“Part of something greater”: A conversation about a ritual circumcision that vanquished the past

Coloured photograph of the circumsion ceremony in the synagogue

“A ceremony with friends and family”: The bris of Jaal, photo: William Noah Glucroft

In the last few weeks at “Blogerim” we have reported on the discussions that the subject of circumcision can prompt. We shouldn’t lose sight, though, of the fact that the ritual is a matter of course for most Jewish and Muslim families – as, for example, for Amitay and Meital from Israel. I asked the couple what their son Yaal’s bris was like for them.

In mid-December you had Yaal circumcised by a mohel at the Fraenkelufer Synagogue. Did you have to think about it for a long time?

Meital: For me, there was no question.

Amitay: Same here. But when the time approached, I did have some questions.

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On the hamster wheel of argumentation

I’m not sure what time it is, but it’s already light out. My alarm clock will go off soon. My eyes are already open – the sky is its usual grey. In the space behind my eyes, arguments are going around and around – legal, religious, social, and medical. My tongue doesn’t move but my thoughts speak all the lines of this drama. Right now I’m going around and around on the hamster wheel of an argument that I got dragged into on a tour I gave the day before of the special exhibition “Snip it! Stances on Circumcision.” Every time I thought I had explained to this visitor the profound differences between ritual circumcision of boys and female genital mutilation, she would bring us back into an argumentative spiral.

Visitors in the exhibition room in front of different naked and male sculptures

Visitors in the exhibition room “On the Knife’s Edge” © JMB, Foto: Jule Roehr

Despite Cilly Kugelmann’s assertion that we don’t want to use “Snip it!” to continue the 2012 debate about ritual circumcision; despite an exhibition that addresses, above all, the cultural and historical background of the ritual; despite my careful presentation in the tours, where I aim to encourage visitors to really see and understand, and not to judge and argue; despite the many visitors who embrace my suggestions with great openness and interest:  continue reading


Ich glaub’ nie mehr an eine Frau (Never Trust A Woman)—The Sound for the Film

There are films slumbering in an archive somewhere, waiting to be discovered. And there are films that have sunk into oblivion but then suddenly pop up again, in the form of a soundtrack.

packages of schellac records

The schellac records, as found © Jewish Museum Berlin, Photo: Regina Wellen

Recently, when stock was being moved to another depot, our colleague Regina Wellen looked over the collection of 78rpm schellac records with a view to devising a new way of storing them. She thereby came across eleven not yet inventoried records, much larger than the usual sort and with a label suggestive of some other purpose than easy listening on the home gramophone. Luckily for us, Regina was quickly able to establish that these were examples of the sound-on-disc recordings played in cinemas as an accompaniment to screenings of otherwise silent films—synchronously, thanks to the built-in start signal. One of the twenty numbered boxes on each label used to be checked after each screening, so as to ensure that a worn-out record would be replaced in good time. After Regina had dry-cleaned the records and prepared  continue reading