“Searching for the familiar in an alien setting”

Workshops for young refugees

Two boys writing their names on T-shirts

Whether in Hebrew, Arabic, or German, there are lots of ways to write one’s name; photo: private

What’s written in a Jewish marriage contract? As a minority, how do you secure your civil rights? And why is Hanukkah celebrated for eight days? My work as a guide at the Jewish Museum isabout how to coax stories from objects on display — but also about language. The first thing I did when I began working here about four years ago was to look up how to say “ruminants with cloven hooves” in French. You need to have this phrase at the ready if you want to explain Jewish dietary laws to a group of French museum visitors. My French didn’t help much, however, when I led the first workshops in August of 2016 for Welcome Classes.  continue reading


27th Federal Museum Trainees Conference

New program director of the Jewish Museum Berlin holds lecture for future museum generation

1) Dear Mrs. Meijer-van Mensch: over the last years you have worked for various institutions in different countries. What distinguishes the museum landscape in Germany from other countries in your opinion?

Portrait of a woman standing in a big open staircase. She wears a dark-blue blazer and a white blouse mit dunkelblauem Blazer und weißer Bluse, die in einem großen, offenen Treppenhaus steht

Program director Léontine Meijer-van Mensch puts much value upon the promotion of the future museum generation; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Yves Sucksdorff

First I would like to say that in Germany – contrary to the Netherlands – there is a widely supported notion that culture in general (and therefore museums) is important. It is stimulating to be able to work in such an environment. Before World War II German museology was very influential worldwide. After the war Germany lost its leading position and new developments in the international museum world were not always fully embraced. An example is the importance of education and the role of educators within the organization of the museum.  continue reading


Interactive Tracking in Berlin’s Spandau District — Attempt Nr. 1!

Commemorative plaque in form of a Magen David containing a broken relief of the synagogue

Commemorative plaque for the Spandau congregation’s first synagogue, which fell victim to the November 1938 Pogrom; photo: Jewish Museum Berlin

Spandau. Sixteen youths are carefully studying a memorial plaque in a building entryway. Interested young people with iPads in their hands are having an animated discussion on the streets of the old quarter. We’re talking about schoolchildren from the 9th grade at B. Traven Upper School tracing locations of Jewish life. They’re testing our online portal “Topography of Jewish Life in Germany,” which pools information on this subject for the first time and depicts it on an interactive map (our colleague Dana Müller has already reported on it here on the blog).

In the portal, the teenagers can also upload their own writing, photographs, and videos of places they discovered. They’re enthusiastically testing more functions, navigating by means of the digital map through the Jewish parts of Spandau’s historic district, clicking on apartments, reading texts, contemplating pictures, and relentlessly asking questions. Orientation is not an issue for them. So they make a lot of discoveries, for instance that the building that today houses a bank used to be a well-known “Jewish department store,” the Sternberg Department Store. They’re actually getting passers-by involved just by sharing their enthusiasm. At the end they ask us, the museum’s educators and project developers, to offer another such workshop again soon.

Building and commemorative plaque for Julius Sternberg (1879–1971)

Sparkasse Bank in Spandau’s historic district, once the M. K. Sternberg Department Store, and commemorative plaque for Julius Sternberg at the entrance to the Sparkasse Bank; photos: Jewish Museum Berlin

That’s how it was.
Well — that’s how we would have liked it to go the first time we tried out how to combine the online portal successfully with our mobile museum on.tour — The Jewish Museum Berlin Tours Schools (more about on.tour on our website).  continue reading