In Memory of Rafael Roth

Photo of Rafael Roth

Rafael Roth, 2003 © Jewish Museum Berlin, photograph: Bildschön

In late 1998, long before the Jewish Museum Berlin opened its doors, the Berlin entrepreneur Rafael Roth offered to support the museum financially. He was committed to W. Michael Blumenthal’s vision of a center dedicated to research on and education in the history of Jewish life in Germany.

Roth was enthusiastic about the idea of a modern media center that would enable visitors to explore Jewish history in an interactive format. His generous donation funded the architecture, the concept and the technical development of this center, located on the subterranean level of the Daniel Libeskind building. When the “Rafael Roth Learning Center“ was inaugurated together with the permanent exhibition on 9 September 2001, it fulfilled its initial purpose, namely to be “the most up-to-date, most impressive and most important center of its kind.” Twelve years later, the media-lounge and study rooms still attract a great number of museum visitors.

Rafael Roth died on 21 September. The Jewish Museum Berlin is highly indebted to him and remembers him in great fondness.

 Mirjam Wenzel and Henriette Kolb, Media


Beit: A House Project for Schoolchildren

A circle of timber houses in the form of the Hebrew letter Bet under a tree

Timber houses in the form of the Hebrew
letter Bet
© The Beit Project, photo: David Gauffin

Beit is the name of a European project thought up by David Stoleru, a Jewish architect from France. The name refers to the Hebrew word for house “Bajit” as well as to the letter “Bet” of the Hebrew alphabet. Stoleru has designed small timber houses that are somewhat reminiscent of the cozy beach basket chairs common on Germany’s Baltic coast. Seen from the side, they resemble the symbol ב for Bet, the first letter of the word beit. Several classes of eighth-graders set up such houses in the Heckmann Höfe in the Mitte district of Berlin, as a means to temporarily bring into the public sphere their nearby school, whose Hebrew name, Beit Sefer, literally means “House of the Book.” Here, for two days, they devoted themselves to the task of uncovering traces of the Jewish community in the local cultural and urban heritage.

It proved to be a strenuous two days’ work, during which the schoolchildren were almost constantly on the go and often had to push themselves to their limits.  continue reading


A House on the Road

On 18 October, our next special exhibition “A Time for Everything: Rituals Against Forgetting” will open to the public. The exhibition met with great success at its previous venue in Munich. We therefore invited Bernhard Purin, director of the Jewish Museum Munich, to write a piece for our blog. He introduces us to an exhibit that is of relevance to this week’s holiday.

picture of a family sitting in the sukkah

A family in the sukkah, from our collections

The Feast of Booths (“Sukkot” in Hebrew, from the word “sukkah,” meaning “tabernacle”) will be celebrated this year from 19–25 September. Along with Passover (Pesah) and Pentecost (Shavuot), it numbers among the three pilgrimage festivals, and commemorates the forty years Israelites spent wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. The Third Book of Moses (23: 42–43) ordains:

“Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am HaShem your G-d.”

Booths have been built ever since and their roofs covered with foliage, in keeping with this commandment. Rural Jews in Germany often erected such booths in the attic of their homes, and this tradition has been taken up at the Jewish Museum Franken in Fürth as well as at its Schwabach branch. Yet mobile booths which could be set up in the garden before the festival, then taken apart and packed away for the rest of the year, were also common. One booth of this kind survived in the village of Baisingen near Rottenburg am Neckar, where a large Jewish community once lived.  continue reading