Shortly before Time Begins:

What We Won’t Be Showing, after All

In a few days, indeed in a matter of hours, our special exhibition “A Time for Everything” will open to the public: a display of both sacred and profane objects presented in the context of “Rituals Against Forgetting.” Almost all the objects kindly loaned us have arrived by now, walls have been painted, texts written, showcases installed, and the complete English version of the exhibition webpage will be launched in a few minutes.

Yet much looks very different now, from how it was conceived and planned initially. Up to the very last minute, we had to juggle decisions as to what should be done, and how, and to drop certain ideas that proved infeasible. We are currently shooting the exhibition trailer and already have some scenes ‘in the can,’ namely those which struck us as most interesting and promising. Yet doubtless also some of those will land on the cutting-room floor however — as did this statement from Cilly Kugelmann on the exhibition title and the meaning of time:

The theme of time, or, to be more precise, the Jewish perspective on times, is the primary focus of our forthcoming issue of the JMB Journal, too.  continue reading

A House on the Road

On 18 October, our next special exhibition “A Time for Everything: Rituals Against Forgetting” will open to the public. The exhibition met with great success at its previous venue in Munich. We therefore invited Bernhard Purin, director of the Jewish Museum Munich, to write a piece for our blog. He introduces us to an exhibit that is of relevance to this week’s holiday.

picture of a family sitting in the sukkah

A family in the sukkah, from our collections

The Feast of Booths (“Sukkot” in Hebrew, from the word “sukkah,” meaning “tabernacle”) will be celebrated this year from 19–25 September. Along with Passover (Pesah) and Pentecost (Shavuot), it numbers among the three pilgrimage festivals, and commemorates the forty years Israelites spent wandering in the desert after the exodus from Egypt. The Third Book of Moses (23: 42–43) ordains:

“Ye shall dwell in booths seven days; all that are home-born in Israel shall dwell in booths; that your generations may know that I made the children of Israel to dwell in booths, when I brought them out of the land of Egypt: I am HaShem your G-d.”

Booths have been built ever since and their roofs covered with foliage, in keeping with this commandment. Rural Jews in Germany often erected such booths in the attic of their homes, and this tradition has been taken up at the Jewish Museum Franken in Fürth as well as at its Schwabach branch. Yet mobile booths which could be set up in the garden before the festival, then taken apart and packed away for the rest of the year, were also common. One booth of this kind survived in the village of Baisingen near Rottenburg am Neckar, where a large Jewish community once lived.  continue reading

Hot Tears of Ice

A cold wind blows tiles off of roofs and hats off of heads. The first pages of Robert Schindel’s new novel Der Kalte (The Cold One), read here by the author, are stormy. The Austrian novelist, poet and essayist born in 1944 already won over his readers with his persuasive images and poetic language in Gebürtig (Born-Where), published in 1992. Here too, the atmospheric beginning is reminiscent of the first line of the expressionist poem “Weltende” (End of the World): “From bourgeois’ pointed heads their bowlers flew, the whole atmosphere’s like full of cry” (Jakob van Hoddis).

An expressionistic painting of an apocalyptic landscape

Apocalyptic Landscape by Ludwig Meidner, 1913
© Ludwig Meidner-Archive, Jewish Museum Frankfurt-am-Main

Yet in the first scene of Schindel’s novel a world unfolds: Vienna of the Waldheim affair, from 1985 to 1989. During the 1986 Austrian election campaign, a debate ignited around the conservative candidate, Kurt Waldheim, who was indicted for war crimes. In his autobiography, he had concealed his time as a Wehrmacht-officer. Represented in the novel by the figure Johann Wais, he professes “that he had done nothing that one hundred thousand other Austrians had not done, too.” This is precisely why he functions “as an involuntary clarifying machine.”  continue reading