No Revolvers in the Jewish Museum

drawing of a Revolver“Weapons and Dignity” is the title of the chronicle of an object in the recently published 25th anniversary brochure of the German Historical Museum. It is about a revolver that was offered as a donation to the Jewish Museum, met with great interest there, but finally found its way into the collection of the German Historical Museum. Why?

The story: a woman in Berlin during the National Socialist era, fearing for her life because she was ‘half-Jewish,’ obtained a revolver so that, should she be threatened with deportation, she could end her life instead. She survived the era of persecution and kept the revolver as a souvenir, eventually giving it to a neighbor. He in turn made contact with the Museum when he was to be required by changes in the law regulating weapons possession to register the weapon or surrender it to authorities. For an institution like the Jewish Museum Berlin, where biographical narratives play an important role in the collections and in the permanent exhibition, this revolver would have been a very welcome ‘strong’ object, given the immediacy of its provenance.  continue reading


Swimming with Libeskind

Westside, Libeskind's shopping mall outside of Berne, SwitzerlandFor enthusiasts of the Jewish Museum, excursions to other Libeskind buildings are imperative. Many are thematically related to the JMB, such as the Felix-Nussbaum-Haus in Osnabrück or the Jewish Museum in San Francisco. But equally worthwhile are the buildings designed for entirely other purposes, such as Westside, a suburban shopping mall completed in 2008 over a highway outside of Berne, Switzerland.

Westside's inscriptionThe mall – despite, well, being a mall – shares many features with the Jewish Museum, which was Libeskind’s first building project. The well-trained, or perhaps overly-trained, eye may involuntarily pick up on architectural testimonies to German-Jewish history.  continue reading


Cycling Holiday

Maybe I should have fasted, but instead, I was rubbing my injured knee and wrist, picking up my bicycle from the road where I’d fallen.  

On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, one is supposed to reflect on one’s sins over the last year, to apologize to friends and family, to pray and to fast. And as it is the holiest of all Jewish holidays, it is widely respected in Israel, even by atheists. Trains, buses, and airplanes all stop running; shops and restaurants remain closed; even driving a car is taboo. And so, with the streets and highways empty and nothing on the radio or TV, it has become the perfect occasion for those of us who don’t take atonement all that seriously to go out for a bike ride.  continue reading