In a few days, indeed in a matter of hours, our special exhibition “A Time for Everything” will open to the public: a display of both sacred and profane objects presented in the context of “Rituals Against Forgetting.” Almost all the objects kindly loaned us have arrived by now, walls have been painted, texts written, showcases installed, and the complete English version of the exhibition webpage will be launched in a few minutes.
Yet much looks very different now, from how it was conceived and planned initially. Up to the very last minute, we had to juggle decisions as to what should be done, and how, and to drop certain ideas that proved infeasible. We are currently shooting the exhibition trailer and already have some scenes ‘in the can,’ namely those which struck us as most interesting and promising. Yet doubtless also some of those will land on the cutting-room floor however — as did this statement from Cilly Kugelmann on the exhibition title and the meaning of time:
The theme of time, or, to be more precise, the Jewish perspective on times, is the primary focus of our forthcoming issue of the JMB Journal, too. Continue reading
Seder Plate by Harriete Estel Berman, U.S.A., 2003 © photo: Jens Ziehe, Jewish Museum Berlin
Passover is not only a feast day evoking an historic event through a ritualized form of remembrance. It also appeals to reenact the exodus out of Egypt and envision divine mercy, freeing us from bondage and disenfranchisement. Like many Jewish holidays the original biblical Passover story has been and still is seen in relation to other historical events. The Egypt of the Exodus story turned into Ukraine and Belarus in the 17th century, when the Cossack chief Bogdan Chmielnicki allowed many hundreds of thousands of Jews to be murdered over the course of his struggle to liberate Poland. In the 20th century, Germany under the Nazi regime became the country to flee.
Through its culinarily-underscored recitation and discussion of the narrative, the seder provides a framework for each new re-interpretation. This appears primarily at the dinner: even while the symbolic dishes are determined by the Passover Haggadah, the other foods vary according to geography and the cultural conventions of the place where the celebration is taking place. There are especially numerous recipes for the “mortar,” the charoset, which resembles in color and texture the cementing agent used to build houses.
In our permanent exhibition, there is a spot reserved for topics that are au courant: three prominently placed pot-bellied display windows that we call the “raviolis”.
“Ravioli” display windows in the permament exhibition © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Christiane Bauer
These display windows were filled once again with new exhibits for Purim, now. The new presentation looks at the festival from a feminist perspective and directs viewers’ attention to the latest developments substantially being shaped by Jewish women in the USA.
The focus of the presentation is on the two female characters of the Purim story that is read aloud at synagogue during the service: Esther and Vashti. Little attention has been paid to the latter for a long time. She was the first wife of the Persian King Ahasuerus, who cast her out because of her disobedience. He subsequently took the beautiful Jew Esther as a wife, who was shy and quiet, quite unlike the defiant Vashti. But over time Esther emerged from her reticence to transform into the courageous heroine we know, thwarting the conspiracy to murder the Persian Jews.