On belonging and family debates: a conversation about a circumcision that didn’t happen

Baby practising the sign of priesterly blessing

Circumsized or not, he is already practising … © private

Signe and Darrell have been together a long time. They met in the USA, have shared an apartment in Berlin for nearly 15 years, and now have two daughters and a son together. Signe’s family is Jewish American on the mother’s side, German Protestant on the father’s. Darrell is 100 % North American – in his family, you can find just about everything: Puritan pastors, Unitarian ministers, Mormons, Catholic liberation theologians, liberal Muslims, secular Jews. I talked with the two of them about circumcision and the role that Jewish tradition has played in raising their children.

You first had a daughter, then twins. One of the twins is a boy. Did you think a lot about the question of whether to circumcise your son while you were pregnant?
Signe: When I found out that one of the twins was going to be a boy, my first thought was  continue reading


“A symbol of hope and brotherly love”

An extraordinary gift

Golden pendant with the depiction of a women’s head

Medallion with the image of a saint © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jörg Waßmer, gift of Fred Kranz

Last week, museum benefactor Fred Kranz accepted our invitation to participate in two workshops in our archives. He met with two classes of schoolchildren, one from Döbeln in Saxony and the other from Berlin’s Tegel district. It was the fifth time in recent years that Mr. Kranz – who was born in Berlin in 1938 – came back from the USA to speak to students and their parents about his life. The Kranz family, which consisted of Fred and his parents, survived the war living on a farm that belonged to a former employee of his father, in the village of Kallinchen on Motzener See (Lake Motzen) in Brandenburg.

In 2004, Fred Kranz donated a collection of documents and photographs to the museum that provide an impressive record of Jewish life in the years immediately following the war. During his most recent visit, he gave us a very special – a truly unique – object. Here is the story of this piece, in his words:  continue reading


From poster stamps to animal card collections: on small collectors and big crazes

“Poster stamps?” A short pause, a puzzled look. “And… what are poster stamps?” This was more or less the reaction of every one of my friends and acquaintances when I told them these last months about ‘what I’m working on at the museum right now’. Namely, an exhibition on poster stamps.

Poster stamp with a man, out of his hat are falling poster stamps

Poster stamp from the publisher M. Fickel © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe, gift of Peter-Hannes Lehmann

Poster stamps, I would answer, are small promotional pictures, a little bigger than stamps. They were used as advertisements for products and stores just about exactly a hundred years ago. Some of the stamps were designed by well-known artists like Lucian Bernhard and people would collect them, particularly children.

I didn’t know much more than that about these poster stamps before I started researching for our cabinet exhibition “Pictures Galore and Collecting Mania – Advertising in Miniature”. The show begins on 4. December, 2014 and lasts until 31. May, 2015 at the Rafael Roth Learning Center. To learn more about the relevance that the stamps had before World War I, I began reading contemporary advertising manuals and magazines.
At first I found relatively little on the subject,  continue reading