An Interview with Dorothy Saxe – The Woman Behind the Invitational

Federation Donor and Donor Advised Fund Holder Since 1980

Supporting the arts is an important part of the joy of living and enriches people’s souls. –Dorothy Saxe

Dorothy Saxe

Dorothy Saxe and her late husband George began their exploration of the arts in the late 1970s as a way for the couple to do something together. “George played golf and I went to the symphony,” Dorothy explained. “We wanted to find something neither of us knew anything about that we could do together.” Collecting art was a good choice as neither had any experience or education in the field and it was something they could both explore as beginners.

Glass artwork was their first love and is the medium that started their collection. Eventually, Dorothy and George would frequent glass exhibits, artist communities, and studios in search of the most admired artists in the area.

They sought out artworks of the highest quality – first glass and later expanding to include fiber, ceramics, metal, wood and all handcrafted art  – and sought to share them with all who wanted to see them. They always knew the works would go to a museum, and the first one they chose was in Oakland. “Sharing our art was always the ultimate goal,” said Dorothy. Eventually, their collection was exhibited in six museums around the country.

Their love of the arts and their commitment to philanthropy have come together in the upcoming invitational at the Contemporary Jewish Museum in San Francisco. In 2009, George decided to endow the Invitational to the museum and renamed it The Dorothy Saxe Invitational. He did it because he knew how much it meant to her. 

“This exhibit is an invitation to Jews and non-Jews and broadens non-Jewish knowledge of Judaism," Dorothy shared. "And, for the Jewish artists, it brings them closer into the Jewish religion. Jewish artists have shared with me that they’re connected to their Judaism through their art. I love the Invitational because it combines the two things I care about most: all things Jewish and art.”

The overall goal of the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s Invitational is what appeals most to Dorothy. The goal is for people to become aware and appreciative of how we celebrate the holidays and how artists reinterpret the objects in celebration. Once the museum selects a ritual or ceremonial object to feature, the staff writes a prospectus on the meaning of the holiday to send to the artists so that they know what they are interpreting.

The event is an opportunity for collectors – both expert and new – to have a significant piece of art in their homes. The exhibit is open to all art lovers, and to all guests of the museum. As Dorothy explained, “not all artwork is functional, but can also be an interpretation of ritual.” In speaking of the upcoming Tzedakah Box exhibit, Dorothy reflected that this would be her favorite of all the shows: “This exhibit involves tzedakah, which is so important in my life.”

A Special Invitation for Federation Donor Advised Fund Holders at the Contemporary Jewish Museum
The Upcoming Dorothy Saxe Invitational (April 9 - May 17, 2015) represents the epitome of the Contemporary Jewish Museum’s 30-year tradition of commissioning new work from artists, while celebrating contemporary craft and its engagement with Jewish traditions. This year, 41 West Coast contemporary and craft artists have been invited to create original artworks inspired by the tzedakah box. Tzedakah is the Hebrew word for giving to worthy causes, and is an important duty in Jewish culture still practiced today. The tzedakah box is the receptacle used to collect funds to give back to worthy causes and the inspiration for the exhibition artworks.


February 11, 2015