Jewish Life in Germany Today: Where Are the Young People? An Interview with Karen Körber.

Colour photo of a women gesticulating

Dr. Karen Körber, the first scholar ever to benefit from the Fellowship Program of the Jewish Museum Berlin © JMB, Photo: Ernst Fesseler

The Jewish community in Germany has undergone a profound change in recent years—and the protagonists behind that change are the primary focus of research undertaken by Dr. Karen Körber, the first scholar of the Fellowship Program of the Jewish Museum Berlin. For the last two years Dr. Körber has been investigating “Daily Realities: Jewish Life in Germany Today” and she recently spoke to me about her findings.

Karen, the Fellowship Program of the JMB supports research into Jewish history and culture as well as into broader-ranging aspects of migration and diversity in Germany. You are the first person ever to complete the two-year Fellowship Program—a pioneer, so to speak—and I’d be interested to hear about that experience.

I found myself in a very open situation and was able to do much as I liked. All fellowship programs are fundamentally privileged set-ups but this particular one has the advantage of being attached to a well-endowed institution of international renown.  continue reading

Conversion and Controversy

Why a particular subject captures the interest of the public at a given time is not always immediately apparent. Conversion, for instance, has become the topic of conferences, lectures and exhibits in German-speaking Europe without any notable change in its social significance nor religious practice.

Picture iMarilyn Monroe on the cover of the Modern Screen Magazine

Picture in the current special exhibition “The Whole Truth” accompanying the question: Jew or non-Jew? Marilyn Monroe on the cover of the Modern Screen Magazine, November 1956
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

The number of converts to Judaism is invariably small. According to the data collected by the Zentralwohlfahrtsstelle der Juden in Deutschland, on average 64 conversions are carried out yearly in the various German-Jewish communities, and since the year 2000, the number has remained fairly stable. Nor has the size of the Jewish communities varied much. For over a decade, the number of members has stabilized at around 105.000. In relation to the size of the community, the total number of converts since 1990, 1.366, makes up under one percent of the Jewish community. The number of Jews leaving the communities is slightly higher, around one hundred a year, yet the number is not particularly meaningful, because it includes people who leave for all sorts of reasons, including financial. By all accounts, today’s Jewish converts are a minute and exotic minority.

Yet the topic is currently being discussed with much enthusiasm.  continue reading