A Kind of Family Gathering – Bitter Herbs and Their Relatives in the Diaspora Garden

Yellow plate with foods made of clay and the inscriptions: “Pessah” in the center and all around the edge “Chazeret”, “Beitzah”, “Zeroa”, “Maror”, “Charoset”, and “Karpas”

Shlomit Tulgan made this Seder plate from clay for our children’s exhibition on Passover; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe.

It’s Seder and the family is getting together. Some are traveling from farther away, others are flourishing right here. At the table are escarole, lettuce, parsley, kohlrabi, Belgian endive, and dandelion. But what about horseradish and red radish? They’re both late this year.

The story of the plants and their fruits that have particular meaning on the Seder plate at Passover could be told in various similar ways. They all grow in the Diaspora Garden, which you can visit inside the W. Michael Blumenthal Academy at the Jewish Museum.  continue reading

Happy Moments for a Curator
Ilse Bing’s Photograph “New York—The Elevated and Me”

A self-portrait shot by Ilse Bing on her first trip to New York in 1936 has been imprinted on my mind’s eye for a very long time. The image was up for sale only twice in the last twenty years. On the first occasion, in 2009, a vintage print went at auction for the princely sum of 25,000.00 EUR. Given its rarity and great market value, I imagined at the time that the enchanting image was unlikely ever to become a part of our collection. For me, it came to be the very epitome of wishful thinking.

black white photograph of the skyline New York with Ilse Bing in specular reflection

Ilse Bing, “New York—The Elevated and Me,” print from 1988 of the original negative from 1936. Jewish Museum Berlin © Estate of Ilse Bing


The photograph depicts a station on the Elevated (subway line) in New York and the reflection in a small round mirror of the photographer with her Leica. The title “New York—The Elevated and Me” underscores the hybridity here of cityscape and self-portrait.

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Preparing for Marriage and Minding the Past

interior view of a barn, prepared for wedding guests

The wedding barn decorated with lights and flowers
© Chuck Fishman

With young adults spending an increasing number of years out of wedlock, preparation for marriage is ever more elaborate: Bachelor and bachelorette parties in North America are notorious for distracting brides- and grooms-to-be with alcohol and promiscuity. Celebrations of a similar nature are called stag and hen nights in England. In traditional German circles, friends and relatives of wedding couples smash dishes on so-called Polterabend (English: rowdy evening). In modern ones, the couple and their friends careen through city streets with flashy paraphernalia, printed t-shirts, and plastic trumpets.

Currently, a group of young Jews in the US are adapting an eastern European pre-marriage tradition, called tisch (Yiddish: table, short for chosson’s tisch, or groom’s table).  continue reading