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Among the most important components of The Magnes’ pictorial holdings is a collection of nearly one thousand posters acquired worldwide since the 1960s. This diverse and fascinating group of works has been acquired via a broad network of paper and print collectors, purchased in museum stores, or simply taken off walls in the streets of cities around the world. Collectively, these materials represent an invaluable source of historical information. Their scope encompasses daily life, politics, advertising, communal events, culture and the arts in the United States, Europe, and Israel across the 20th century.

This exhibition brings together a group of posters that showcase a variety of theatrical and other cultural events centering on Jewish themes, presented over the past one hundred years in various venues and contexts. The announcements were written in Yiddish, Hebrew, Polish, German, English, French, and Bosnian. The productions touched on a wide range of topics, from tales and parables drawn from the Hebrew Bible and Jewish folklore, to cultural identity, history and politics.

Visually these posters could not be more diverse, ranging from religious and folk motifs to modernism. This broad swing in styles also parallels to some extent the significant shifts in 20th-century theatrical culture. Through a distancing gesture that separates them from early-modern theater, contemporary productions often feature Jews and Jewish themes as integral to culture and society, rather than as stylized—and often culturally stereotyped—“characters.” Contemporary Jewish playwrights, actors, directors, and producers appearing in modern theater posters are thus mentioned by name and celebrated in their roles, as the sole protagonists of a narrative that sees them voicing a globally recognized Jewish cultural identity firmly placed at center stage.


The Modernist poster is characterized by stark contrast and minimal detail that immediately convey the poster’s message to the passerby. Similarly, on the Jewish stage the Modernist drama allows biblical themes to function as a framework through which contemporary social problems—from women’s rights to political separatism—can come to the fore.


Felice Pazner Malkin (b. 1929)

akhzar mi-kol – ha-melekh. habimah (Cruelest of All—The King. Habimah)

Hebrew Tel Aviv, Israel, Habima Theater, 1953 Linocut print on paper Gift of Mira Fromer Amiras, 75.236

Promotional poster for a play by Nissim Aloni (1926–1998), centered on the biblical figure of King Jeroboam, presented by Habimah, the National Theater of Israel, in 1953.


Maxwell Armfield (1881–1972)

Ruth St. Denis and Ted Shawn in Miriam, Sister of Moses

English Berkeley, CA, United States, Greek Theatre, 1919 Offset Lithograph


Promotional poster for a biblical play by Maxwell Armfield and Constance Smedley Armfield (1875–1941), staged at the Greek Theatre of the University of California, Berkeley. The play highlighted the University’s role as a site of cultural production. The curatorial staff of the former Judah L. Magnes Museum acquired this poster in an attempt to document the appearance of Jewish theatrical themes on the stages of Berkeley, California.

Some Jewish theater troupes enjoyed long and stable lives, and others faded away only to reemerge with a new name or location, years—and sometimes decades—later. Others still were created for specific tours and disbanded shortly after. Poster art is often the only means to fully document their history.


Théâtre Israélite Rue de Lancry, 10 […] daniel in leven grub

Yiddish and French Paris, France, I. Bernas, 1903 Letterpress with halftone Judah L. Magnes Museum purchase,

Poster for the Yiddish-language Théâtre Israélite (Jewish Theater), based at the Théâtre Lancry (est. 1880), in Paris’ 10th arrondissement, where the Yiddish plays of Abraham Goldfaden had been presented since 1894. The poster announced the staging, “for the first time in Paris,” of the operetta, Daniel in the Lions’ Den by the Rumanian Yiddish playwright, Yoysef Lateiner (1853–1935), starring Max Guzovsky and Matilde Rubenstein.


Ershter yidisher folks-teater fun Nachum Lipovski [Nachum Lipovski’s First Yiddish Folk Theater]

shema‘ yisroel — Höre Israel (Hear O Israel)

Yiddish and German

Vilnius, Poland (present-day Lithuania), M. Dworschetz, n.d. [1908–1920] Letterpress


Promotional poster for a play by Osip Dymov (1878–1950), dedicated to the victims of the 1906 Bialystok pogrom, and performed at the Vilna Yiddish Folk Theater, managed by Nachum Lipovski (1874–1928).


Ershter yidisher folks-teater fun Nachum Lipovski [Nachum Lipovski’s First Yiddish Folk Theater]

yoel — Joel

Yiddish and German

Vilnius, Poland (present-day Lithuania), M. Dworschetz, n.d. [1908–1920] Letterpress


Promotional poster for a play by Peretz Hirschbein (1880–1948), performed at the Vilna Yiddish Folk Theater, managed by Nachum Lipovski (1874–1928).


Škart (est. 1990)

Priseć anje na Izgubljeno / U Slavu Života (Honoring Loss / Celebrating Life)

Bosnian and English Belgrade, Serbia, Uniprint, 1994 Offset lithograph Gift of Naomi Newman, Corey Fischer, Albert Greenberg, and Helen Stoltzfus, 2015.4.21.2

Promotional poster for a three-week tour organized in 1994 by a group of San Francisco-based women artists, including actors from the Jewish Theater San Francisco (A Traveling Jewish Theatre). The project included performances and workshops held in theaters and refugee camps across war-torn former Yugoslavia.

A dybbuk, present in Jewish folklore going back to the Talmudic period, is a mythical evil spirit thought to inhabit the bodies of the living. In Jewish theater, the most well- known treatment of the dybbuk comes from the 1916 play The Dybbuk (Yid., Der dibek; Heb., ha-dibuq), a dramatic work, composed first in Russian and later in Yiddish by the writer, ethnographer, and revolutionary S. An-ski (Shloyme Zaynvl Rapoport, 1863–1920), centering on the story of a woman possessed by the spirit of her dead beloved.


Elly Simmons (b. 1955)



San Francisco, Calif., United States, Jewish Theater San Francisco (A Traveling Jewish Theatre),


Offset Lithograph Gift of Jewish Theater San Francisco, 2015.4.21.1

Promotional poster for an English adaptation of the classic play by S. An-ski, performed at the Jewish Theater San Francisco (A Traveling Jewish Theatre) in 1989.


Teatron Zavit

ha-dibuq mi-neveh shaanan (The Dybbuk from Neve Shaanan)


Jerusalem, Israel, 1967 Offset Lithograph


Promotional poster for a comedy by Amitzur Ilan (b. 1932), centered on the the appearance of a dybbuk in a neighborhood of Jerusalem, and performed by the Zavit Theater Company.


Marian Stachurski (1931–1980)


Polish Warsaw, Poland, Państwowy Teatr Żydowski im E. R. Kamińskiej, 1974 Offset lithograph Gift of Anne Lewin, 88.7

Promotional poster for the performance of S. An-ski’s play by the Polish Ester- Rokhl Kaminska State Yiddish Theater

The modern Yiddish stage is closely connected with a variety of musical repertories, ranging from Yiddish folk and art songs to Klezmer music, used to accompany wedding scenes. Drawing on traditional styles, Jewish folklore, and popular themes from Europe and the Americas, music on the Jewish stage is often designed to evoke a distinctive sense of cultural identity in the audience.


Le Theatre Musical Juif de Moscou

French Vincennes, France, Rosay, 1990 Offset lithograph Gift of Walter Spitzer, 90.25.7

Featuring the painting, Melodie hassidique, by Walter Spitzer (b. 1927), this promotional poster was created for the debut of the Jewish Chamber Musical Theater in western Europe. Established in 1977, the company was formed in the Jewish Autonomous Region of Birobidzhan within the Soviet Union, and based in Moscow.


Doc Levin Cabinet de Graphisme Général (est. 1984)

Yiddish? Yiddish!

French Paris, France, Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme, 2000 Offset lithograph Gift of Seymour Fromer, 2000.23

Poster for the exhibition, Yiddish? Yiddish!, at the Musée d’Art et d’Histoire du Judaïsme (Museum of Jewish Art and History) in Paris, France, organized in collaboration with the Yivo Institute for Jewish Research, New York. The exhibition featured klezmer music, the film Le théâtre kasrilévien (The Theater of Kasrilevke, ca. 1935) by Sam Ringer (1918–1986), and puppets from the Hakl-Bakl Theater (Jewish Puppet Theater of Paris).


Marian Stachurski (1931–1980)

Herszełe z Ostropola (Hershel of Ostropol)

Polish Warsaw, Poland, Państwowy Teatr Żydowski im E. R. Kamińskiej, 1974 Offset lithograph Judah L. Magnes Museum purchase, 79.51

Promotional poster for a musical comedy by Jakub Zonszajn (1914–1962), based on a Yiddish folk figure and performed at the Polish Ester-Rokhl Kaminska State Yiddish Theater in 1974.




Francesco Spagnolo

Undergraduate Curatorial Apprentice:

Lauren Cooper (Comparative Literature 2016)


Julie Franklin


Ernest Jolly


Gordon Chun Design

Major support for The Magnes comes from the Helzel Family Foundation, the Magnes Museum Foundation, The Magnes Leadership Circle, and The Office of the Chancellor at the University of California, Berkeley.