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


Maggots, Cookies, Art

Of all the things you can get from a vending machine…

The maggot vending machine

The “maggot vending machine” in Berlin Wedding (further information (in German only) on “Der Wedding. Das Magazin für Alltagskultur”); CC-BY Gelia Eisert

Vending machines sell us a lot of the things we might need (or believe we need) through the day: drinks, sweets, cigarettes, inner tubes for bike tires, toothbrushes, and even anglers’ “supplies.” This last offer surprised me as a non-angler awhile back in the Berlin neighborhood of Wedding, starting with the lovely label “maggots.” I always make sure to take visiting guests by and show them too. As none of them are fishermen, they are always as startled as I was.  continue reading


There’s a Fair Upstairs,

or Why Toy Dogs Aren’t Allowed in the Museum

A small dog in a bag

Photo by Gertraud Zimmermann from an article on www.myheimat.de

Some time ago an entire extended family from Berlin wanted to visit the Jewish Museum Berlin, with grandma and the whole kit and caboodle—including their toy dog Choux-Choux. Heading in towards the permanent exhibition, every member of the family passed through the ticket check smoothly … except the father. This well-built gentleman was carrying a little bag under his arm—with a tiny dog peaking out of it.

The museum’s hosts amiably informed the patriarch that the dog was permitted in the lobby and museum garden, but not in the exhibitions. They did not, however, encounter much forbearance and a heated discussion ensued. The argument went, “This is a toy dog. He’s allowed everywhere!” The surprised hosts, who had up till that moment never heard the term ‘toy dog,’ followed up on the unresolved question: why in fact couldn’t Choux-Choux come into the museum?  continue reading