For Love of the Catalogs

A conversation with art historian, rabbi, and literature collector Edward van Voolen, drs.

For three and a half years now, the art historian and rabbi Edward van Voolen has supported the DFG project. With his help, our library has developed into a research library for Jewish art, through generous gifts from his private collection. It now includes over 500 publications in the fields of Jewish art and material culture.

Edward van Voolen; photo: private

For 35 years, Mr. van Voolen was a curator at the Jewish Historical Museum in Amsterdam. He is now a rabbi in Germany. Since 2003, he has taught at the Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam, publishing regularly on topics related to Jewish religion, art, and history.

Lea Weik asked him a few questions about his passion for collecting, and about his considerable donation.

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Complex, interwoven, and emotional

Experts discuss political adult education on the Middle East conflict

Various brochures lie on a table, with titles such as "Where does hatred of Jews come from?"

Many educational providers offer materials for confronting anti-Semitism pedagogically; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Nadja Rentzsch

“Emotional” and “complex” are words often used to describe the Middle East conflict and approaches to it. How should it be handled in the everyday practice of education and continuing education? This is one of the questions in my research project “Didactics of the Middle East Conflict,” which I am conducting as a W. M. Blumenthal Fellow (more about the project on the museum website).

At a university or an institute, generally there is a research colloquium full of people working on similar themes, or who at least come from the same discipline. In such colloquia, one can present new work, discuss initial findings, get feedback about dealing with difficulties, and discover stimulating new ideas. At a museum, people engage with a great variety of topics, but not with empirical research on the didactics of the Middle East conflict. And so on September 8th, I invited external experts on educational work relating to the Middle East conflict, anti-Semitism, and racism to come to the museum. We discussed teaching and learning on this subject with members of the Education Department and the museum’s Academy Programs.  continue reading


“And next Sunday, no one will be thinking of the election anymore”

The 1930 German Federal Election

Black-and-white photograph of a man wearing a suit and glasses reading a newspaper while sitting at a table

Heinz Arzt reading the newspaper, 1920; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Hilde Pearton, née Bialostotzky

Recently I was leafing through the inventory listing of a family collection that has been in our archives for many years. I wanted to rework the index in order to bring it up to our current standards. The collection included documents, photographs, and objects from the Arzt and Bialostotzky families. In the twenty-three page inventory, a letter was listed for the Berlin liqueur manufacturer Heinz Arzt (1866–1931) in the category “correspondence,” but neither a sender nor recipient was listed, to say nothing of its contents. The extremely brief description went: “Letter: hand-written, 14 Sept. 1930.”

So I went into the archives and pulled the document numbered 2001/219/28 from box 451 to complete the listing. Suddenly, I was holding a fascinating piece of history in my hands: the so-called letter turned out to be a brief report on the Reichstag election eighty-seven years ago.  continue reading