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Following a tumultuous period in its illustrious history, the Judah L. Magnes Museum — which boasts of the third-largest Judaica collection in the United States — is celebrating its 40th anniversary and marking its reopening as an independent entity with “Brought to Light — The Storied Collections of the Judah L. Magnes Museum.”

This is the first exhibit at the Berkeley museum since the planned merger of the Magnes with the Jewish Museum of San Francisco fell apart.

“We are really known all over the world as a place that collects objects from the Jewish community and represents Jewish life throughout history,” said the museum’s acting executive director, Joanne Backman. “We see this de-merging and reopening as a way of getting our name back again.”

The exhibit reintroduces more than 100 drawings and antique ceremonial items amassed by the museum’s founder and director emeritus, Seymour Fromer. Among the items on display are a Torah ark from the Queen Mary, the Cunard ship that Jews used to escape the Nazis; a brass, 15th-century yad, or Torah pointer, from Italy and a 14th-century Chanukah lamp from Spain.

“Visitors to the exhibit can expect to be blown away by the stories that a lot of these pieces tell,” Backman said. “There are stories of sorrow and stories of joy and stories of deplorable treatment of Jewish people, and there are stories of triumph and redemption.”

Judah L. Magnes Museum, 2911 Russell St., Berkeley; through April 25, 2004. Sun.-Thu. 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.; donations suggested. (510-549-6950 or www.magnes.org)

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