Lori Starr, Executive Director

Jewish Folktales Retold: Artist as Maggid deftly knits together the wonderful cultural heritage of traditional Jewish folktales from throughout North Africa, Europe, and the Middle East and contemporary art practice, by commissioning a range of American artists to make new works of art in reaction to one of the one hundred tales compiled in Howard Schwartz’s indispensable book, Leaves from the Garden of Eden. Schwartz elucidates four varieties of these tales: fairy tales, folktales, supernatural tales, and mystic tales. Fairy tales, he writes, are “fantasies of enchantment.” [1] Folktales “portray the lives of the folk as they imagined them, with…magical and divine intervention.” [2] Supernatural tales portray fears about the powers of evil entities, and finally, mystical tales are teaching stories of the great rabbis.

I want to acknowledge Pierre-François Galpin, who initiated this exhibition with the support of Chief Curator Renny Pritikin. Their efforts to take The Contemporary Jewish Museum’s mission—to make the diversity of Jewish life relevant to a twenty-first century audience through exhibitions and programs that educate and inspire—and actualize it through original curatorial and scholarly engagement, are an inspiration. From their work will come new interpretations of age-old Jewish concepts that energize contemporary life and further activate an inclusive and vibrant Jewish future.

We at The CJM are proud to publish the four essays of such a diverse group of scholars as the aforementioned Howard Schwartz himself, and the brilliant Stanford Professor Gabriella Safran, in addition to the co-curators, Pritikin and Galpin. 

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.

Finally, we would not have an exhibition worth presenting without the artists who acted as modern maggids—storytellers, transmitters of knowledge, secret revealers—who created new works of art exploring the many facets of these stories’ characters, themes, and metaphors. To them we owe a tremendous debt of gratitude and admiration.

Lori Starr

July 2017

1. Howard Schwartz, Leaves from the Garden of Eden: One Hundred Classic Jewish Tales. Oxford University Press. 2009. Pg. 5.

2. Howard Schwartz, Leaves from the Garden of Eden: One Hundred Classic Jewish Tales. Oxford University Press. 2009. Pg. 5.