Confident Women in Veils

The Italian Writer Elena Loewenthal Reflects on Strong Jewish Women in the Torah

The current exhibition Cherchez la Femme, which explores religious dress codes for women from women’s perspectives, remains on display until 27 August (more about the exhibition on our website). When I first found out the exhibition’s theme, I immediately thought of the novel Attese (2004) by the Italian author Elena Loewenthal. (The title means either “expectations” or “times of waiting.”) In four extended sections, the novel tells the stories of different Jewish female characters throughout the ages. But the novel’s real main character is a mysterious veil that follows the protagonists from Biblical times to modern-day Venice.

two white head coverings for women displayed in the exhibition

Veils in the exhibition Cherchez la femme; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Mirjam Bitter

We can read the veil as a metaphorical vessel of Jewish memory that women have guarded and passed on, a vessel that embodies recollection and forgetting, tradition and renewal. Indeed, the reasons each woman in the novel dons the veil are not only cultural (such as marking mourning) but personal: each of them reshapes it, sews in her own threads, or at least cultivates an idiosyncratic relationship with the garment she inherited.  continue reading


Hannah Arendt—A New Look at a Discerning Political Analyst of Her Own Time

Cover of the special issue on Hannah Arendt of Philosophie Magazin“Something happened there to which we cannot reconcile ourselves. None of us ever can,” said Hannah Arendt with regard to Auschwitz and its repercussions during a now legendary TV interview with Günter Gaus. A two-minute excerpt from that encounter serves today in our permanent exhibition as introduction to a film installation concerning the Auschwitz Trial (cf. this blog entry about the reopening of that part of the exhibition in summer 2013).

In our exhibition of the work of Fred Stein in 2013/14 we presented photographs inter alia of the political theorist Arendt herself, as you can read in our blog and on the exhibition website.

Hannah Arendt is a major influence also on contemporary artists: Alex Martinis Roe, in the work she produced for our art vending machine, “A Letter to Deutsche Post,” demanded a re-issue of the postage stamps bearing Arendt’s portrait (cf. our interview with the artist in this blog). Also, a symposium held at our museum last December drew on the work of Hannah Arendt as a springboard for discussion of the current significance of pluralism in theory and practice (cf. the topics addressed there, as listed in our events calendar).

Philosophie Magazin has just devoted a special issue to this exceptional thinker. Titled Hannah Arendt. Die Freiheit des Denkens [Hannah Arendt. The Freedom of Thought], on the newsstands as of 16 June.  continue reading


“All art nowadays is inadequate to representing the inhumanity of the world.”

A Conversation with Peter Weibel about whether Boris Lurie Should Be Seen as a Part of the Ultra-realist Neo-avant-garde, and Pornography as a Metaphor for Capitalist Society

Collage with yellow star and the words "A Jew Is Dead"

Boris Lurie, “A Jew is dead,” 1964; Boris Lurie Art Foundation, New York, USA

Mirjam Bitter, blog editor: As part of the program accompanying our Boris Lurie retrospective, you’ll be giving a lecture at the Jewish Museum Berlin on 30 May 2016 on the subject of “The Holocaust and the Problem of Visual Representation,” (further details of which can be found in our events calendar). Is this tied up with the idea that the Holocaust is a major theme in Lurie’s work?

Portrait photograph of Peter Weibel

Peter Weibel
© ONUK

Peter Weibel: The Holocaust, along with war, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki were pivotal traumatic experiences for the post-Second World War neo-avant-garde. Take, for example, Yves Klein’s painting “Hiroshima” (1961) or Joseph Beuy’s environment “Show Your Wound” (1974–1975). Many artists responded to the inhumanity they had witnessed by calling into question humanity and indeed, civilization itself: Why, they asked, had literature, painting, music, and philosophy been unable to prevent this twentieth-century barbarism?  continue reading