David’s circumcision: Why a question mark can also tell a story

Complementing our special exhibit, Snip It! Stances on ritual circumcision, our blogger team went looking for Jews and Muslims who could speak on the topic from a very personal perspective, whether for or against circumcising their sons. We called upon our networks of friends and acquaintances and received a range of responses in return. Some made us smile; others, like this one about David, gave us pause. It is retold to us by Shlomit Tulgan, our colleague in the education department who knows him from childhood:

Black and white photography: a man with kippa is playing Backgammon with two kids

Shlomit met David in the Jewish Culture Center in Berlin
On this photo you see a tutor of the Berlin Jewish Community’s youth center on Joachimstalerstr playing Backgammon with kids, Berlin 1992 © Photo: Michael Kerstgens, Jewish Museum Berlin

David was born to a secular Jewish mother and, at 22, chose to be circumcised in Berlin’s Jewish Hospital. His reason was to “get back to his roots and regain what his parents had denied him.” David was no “sad child,” remembers Shlomit, who met him most of all at the Berlin Jewish Community’s youth center on Joachimstalerstr. Seemingly every month he was in love with another Jewish girl, and he was popular among the opposite sex despite his nature to move swiftly from one to the next. The youth center was particularly supportive when the circumcision was performed. Recovering in a hospital bed, David’s Lebanese flatmate and friend  continue reading


On international and other remembrance days

Black-white photograph of surviving children of the concentration camp in Auschwitz standing behind a fence

Surviving children in the main concentration camp, Auschwitz. This still from documentary footage shot by Alexander Voronzow shows Tomasz Szwarz, Alicja Gruenbaum, Solomon Rozalin, Gita Sztrauss, Wiera Sadler, Marta Wiess, Boro Eksztein, Josef Rozenwaser, Rafael Szlezinger, Gabriel Nejman, Gugiel Appelbaum, Mark Berkowitz, Pesa Balter, Rut Muszkies, Miriam Friedman, and Miriam and Eva Mozes. Licensed for the public domain by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.

Seventy years ago to this day, the Soviet Army liberated the death camps Auschwitz I and II. Almost ten years ago, the anniversary was designated International Holocaust Remembrance Day. Although I’ve been reflecting on representations of the Holocaust in art, literature, and philosophy for many years, I remain irritatingly little affected by today’s date, January 27. In most European countries, official events will once again collectively recall that breach of civilization and commemorate those who were systematically murdered. So too will Germany. Here, the decision to officially commemorate the victims of the Holocaust on this day was reached in 1996—not least because  continue reading


“It was only later that I had my doubts.” A conversation about mixed emotions triggered by ritual circumcision

Black and white photography: The godfather’ chair and the infant carrier with Yair

Before the circumcision ceremony: the godfather’s chair and the infant carrier with Yair © photo: Birgit Glatzel

Naomi converted to Judaism six years ago. Shortly afterwards she became pregnant, went to live with her boyfriend Avishay in Tel Aviv, and gave birth there to a son, Yair, who was circumcised as Jewish law demands. In the meantime the couple has moved to Berlin and separated. Naomi recently showed me the photos she took at the ceremony and we talked about her thoughts on ritual circumcision, then and now.

Mirjam: What was your very first thought when you heard you were expecting a son?

Naomi: I was delighted. For Avishay and I, it was also clear from the get-go that we’d have him circumcised. But, to be honest, we neither gave the matter much thought nor prepared for it in any way. It is Jewish tradition to  continue reading