Re-thinking Migration

Food for Thought from Our Recent Conference on “Migration and Integration Policy Today”

In the year 2000, the UN named 18 December International Migrants’ Day. Today, thirteen years later, Germany is well-established as a prime target country for migrants. Its population is plural, multi-religious, and multi-ethnic. Migration and integration therefore provide both politicians and academics considerable scope to tread new ground. But what state is migration and integration policy in today? And what role does academia play in shaping it? Which concepts have become obsolete, and which new perspectives are opening?

Five panelists on the stage in front of a big audience

Panel discussion at the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Ernst Fesseler

On 22 November 2013, experts in migration research engaged in intensive and controversial debate of these questions at a conference jointly convened by the Jewish Museum Berlin, in the framework of its new “Migration and Diversity” program, and by the German “Rat für Migration,” a nationwide network of academics specialized in migration and integration issues. In the subsequent open forum with these invited guests, politics and science met head on: politicians and academics discussed, among others, migration policies proposed by Germany’s recently elected coalition government.  continue reading


Access – or no access

A sitting teddy bear

Teddy bear that belonged to Ilse Jacobson (1920-2007), textile, straw, glass, ca. 1920 to 1930, in our online collection

56,250. This is the number that comes up when I search our collection’s database for its complete holdings. 56,250 data sets describing, for the most part, individual objects, and occasionally entire mixed lots. You can now see 6,300 of these objects online. Releasing this information to the public provokes mixed feelings on the part of museum staff: we have a lot to say about many of these objects. Many of them don’t speak for themselves. You can’t tell, for instance, that this teddy bear belonged to a child emigrating from Germany. The meaning of many documents and photographs lies likewise to a large extent in their biographical or political history. They require sufficient detail and well-chosen catchwords to help visitors find other objects related to the same topic.

With this project, we have to proceed pragmatically. 15-30 minutes of working time per object is a lot if you have to inventory a mixed lot with 250 units. We verify everything, including things that occur to us as we’re working. We are aware that there’s more to write about – and there would be more to correct, – if we had the time for more thorough research. Yet we can only make forays into the library or even into the archive for special projects or particularly important objects. And so we rely to a great extent on digital sources.  continue reading


Are these the Jewish Rebels of Tomorrow?

Hotel with tree and meadow

Youth hostel in alpine serenity

What’s the newest of the new in Jewish youth culture? To find out, I visited a machane, a Jewish summer camp, which congregated Europeans under the age of eighteen in a remote village in the Alps. Hoping to scout future Jewish ideas, themes, and memes, I had my eyes and ears open for interesting fashions, cool music, new media, games, slang, and food.

My quest was triggered by a slew of innovations brought about by the current generation. Deviators have exchanged their traditional tallitot (prayer shawls) for colorful ones with lilies and rainbows. Others have produced trip hop versions of Jewish songs, “Matzah raps,” and uploaded parodies of Biblical stories onto youtube.  continue reading