Neither King David nor Cilly Kugelmann can solve this problem

On the difficulties the organizers of the “Welcome to Jerusalem” exhibition encountered doing justice to the ideal of justice

The colour photo shows the façade of the Jewish Museum Berlin with a traffic sign with the inscription "Welcome to Jerusalem" in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

The much-discussed sign outside the museum, Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jule Roehr

In the Islamic tradition and in the Koran itself, the biblical story of David and Uriah is told in a metaphorical form that differs from the version in the Bible (Koran: Sura 38/21–25): two brothers come to King David and ask him to settle a dispute between them. One of them describes the situation. He tells David that his brother has 99 ewes, but he himself only has one. Now his brother was pressuring him to give him his only ewe. Directly after this brief depiction, David passes his judgment: the one brother’s desire to add the one ewe to his 99 was an injustice to the other brother. The judgment could have been the end of the story, had David not suddenly realized that his decision was unjust. He regretted it deeply. Many Muslim commentators have discussed the sudden turn in the story. One explanation for why the judgment is unjust despite the clarity of the situation is that David made his decision after hearing only one side. In this interpretation, the moral of the story is that in conflicts or disputes, both sides must be allowed to present their perspectives and arguments.  continue reading


Born in 1918, two minutes from his parents’ perfumery on Kurfürstendamm

Fritz Scherk and the history of a family business in Berlin

Black-and-white photography of a laughing toddler sitting on a chair next to a birthday table.

Fritz Scherk on his second birthday, Berlin, May 26, 1920; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Irene Alice Scherk, photo: Jens Ziehe

A beaming toddler sits naked on a lavishly laid birthday table, apparently having the time of his life. A photo like this could easily have been taken today, I thought, when I saw it in the diary that Ludwig and Alice Scherk kept for their son Fritz. In fact, the happy child would have turned 100 today. Being born in 1918 didn’t exactly promise a peaceful life, especially not for a member of a German-Jewish family. Actually the family’s second child had been planned for 1916, three years after the birth of their first son, but the outbreak of war got in the way. But on May 26, 1918, the time had come: Fritz was born next to his mother’s Bechstein piano—by candlelight because of the war, and just two minutes away from his parents’ business, the Scherk Perfumery on Kurfürstendamm.  continue reading

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Why the Jewish Museum Berlin has every reason to finally open a children’s museum in 2019

A little story about a revolutionary kind of museum

Scetch of the ark

In the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy construction is currently underway on a Noah’s Ark-themed children’s museum; Jewish Museum Berlin, Olson Kundig Architecture and Exhibit Design, Seattle/WA, USA

 

“Do not touch!”—These three words are irrevocably associated with traditional museums. They denote an institutional balancing act. On the one hand, the historical objects and works of art that are gathered in museums are supposed to be made accessible to the public. On the other hand, the objects must be protected from the damage that might be done by overenthusiastic visitors. Despite what museologist Fiona Candlin describes as “low-key unauthorized touch”—stroking statues when unobserved, secretly tracing hieroglyphics with an index finger—a visit to a museum remains a mostly visual experience.  continue reading