“Ask the Rabbi”

Are we allowed to drive a car to synagogue services on Shabbat? If my father is Jewish and my mother is Christian, what am I? Can an uncircumcised man be Jewish?

Collage of portraits of seven rabbis

Seven rabbis (left to right): Joshua Spinner, Irith Shillor, Daniel Katz, Julien-Chaim Soussan, Jonah Sievers, Avichai Apel, Gábor Lengyl
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photos: Thomas Valentin Harb

The new special exhibition, “The Whole Truth… everything you always wanted to know about Jews,” deals with common as well as uncommon questions about Judaism. We put some of these questions to seven rabbis and filmed their responses. All of them serve in Germany and represent a wide spectrum of religious belief: orthodox, liberal, conservative, progressive.

Inspired by research done on a number of Internet forums with names like “Ask the Rabbi,” “Askmoses,” and “Dear Rabbi,” in which rabbis from all over the world answer questions on how to handle religious law in everyday life, we organized the shooting of this film  continue reading


Trials of a Truth Seeker
(Part Two)

A showcase filled with food, seen through another showcase

Installation of the showcases for the exhibition “The Whole Truth”
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Michal Friedlander

The exhibition “The Whole Truth … everything you always wanted to know about Jews” opens in a few days. The curatorial team steps back to admire the showcases and compliment one another on a job well done.

Not quite. Let me guide you through my afternoon.

13:45    After returning our food trays in the Mensa, there is a rush for the freezer box containing ice cream. Avoiding the crush, I make for the candy stand. Deliberations. I confer with my colleagues. M & Ms, Toblerone and Rittersport. Wrappers are discarded before we have even left the room.

A showcase in magenta and people on a ladder

Installation of the showcases for the exhibition “The Whole Truth”
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Michal Friedlander

14:00    I scroll through the 13 page document listing the questions asked by museum visitors. The questions relate to Jews, Judaism and the Jewish Museum Berlin. Many repetitions. The list needs to be tidied up for exhibition use. A few samples:

Why are there so many Jewish museums and who pays for it all?
Are Jews normal?
Do Jews have horns?
Why do Jews think they are so special?
Why don’t all Jews live in Israel?
Why didn’t Jews defend themselves against the Nazis?
…?

Time for another sugar inhalation.  continue reading


Trials of a Truth Seeker

The exhibition “The Whole Truth … everything you always wanted to know about Jews” opens next week. The curatorial team steps back to admire the showcases and compliment one another on a job well done.

Not quite. Let me guide you through my morning.

8:45    Arrive at office and stack my drawers with the healthy snacks I have purchased: bananas, apples and organic crispy wafers.

Doll in box with styrofoam

Unpacking the “Smash-Me Bernie” Madoff figurine, manufacturer: Modelworks © photo: Michal Friedlander, Jewish Museum Berlin

8:50    Walk over to the galleries to view the showcases, which need to be placed in their final positions this morning.

9:00    Galleries eerily empty. Project manager cheerfully mentions that there is snow on the Autobahn from Dresden to Berlin. A few showcases have made it through, but their legs are on the Autobahn. Will call when legs arrive.

9:10    Back to office. Time to authorize the final release of the exhibition texts for production. Make good progress. A colleague pops her head in and glances at the samples in my hand. She points her Smartphone at the texts that are printed on a color background. “Just as I suspected,” she announces, “the English texts cannot be seen by a color-bind visitor.” “How do you know?”  continue reading