Question of the Month:

“Why do some Jews rock back and forth while they pray?”

Our special exhibition “The Whole Truth… everything you always wanted to know about Jews” is based on 30 questions posed to the Jewish Museum Berlin or its staff over the past few years. In the exhibition, visitors have their own opportunity to ask questions or to leave comments on post-it notes. Some of these questions will be answered here in our blog, such as last month’s query: “how does a kippah stay on?” This month, we respond to Boris, who wants to know “why some Jews rock back and forth while they pray?”

A post-it note with the question of the month (in German) and a drawing of a man moving back and forth

“Why do some Jews rock back and forth while they pray? Boris”
© photo: Thomas Valentin Harb, Jewish Museum Berlin

Dear Boris,
Many people have asked why religious Jews sway back and forth while praying. This very old custom is called shuckling in Yiddish and means to rock, shake, or swing. As with many customs, it is easier to describe when and where it was practiced, than to answer definitively, why people shuckle while praying and studying the Torah.  continue reading

Saving a Cat

Everyday Absurdities at the Museum

Sometimes even a museum’s normal workday provides surprises. About a week ago I found in my postbox a letter from the provincial capital of Stuttgart, specifically, from its office for public order.

A cat in the grass next to a fence

Creative Commons License
This work by Iris Blochel-Dittrich is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.

Information about fines and tickets occasionally lands on my desk, since I am in charge of a team that travels around Germany in our museum bus doing mobile educational work at schools. In the struggle against ignorance and anti-Semitism, speed is of the essence. So I flipped through to the second page to ascertain how much we owed this time: € 104,80. For animal custody and veterinary services?! This is no normal parking ticket.

I turned back to the first page and read the letter from top to bottom: “Saving Ms. K’s cat.” Did my colleagues run over a cat, or did they find one and take it to the animal shelter?  continue reading