The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco focuses on the history, art, and ideas of the Jewish community. It's a non-collective museum, which means the majority of their exhibits are only on display for a limited amount of time.
This allows them to offer a dynamic experience with the most relevant exhibits on display. It also gives you an inside look at today's most important topics for this community.
The building that houses this museum is a mix of new and old. The original brick structure was built in 1907 and was used as a PG&E Substation for a number of years.
During the transformation of this building, modern architectural pieces were added, making it a beautiful and unique addition to the SF museum scene.
Even though the majority of the space in the Jewish Museum in San Francisco is traveling exhibits, they do have some great permanent displays.
Judaica is an educational exhibit about important celebrations in the Jewish culture. The exhibit is well laid out with a brief overview of each ritual or holiday along with the items used in the ceremony.
Here you can learn more about Hanukkah, the Torah, and Yom Kippur. You will find this small, but informative exhibit on the first floor.
The other main permanent exhibit is called Black Sabbath. Here you can listen and/or dance to a variety of musical selections.
The room is set with a handful of small tables. Each table is an individual listening station. At each station, you will find two sets of headphones along with a screen full of songs.
Select tunes from popular artists such as Cab Calloway, Ray Charles, and Billie Holiday. You will also find selections from the Temptations, Louis Armstrong, and Johnny Mathis.
In addition to the tables, this expansive room also has music playing in the background. Grab your partner and dance around the room to a rotating selection from the famous artists listed above.
You will find this interactive display at the top of the stairs on the second floor.
Make sure you don't miss the exhibit on the history of this SF museum. It's located in the lobby, right near the entrance.
This small exhibit includes photos and an overview of the historical building. It also talks about the transformation of this building into the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.
Depending on when you visit, you will find two or three large traveling exhibits. Many are multi-media displays with memorabilia, televisions, and/or paintings.
Since most of the exhibits are temporary, I recommend checking out their schedule to see if the current exhibits pique your interest before you visit. Here you will find a list of all SF museum exhibits by month, including those for the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco.
You can pick up tickets at the door. Visit their site for current prices.
If you plan on visiting a number of SF museums and attractions, I recommend checking out the Go San Francisco Card. This discount pass offers a savings of up to 50% off the full retail price of almost 50 Bay Area attractions including the Contemporary Jewish Museum. Learn more.
Photography is only allowed in the lobby. No photography is allowed in the exhibits or in the store.
Do you want to learn more about a certain exhibit? Every day, they offer two to three free tours.
The first one usually starts around 11:30am and lasts for about an hour. The second tour starts around 1:30pm.
On Thursdays, there is an additional tour offered around 5pm, as the museum is open later.
Make sure you ask about their free tour schedule for the day of your visit.
The Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco (blue star) is in the South of Market neighborhood. It's only about a 5 minute walk from Union Square (red square).
If you are coming over from Fisherman's Wharf, take the F Street car line to the stop at 3rd/Kearny and Market. Walk one block south and take a right. You will see the museum on your right at 736 Mission Street.
California Historical Society: In addition to the Jewish Museum in this district, you will also find the California Historical Society. This small museum showcases photography and other exhibits about the history of San Francisco and the State of California.
Museum Exhibit Calendar: Before you visit any museum, take a look at this exhibit calendar. It includes the current and upcoming exhibits for all of the top museums in the city including the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Asian Art Museum, and the California Historical Society.
Asian Art Museum: This Asian Art Museum is one of my all-time favorites. They have an amazing collection of artifacts and other pieces from China, Japan, and Korea. You can also find rare pieces from Bhutan, Malaysia, and Indonesia. It's worth a visit and it's one stop you will not soon forget!
California Academy of Sciences: The California Academy of Sciences features four areas that are each as large as most museums. During your visit, you will see the Steinhart Aquarium, the Natural History Museum, the Morrison Planetarium, and the Four-Story Rainforest. I also recommend that you check out their Earthquake Exhibit to feel what it's like to be in an earthquake and visit Claude, the rare white Alligator.