A Circumcision to keep the (family) peace

In some families the subject of circumcision provokes intense discussion, as you can see in the films that are part of our special exhibition “Snip it! Stances on Ritual Circumcision”. Oliwia is familiar with this difficult situation: on the one hand her Muslim husband considers it a natural part of the tradition, and on the other, particularly her Catholic father argues vehemently against it. Should she have her four-year-old son circumcised? What does she think of the practice herself? We spoke about these questions with Oliwia, as well as about her final decision.

Oliwia*, what different factors affected your family’s conflict over whether to circumcise your son?

Black and white photography: Boys in uniforms on a stage

“Boys before their Circumcision”, photo from the series “Turkish in the Ruhr district”, Cologne, 1983 © Henning Christoph / Soul of Africa Museum

My husband is Moroccan and Muslim. My background is Roman Catholic, although I converted to Islam in 2006. We had a son four years ago and from the beginning it was clear for my husband that Jamal would be circumcised. It’s a part of the tradition for him and it symbolizes a man’s identification with Islam.

It wasn’t so clear for you?

No. Actually, I’m  continue reading


“Kiddush Asylum”

When I first heard that the Jewish congregation of Pinneberg is giving “church asylum” to a Muslim, I had to chuckle. The article about it in the online magazine Migazin put the words “church asylum” in quotation marks and used a picture of the dome of the synagogue on Berlin’s Oranienburger Straße – making the linking together of the three monotheistic religions appear intentional.

But now I heard from a friend that there’s a film about the Kiddush asylum at the Pinneberg congregation for a man from the Sudan, and I had to wonder why “church asylum” isn’t “synagogue asylum”.

The Kiddush is a blessing spoken over a goblet of wine at the beginning of a holy day, in order to sanctify the day. Church asylum, as I learned from the film, is actually about a sacred room that protects people who are under threat. The Jewish congregation in Pinneberg has one such room. And it is encouraging to hear – as the head of the congregation explains in the film – why they are using this space to protect a person, at least temporarily, from persecution.

Rosa Fava, director of the “Diversity in Schools” project


“Punk is not ‘ded’”

– a Youth Spent in Iran and Vienna

This week, from 21 to 27 October 2013, the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin, in cooperation with Kulturkind e.V., will host readings, workshops, and an open day for the public with the theme “Multifaceted: a book week on diversity in children’s and youth literature.” Employees of various departments have been vigorously reading, discussing, and preparing a selection of books for the occasion. Some of these books have already been introduced here over the course of the last months.
Multifaceted books for children and young adults
In her autobiographical graphic novel Persepolis, the author Marjane Satrapi, born in 1969, portrays the history of her native Iran as well as that of her own family. The two are closely interwoven. Marjane grew up in Iran during a time of upheaval: when she was ten, the Shah was overthrown and people danced in the streets. But the feeling of liberation was brief. Soon the new religious regime began to enforce its ideas of morality and decency. It forbade alcohol and Western music, insisted that even non-religious women wear the veil, and put opponents into prison or had them assassinated. Marjane’s open-minded, liberal parents are understanding and give her space and freedom. But she finds it difficult to adjust to the rules outside their home. She rebels against the dress codes, goes to parties, and argues with her teachers.  continue reading