New San Francisco Jewish Museum
to celebrate joy of life
A prayer and blessing precedes a ceremonial groundbreaking of
the new Jewish Museum located on Mission Street between 3rd and
By Pat Murphy
July 20, 2006
World renowned architect David Liebeskind, the seed of Abraham
and holocaust survivors, Wednesday described his latest creation
as a monument to the joy of life.
Liebeskind joined some 700 celebrants for groundbreaking of that
creation, the Contemporary Jewish Museum nestled in Yerba Buena
Gardens set to open in 2008.
Architect Daniel Liebeskind
"A moment of groundbreaking is so exciting for any architect
but this is not just any building," said Liebeskind.
"As a child of holocaust survivors I have built some museums
which deal with the dark side of history, with man's inhumanity
"But here in the Contemporary Jewish Museum of San Francisco
I had the occasion to deal with the joy and the celebration of
"There could be nothing more meaningful than standing here
in this vital center of San Francisco with St. Patrick's Church,
with the future Mexican Museum, with the Contemporary Jewish Museum,
showing that history, that tradition is what makes us together
and also that tradition is what allows us to be free into the
The three-story 63,000 square-foot museum will host collaborative
exhibitions with museums worldwide. Its $77 million capital program
is 78% fulfilled.
Fourteen years in the making, the museum's collaborators detailed
"Today we are celebrating the realization of our vision
for the new Contemporary Jewish Museum and the design by our cherished
and inspired friend Daniel Liebeskind which will result in a glorious
contemporary space that resounds in the Jewish imagination and
spirit," reported museum board president Roselyne 'Cissie'
"Twenty-four years ago the museum was founded with foresight
and leadership of the San Francisco Jewish Community Federation
and through the stalwart efforts of our dear friend, who is departed,
Alfred Fromme and to Cissie and Ted Jabal.
"The museum's vision and mission from the beginning was
to establish a standard of excellence of exhibitions and programs
which it continues to do and to serve the Bay Area and its broad
and diverse community.
The museum from its beginning had a vision to grow and
inevitably moved to a larger space in order expand. I can think
of no finer location than this one with its vibrant Yerba Buena
Cultural vibrancy of the district grew this year, noted Redevelopment
Agency executive director Marcia Rosen.
"This morning is the culmination of a year of tremendous
activity in Yerba Buena Gardens," Rosen stated.
"This year alone we saw the opening of the St. Regis Hotel,
the opening of the Museum of the African Diaspora, the opening
of the Museum of Crafts and Folk Arts... the opening of Yerba
Buena Lane... and the final piece of the cultural jewel of the
Mexican Museum in the years ago come.
"This is also a residential neighborhood. We have not only
the condominiums of the St. Regis representing one end of our
housing market - we also opened this year Eugene Coleman Community
which is low-income senior housing for 85 seniors at the other
end of Yerba Buena Gardens and joining the vibrant senior community...
the childcare community and the residents of the paramount St.
Regis and the Four Seasons.
"There's something very special about celebrating the Contemporary
Jewish Museum which fuses... the power of the symbol of Chaim
in the design in the Contemporary Jewish Museum.
"But also celebrating the cultural specificity and at the
same time the universality of an institution like this.
"Cynthia Ozick, the wonderful Jewish American author wrote
an essay about ethnically specific literature and culture in which
she used the Shofar as a metaphor - the narrow opening of the
ram's horn in which we blow into a very small space comes out
as a very loud sound that resounds in a universal manner.
"She used that metaphor to say how we all celebrate our
common humanity by appreciating the fine details and cultural
specificity of our individual arts and culture. I know when the
museum opens its door it will be and example of that, both culturally
specific and universal, something for all of us to celebrate our
common humanity," Rosen envisioned.
The museum represents San Francisco's beacon of diversity in
a world torn by ethnic violence, Mayor Newsom stated.
San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom
"How blessed we are... with everything that's goes on around
the world - with the nations and people being torn apart,"
"The racial and ethnic controversies fueling fanaticism,
fueling terror, here we are in San Francisco in the Bay Area in
the world's most diverse democracy, America.
"And we are living together and advancing together and prospering
together across our differences. Think about that. That's a very
remarkable thing and it's something I think we all should pause
and reflect upon.
"This is a city that doesn't just tolerate its diversity
- it celebrates it and this is a big part of that celebration
of what's right in the City and County of San Francisco and what's
right in the region that we all call home," Newsom stressed.
The mayor declared Wednesday to be Contemporary Jewish Community
Groundbreaking Day, presenting the proclamation to Swig.
Assemblyman Mark Leno brought congratulations from the California
Assembly, and San Francisco Supervisor Bevan Dufty suggested people
should not be misled by his Irish name.
Bevan Dufty, left, joins Mark Leno in offering Mazel Tov
"Most people figure out that I'm gay pretty quickly,"
grinned Dufty, who represented the San Francisco Board of Supervisors.
"It's the Jewish part that they often don't get because
I have such an Irish name. I don't know why my mom let it happen
but Bevan Doyle Dufty doesn't cut it," Dufty chortled.
Groundbreaker signatures affixed to metallic blue facade of museum.
"I get to live that diverse experience," Dufty continued.
"I have some new extended family this year because actually
in the San Francisco tradition I'm having a daughter with a Jewish
"So Rebecca and I are going to have a little girl and her
name is Sydney... I so look forward to coming back and bringing
my daughter here," Dufty said.
Leno invoked a unique Jewish blessing.
"At the risk of denying Bill O'Reilly the opportunity to
suggest that San Francisco is completely heathen in our municipal
transactions, I just want to add an additional prayer to Rabbi
(Stephen) Pearce's," Leno prepared the crowd.
"Blessed are you Creator of the Universe according to whose
word all things will be, including the Contemporary Jewish Museum,"
Leno intoned to applause.