Challah and Comfortable Shoes: A Year of Civil Service at the Jewish Museum Berlin

Janik Petersdorff in front of the W.M. Blumenthal Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin

Going to work; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Anne Richter

Finally finished with school and no idea what next? Perhaps a year abroad or right to university? Or a traineeship? I was asking myself these questions when I graduated high school. Given my interest in Berlin’s museums and cultural and social work, it made sense to gain experience in these fields during a year of civil service. The Jewish Museum Berlin wasn’t actually my first choice; I applied for and was invited to an interview at the Archäologisches Zentrum (Berlin State Archeology Center), which matched my particular interest in ancient Egyptian history. I was therefore extremely disappointed when I was declined. Additional offers were slow to materialize.  continue reading

Food for Thought

Menurkeys for Thanksgivukkah?

A menora, flowers, and the book "Curious George"

Research under way in preparation for Thanksgivukkah
Photo: Signe Rossbach

Chanksgiving! As a family of German-American Jewish-Protestant-Catholic-Puritan backgrounds, we do like to celebrate as many holidays as we can possibly fit into our family schedule – with Halloween, our twins’ birthday and the classic German lantern parade for St. Martin’s day making for an action packed twelve days at the beginning of November.

After a bit of a breather we’re heading into the next holiday season – with a bit of a twist this year. Usually Hanukkah – the Jewish festival of lights and miracles – is associated with the Christian festival of lights and a miraculous birth: Christmas. And that makes sense, sort of, superficially at least. A few years ago we had an entire exhibition titled “Chrismukkah” – a cultural history of the evolution of the two holidays, and this year on December 3, Rabbi Daniel Katz will present a truly enjoyable talk on how they really don’t fit together at all.

But Thanksgiving?  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