On international and other remembrance days

Black-white photograph of surviving children of the concentration camp in Auschwitz standing behind a fence

Surviving children in the main concentration camp, Auschwitz. This still from documentary footage shot by Alexander Voronzow shows Tomasz Szwarz, Alicja Gruenbaum, Solomon Rozalin, Gita Sztrauss, Wiera Sadler, Marta Wiess, Boro Eksztein, Josef Rozenwaser, Rafael Szlezinger, Gabriel Nejman, Gugiel Appelbaum, Mark Berkowitz, Pesa Balter, Rut Muszkies, Miriam Friedman, and Miriam and Eva Mozes. Licensed for the public domain by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Seventy years ago to this day, the Soviet Army liberated the death camps Auschwitz I and II. Almost ten years ago, the anniversary was designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Although I’ve been reflecting on representations of the Holocaust in art, literature, and philosophy for many years, I remain irritatingly little affected by today’s date, January 27. In most European countries, official events will once again collectively recall that breach of civilization and commemorate those who were systematically murdered. So too will Germany. Here, the decision to officially commemorate the victims of the Holocaust on this day was reached in 1996—not least because  continue reading


“It was only later that I had my doubts.” A conversation about mixed emotions triggered by ritual circumcision

Black and white photography: The godfather’ chair and the infant carrier with Yair

Before the circumcision ceremony: the godfather’s chair and the infant carrier with Yair © photo: Birgit Glatzel

Naomi converted to Judaism six years ago. Shortly afterwards she became pregnant, went to live with her boyfriend Avishay in Tel Aviv, and gave birth there to a son, Yair, who was circumcised as Jewish law demands. In the meantime the couple has moved to Berlin and separated. Naomi recently showed me the photos she took at the ceremony and we talked about her thoughts on ritual circumcision, then and now.

Mirjam: What was your very first thought when you heard you were expecting a son?

Naomi: I was delighted. For Avishay and I, it was also clear from the get-go that we’d have him circumcised. But, to be honest, we neither gave the matter much thought nor prepared for it in any way. It is Jewish tradition to  continue reading


On belonging and family debates: a conversation about a circumcision that didn’t happen

Baby practising the sign of priesterly blessing

Circumsized or not, he is already practising … © private

Signe and Darrell have been together a long time. They met in the USA, have shared an apartment in Berlin for nearly 15 years, and now have two daughters and a son together. Signe’s family is Jewish American on the mother’s side, German Protestant on the father’s. Darrell is 100 % North American – in his family, you can find just about everything: Puritan pastors, Unitarian ministers, Mormons, Catholic liberation theologians, liberal Muslims, secular Jews. I talked with the two of them about circumcision and the role that Jewish tradition has played in raising their children.

You first had a daughter, then twins. One of the twins is a boy. Did you think a lot about the question of whether to circumcise your son while you were pregnant?
Signe: When I found out that one of the twins was going to be a boy, my first thought was  continue reading