Confident Women in Veils

The Italian Writer Elena Loewenthal Reflects on Strong Jewish Women in the Torah

The current exhibition Cherchez la Femme, which explores religious dress codes for women from women’s perspectives, remains on display until 27 August (more about the exhibition on our website). When I first found out the exhibition’s theme, I immediately thought of the novel Attese (2004) by the Italian author Elena Loewenthal. (The title means either “expectations” or “times of waiting.”) In four extended sections, the novel tells the stories of different Jewish female characters throughout the ages. But the novel’s real main character is a mysterious veil that follows the protagonists from Biblical times to modern-day Venice.

two white head coverings for women displayed in the exhibition

Veils in the exhibition Cherchez la femme; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Mirjam Bitter

We can read the veil as a metaphorical vessel of Jewish memory that women have guarded and passed on, a vessel that embodies recollection and forgetting, tradition and renewal. Indeed, the reasons each woman in the novel dons the veil are not only cultural (such as marking mourning) but personal: each of them reshapes it, sews in her own threads, or at least cultivates an idiosyncratic relationship with the garment she inherited.  continue reading


“Informative, unexpected, rich in variety”

Our visitors on Cherchez la femme

For over three months, the exhibition Cherchez la femme has allowed visitors to explore the topic of women’s head coverings in three of the world’s major religions. Among other things, the exhibition demonstrates that the borders of (religious) clothing rules are constantly being redrawn and reinterpreted.

Since we’re very interested in the opinions of our visitors, we asked around about what people thought at the exhibition:

Christian (39), Ludwigsburg, pastor, teaches German and history

Which object did you like the best?

Gallery of different examples for headscarves

Different kinds of head coverings; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Yves Sucksdorff

The gallery with the different kinds of head coverings. I was impressed by the attention to detail. For example, I didn’t know how many differences

there were between headscarves, between Turkish and Arab styles.

What significance does your own hair have to you?

It’s important to me that I look good. I go to the barber regularly.

Would you say that you follow any clothing rules?  continue reading


“Searching for the familiar in an alien setting”

Workshops for young refugees

Two boys writing their names on T-shirts

Whether in Hebrew, Arabic, or German, there are lots of ways to write one’s name; photo: private

What’s written in a Jewish marriage contract? As a minority, how do you secure your civil rights? And why is Hanukkah celebrated for eight days? My work as a guide at the Jewish Museum isabout how to coax stories from objects on display — but also about language. The first thing I did when I began working here about four years ago was to look up how to say “ruminants with cloven hooves” in French. You need to have this phrase at the ready if you want to explain Jewish dietary laws to a group of French museum visitors. My French didn’t help much, however, when I led the first workshops in August of 2016 for Welcome Classes.  continue reading