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


Swimming with Libeskind

Westside, Libeskind's shopping mall outside of Berne, SwitzerlandFor enthusiasts of the Jewish Museum, excursions to other Libeskind buildings are imperative. Many are thematically related to the JMB, such as the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus in Osnabrück or the Jewish Museum in San Francisco. But equally worthwhile are the buildings designed for entirely other purposes, such as Westside, a suburban shopping mall completed in 2008 over a highway outside of Berne, Switzerland.

Westside's inscriptionThe mall – despite, well, being a mall – shares many features with the Jewish Museum, which was Libeskind’s first building project. The well-trained, or perhaps overly-trained, eye may involuntarily pick up on architectural testimonies to German-Jewish history.  continue reading