, CA)
  • Julia Goodman (Oakland, CA)
  • Dina Goldstein (Vancouver, Canada)
  • Andy Diaz Hope and Laurel Roth Hope (San Francisco, CA)
  • Vera Iliatova (Brooklyn, NY)
  • David Kasprzak (San Francisco, CA)
  • Mads Lynnerup (Oakland, CA)
  • Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor (Sacramento, CA)
  • Mike Rothfeld (Oakland, CA)
  • Tracey Snelling (Oakland, CA)
  • Chris Sollars (San Francisco, CA)
  • M. Louise Stanley (Emeryville, CA)
  • Inez Storer (Inverness, CA)
  • Young Suh and Katie Peterson (Davis, CA)
Jan 26, 2018

‘Artist as Maggid’ exhibit at Contemporary Jewish Museum considers art, stories, tradition, The Daily Californian

Jan 25, 2018

Elisabeth Higgins O’Connor’s Mythical Conglomerations, Hi-Fructose

Jan 24, 2018

A Feel for Art: Haptic Encounter at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, California Magazine

Jan 17, 2018

How a Blind Professor Is Helping Other Sight-Impaired Museum Visitors Experience Art, Hyperallergic

Jan 17, 2018

Featured Bookmarks: The Arts, The Woven Tale Press

Jan 13, 2018

Best of 2017, Squarecylinder

Jan 11, 2018

Haptic Encounters with Georgina Kleege,

Jan 3, 2018

Artist as Maggid: “Jewish Folktales Retold” at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Blouin Art Info

Dec 31, 2017

So Long, 2017 Bay Area Art World!, Bay Area Reporter

Dec 31, 2017

So Long, 2017 Bay Area Art World!, EDGE San Francisco

Dec 21, 2017

Jewish Folktales Retold @ CJM, Squarecylinder

Dec 10, 2017

How a Jewish Storytelling Tradition Is Reflected in Contemporary Art, Hyperallergic

Nov 29, 2017

Bid farewell to 2017 with these events in the Bay Area and beyond, San Francisco Chronicle

Nov 26, 2017

Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid (panel discussion), RushTix ​​​​​​​

Nov 19, 2017

Artistically engaged: a datebook, Bay Area Reporter

Nov 9, 2017

Bay Area art shows for the holidays, San Francisco Chronicle

Nov 8, 2017

The Do List’s Favorite Museum Shows During the Holidays, KQED Arts

Oct 19, 2017

Mythical creatures unbound, Bay Area Reporter

Oct 17, 2017

Folktales Retold, interview with Elisabeth Higgins O'Connor, KWMR (via

Oct 17, 2017

‘Artist as Maggid’ Offers a Modern-Day Twist on Classic Jewish Tales, KQED Arts

Oct 13, 2017

Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid at The Contemporary Jewish Museum, Juxtapoz

Sep 25, 2017

Contemporary Jewish Museum,

Sep 25, 2017

These artists put a new spin on old folktales in 'Artist as Maggid' at CJM, J. The Jewish News of Northern California

Aug 31, 2017

Fall preview: Bay Area art museums, Bay Area Reporter

Aug 30, 2017

Hope Comes to the Fore: 6 Visual Art Shows to See This Fall, KQED Arts


Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid is organized by The Contemporary Jewish Museum, San Francisco. Lead sponsorship is provided by the Koret Foundation. Major support is provided by Gaia Fund, Wendy Kesser, and Dorothy R. Saxe. Sponsorship is provided in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Contemporary Jewish Museum thanks The Andy Warhol Foundation for the Visual Arts for its major support of The Museum’s exhibition program.

Image Credit

Dina Goldstein, Golem, from the series Snapshots from the Garden of Eden, 2017. Ink on paper, 37 x 45.5 in. Courtesy of the artist.