In the Beginning Was … Scripture

An Interview with Cilly Kugelmann about the Exhibition “The Creation of the World: Illustrated Manuscripts from the Braginsky Collection”

Mirjam Wenzel: At the forthcoming exhibition, the Jewish Museum Berlin will present its first ever show of outstanding examples of the centuries-old Jewish scriptural tradition. What significance does scripture—the written word—have in the Jewish tradition?

Two women on a table looking on a paper

Cilly Kugelmann and Mirjam Wenzel
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Katrin Möller

Cilly Kugelmann: In early collections of rabbinic interpretations of biblical texts—the so-called midrashim—it is written that the Torah existed before the world was created. Some rabbis see the Torah quasi as a manual of creation that God drew on during his seven-day feat. Such interpretations demonstrate the extraordinary significance attributed to scripture in Judaism.
Following the loss of the geographic homeland Israel, sacrifices and pilgrimages to specific temples were abandoned in favor of prayer services that could take place anywhere—and the traditional texts themselves consequently became the most important, pivotal moment of the rite. To this day, the study and interpretation of biblical writings is the primary focus of Jewish intellectual life.

Why is René Braginsky’s Collection of illuminated manuscripts being presented under the title “The Creation of the World?”   continue reading


Cabinets Full of Photographs, Contact Sheets, and Letters

My Week of Intensive Research into Fred Stein’s Archives

Three pictures with a skyline on a sheet of paper

Contact sheet Brooklyn Bridge
© Estate of Fred Stein, photo: Theresia Ziehe

In June of 2012 I had the opportunity to delve into the estate of Fred Stein. During the preparation for our then-upcoming exhibition “In an Instant,” I travelled to the little town of Stanfordville, NY to visit Peter Stein, the photographer’s son and archive administrator. For a week, I studied the voluminous and multi-faceted material stored in various rooms of the private residence. It was an unforgettable immersion into the life and work of Fred Stein.

Hundreds of negatives, kept in fireproof cabinets, make up the core of the collection. Their differing formats point to the two cameras Stein photographed with: coiled strips of Leica negatives and individually packaged 2 1/4 x 2 1/4 inches negatives in pergamin sheets from the Rolleiflex. The cameras themselves unfortunately didn’t survive. Among these negatives, you can see Stein’s first shots of Dresden shortly before he emigrated to Paris in 1933.  continue reading


InderKinder

Dealing Creatively with Ethnic Classifications

Cover of the book "InderKinder" (Indian-children) with a picture of playing children

Book cover
© Draupadi Verlag

Tomorrow at the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin, Urmila Goel and Nisa Punnamparambil-Wolf will introduce the book they edited, InderKinder – Über das Aufwachsen und Leben in Deutschland (Indian-Children: on Growing Up and Living in Germany, published by Drapaudi Verlag). It’s the third in a series of events on “New German Stories” where, with the aid of individual biographies, we examine Germany’s historical and current status as an immigration society. On this occasion we’ll focus on the children of immigrants from India, who gained public awareness for the first time during the “Green Card” campaign of 2000.

Prior to the reading and discussion tomorrow, we asked the two editors, Nisa Punnamparambil-Wolf and Urmila Goel, three questions:

What made you choose this title?

We’re referring with this title to the marginalizing “Kinder statt Inder” (children instead of Indians) campaign of the year 2000. The wordplay of InderKinder (Indian-children) is meant ironically: it was important to us to find a creative way to deal with these attributions. With the book, we want to show the varied ways that people who grew up and live in Germany handle the classification of being a child of Indian immigrants.

The book consists of two parts, autobiographical stories and essays. How would you explain your concept?
 continue reading