The Festival of Liberation at the Front
Yesterday evening, Monday, 14 April 2014, was the start of the eight-day Passover festivities. These kick off each year with the first Seder, the name of which derives from the Hebrew word seder, meaning order, because a particular ritual sequence is observed the entire evening.
The ritual Seder program is laid down in the Haggadah, an often beautifully illustrated book. (Incidentally, some especially precious Haggadot are currently on display in our special exhibition “The Creation of the World” and our director of archives recently described in his blog why even a nondescript Haggadah might be of great value to a museum.) Traditional texts and songs are recited from the Haggadah. Symbolic dishes and drinks deck the tables, ready to be consumed at specific moments during the evening.
German soldiers celebrate Passover in the occupied town of Jelgava (near Riga). © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: anonymous. Donated by Lore Emanuel
But why is this night different from all other nights? This is a question that Jews all over the world ask themselves year after year at the Seder dinner. The answer is: it is the festival of liberation, for it commemorates the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in ancient Egypt. Everyone is supposed to feel, each year, as if she or he personally is about to leave Egypt. As a token of tribute to this new-won freedom, people comfortably recline while eating and drinking—for to take this position was the prerogative solely of free individuals in antiquity, not of slaves. → continue reading
Menurkeys for Thanksgivukkah?
Research under way in preparation for Thanksgivukkah
Photo: Signe Rossbach
Chanksgiving! As a family of German-American Jewish-Protestant-Catholic-Puritan backgrounds, we do like to celebrate as many holidays as we can possibly fit into our family schedule – with Halloween, our twins’ birthday and the classic German lantern parade for St. Martin’s day making for an action packed twelve days at the beginning of November.
After a bit of a breather we’re heading into the next holiday season – with a bit of a twist this year. Usually Hanukkah – the Jewish festival of lights and miracles – is associated with the Christian festival of lights and a miraculous birth: Christmas. And that makes sense, sort of, superficially at least. A few years ago we had an entire exhibition titled “Chrismukkah” – a cultural history of the evolution of the two holidays, and this year on December 3, Rabbi Daniel Katz will present a truly enjoyable talk on how they really don’t fit together at all.
But Thanksgiving? → continue reading
Employees of the Jewish Museum Berlin respond:
“When I think back, I remember first of all friends and family, followed by food – a whole lot of food.” Roland Schmidt, Host
“I remember the meals at my grandmother’s as so sumptuous and sprawling that I had the feeling I needed to fast not just on Yom Kippur but for the whole rest of the year.” Alina Gromova, Academic Employee in the Fellowship Program, and Guide
© Alina Gromova, Jewish Museum Berlin
“To stay on the culinary topic, I can bring up the days when gefilte fish was still cooked at home. You would order two carp at the fishmonger – who was doing enough business in September to last the entire year, because the customers celebrating Rosh ha-Shanah would stand in line for live fish. You would carry home the floundering content in a metal bucket on the tram, accompanied by the cold glares of ditrustful animal rights activists sitting near you. → continue reading