A House on the Road

On 18 October, our next special exhibition “A Time for Everything: Rituals Against Forgetting” will open to the public. The exhibition met with great success at its previous venue in Munich. We therefore invited Bernhard Purin, director of the Jewish Museum Munich, to write a piece for our blog. He introduces us to an exhibit that is of relevance to this week’s holiday.

picture of a family sitting in the sukkah

A family in the sukkah, from our collections

The Feast of Booths (“Sukkot” in Hebrew, from the word “sukkah,” meaning “tabernacle”) will be celebrated this year from 19–25 September. Along with Passover (Pesah) and Pentecost (Shavuot), it numbers among the three pilgrimage festivals, and commemorates the forty years Israelites spent wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. The Third Book of Moses (23: 42–43) ordains:

“Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am HaShem your G-d.”

Booths have been built ever since and their roofs covered with foliage, in keeping with this commandment. Rural Jews in Germany often erected such booths in the attic of their homes, and this tradition has been taken up at the Jewish Museum Franken in Fürth as well as at its Schwabach branch. Yet mobile booths which could be set up in the garden before the festival, then taken apart and packed away for the rest of the year, were also common. One booth of this kind survived in the village of Baisingen near Rottenburg am Neckar, where a large Jewish community once lived.  continue reading


A Library Leaps Across the Street

We have been nudged, with some pizzazz, into a situation of good luck: at last we have an open-access library. After various construction delays, we finally had a date set to move. We were supposed to be transferring from our secluded rooms on the third floor of the Libeskind Building to the new Academy Building across the street from the museum, also built by Daniel Libeskind.

Book shelves in the back and a Reading Room sign in the front

Reading room of the library and the archive at the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Mirjam Bitter

While some of us were directing the book-packers in the warehouse, others were confronting the question of how to set up this new reading room with open access. Visitors would at last be able to come and go without signing in. Missing shelf labels needed to be replaced with makeshift printouts from our classification system. Information about our opening hours had to be hung at the entrance. In addition, the transport needed to be organized of rare materials from the warehouse across the street to the new reading room. On top of all this, we could not lose track, in the midst of the moving boxes, of a set of packages containing an extensive new donation to our collection. When we finally opened our doors, we learned that there would be a press event:  continue reading


A Visit from Iran

View of the sky in the shape of a cross, as seen from the Garden of Exile

Detail of the Garden of Exile © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

It’s not only Jewish history in Germany that continually surprises us with its complexity: the visitors to the Jewish Museum can also be as unexpected as they are diverse. During my tours through the permanent and temporary exhibitions, I have had remarkable encounters. This year among the most unusual was with a group of theologians from the city of Qom, who came to experience the museum at the beginning of October. Most Iranian preachers and imams graduate from the theological seminary at Qom, not far from the capital Tehran and considered, in contrast to the liberal Najaf for instance, a bastion of conservative learning.  continue reading