Our “Diversity in Schools” Program: the Whys, Wherefores, and Lessons Learned

Coulerful tablet with sketches

A “graphic recording” of the ways in which schools and museums can cooperate more closely on diversity issues © JMB, photo: Jule Roehr

We learned a lot in the course of our three-year “Vielfalt in Schulen” [ViS] program, which the Jewish Museum Berlin [JMB] carried out in cooperation with the Deutsche Kinder- und Jugendstiftung [DKJS, German Foundation for Children and Young People], with funding courtesy of the Stiftung Mercator [Mercator Foundation]. Journalist Alke Wierth of the national daily paper, tageszeitung, recently helped us weigh up the results.

 

Alke Wierth: Looking back on what you had in mind when launching the “ViS” program, can you recall at which point you first thought: “Things are not going the way we planned?”

Rosa Fava, project leader, JMB: It was right at the start, at one of the meetings with the participating schools, where we discussed their expectations of the program. A lot of the stuff talked about there made me wonder: What on earth has this to do with our concept?

For example?
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Saskia Boddeke: “Their pain will be our pain”

Starting on May 22 the Jewish Museum Berlin will present the exhibition “Obedience” by filmmaker Peter Greenaway and multimedia artist Saskia Boddeke. Designed as an installation in fifteen rooms the exhibition refers to the story of forefather Abraham, who is willing to obey God’s command and sacrifice his son. The two artists use film projections, installations, precious objects, and sound effects and music to stage the biblical narrative as a sensuous and immersive showpiece. For Saskia the “beating heart” of “Obedience” is the film installation “I’m Isaac / I’m Ishmael” which will be presented at the beginning of the exhibition. Children and young adults from all over the world are now being invited to become part of this installation:

In order to encourage our readers to follow this call, make a video and send it to the artists “Blogerim” spoke with Saskia about the idea of the installation and her artistic vision.

Mirjam Wenzel: The biblical story in the Book of Genesis 22 starts with the voice of God telling Abraham to take his son to the land of Moriah for a burnt-offering. But your exhibition will start with the voice of Isaac and Ishmael. Why?  continue reading


“The best solution would be that the baby is a girl.” Insights into an internal Jewish debate about circumcision – in 1919

Shortly after the opening of our temporary exhibition “Snip it!”, the Jewish Museum received as a bequest the estate of Fritz Wachsner (1886 – 1942). Included in this delivery was a bundle of letters so enormous that I didn’t have time, in creating an inventory, to delve into each individual piece. But one letter caught my attention. “[…] Your assessment of the circumcision issue […]”, wrote Wachsner on 24. July 1919 to his – then very pregnant – wife Paula’s uncle Anselm Schmidt (1875 – 1925). I read on and suddenly found myself in the middle of a nearly one-hundred-year-old internal Jewish debate on circumcision.

Studio portrait of a woman and a man with a child, about four years old

Fritz Wachsner with his wife Paula and their first-born child, Charlotte, studio portrait, ca. 1916 © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jörg Waßmer, Gift of Marianne Meyerhoff

At the time, Fritz Wachsner was 33-year-old teacher in the town of Buckow in Brandenburg. In the five-page letter he clarifies the reasons for his hostile stance towards the Bris. He was an assimilated German Jew and belonged to a Reform Jewish congregation. As he explains to his uncle, he was “raised fairly orthodox” but, in the course of his university studies in Berlin and Jena as well as at the Academy for the Study of Judaism in Berlin, he learned “to know and appreciate the spirit of Judaism freed from every non-German embellishment”. He became persuaded that the religion should evolve continually and be “modernized and improved”. Wachsner’s maxim was: “Become German, outside as well as inside the religious community”, the overtones of which are especially  continue reading