Friday, February 20, 2009

The Contemporary Jewish Museum honors "Jews on Vinyl"

- What do Bagels and Bongos, Israeli Disco Fever, and When You are in Love the Whole World is Jewish have in common? They are just a few of the vintage record titles featured in the Contemporary Jewish Museum's exhibition, 'Jews on Vinyl'. On view through June 9, 2009, Jews on Vinyl is a unique exhibition based on the new book by Roger Bennett and Josh Kun-And You Shall Know Us by the Trail of Our Vinyl: The Jewish Past as Told by the Records We Have Loved and Lost (Crown Press, 2008), which spans the history of Jewish recorded music from the 1940s to the 1980s.

What started out as a mutual affinity for kitschy Jewish album covers-think Neil Diamond baring his chest hair on the cover of Hot August Night or Barbara Streisand in hot pants on the cover of Streisand Superman-soon became a quest for identity, history, and culture between the grooves of LPs. Together, guest curators Bennett and Kun embarked on a thrilling journey, scouring the world to collect thousands of vinyl LPs from attics, garage sales, and dusty archives. Pieced together, these scratched, once-loved and now-forgotten audio gems tell a vibrant tale: the story of Jews in America.

Jews on Vinyl will feature a soundtrack of highlights from these LPs to provide opportunities for Museum visitors to experience forgotten moments in Jewish-American pop history. Featuring music, comedy, storytelling and other hybrid sounds, the collection reflects a rich heritage and raises important questions about the evolution of tradition and cultural assimilation in America's melting pot. Jews on Vinyl celebrates the universality of records while offering new perspectives on Jewish identity and history. Much of the music is no longer available in any format, and through this exhibition audiences will have the unprecedented opportunity to experience this collective history come to life through sound.

"We are thrilled to partner with Josh Kun and Roger Bennett to bring their fantastic book alive by bringing their unique exhibition of LPs to the Bay Area," stated Director and CEO Connie Wolf. "From the famous Barry Sisters to Sammy Davis Jr., from comedy to cantors, from Yiddish lessons to Charlton Heston reading the Old Testament, Jews on Vinyl has something for everyone."

The Barry SistersThe exhibition will occupy the Museum's dramatic Stephen and Maribelle Leavitt "Yud" Gallery, which features a 65-foot ceiling and 36 diamond-shaped skylights. A 1950s style suburban living room will occupy the center of the room where visitors can sit comfortably and listen to sound clips from two listening stations. One wall of the Gallery will be papered with facsimiles of the records featured in the book. Projections of album covers corresponding to a soundtrack of highlights played throughout the space will be projected on an adjacent wall. Throughout the exhibition, the Museum will offer a series of monthly programs designed to delve deeper into the various genres represented in the exhibition.

Guest curated by Roger Bennett and Josh Kun. They are the creators of and co-founders of The Idelsohn Society for Musical Preservation (, a nonprofit record label dedicated to re-releasing lost classics from the Jewish past. Jews on Vinyl was organized by the Contemporary Jewish Museum with guest co-curators Roger Bennett and Josh Kun. Lead support is provided by from Kenneth and Anna Zankel. Inaugural Year Support: Koret and Taube Foundations.

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