Occasionally there’s an item in our collection that only reveals itself at second glance: for instance, this photograph of a group of men, taken in Lissa in the Prussian province of Posen, in 1913.
Walter Frost (1893 – 1968) with friends
Lissa, Posen, 1913, photography
© Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Edith Marcus née Frost
You have to look very closely to recognize what’s lying on the table. In the left foreground, next to the various traces of an alcohol-infused social gathering, is an issue of the magazine Ost und West (East and West), and further to the right is a donation can for the Jewish National Fund with a Star of David on it. These objects allow us to connect the barely 9 x 14 cm little picture with the Zionist movement.
The significance of holidays isn’t just getting a few days off of work and school.´This holds true as much in Israel as elsewhere. Tu bi-Shevat, the “New Year’s Festival of the Trees,” which falls this year on 26 January, fails to meet the admittedly not always religious criterion of holiday.
From our Tu bi-Shevat workshop for children, 2012 © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Nadja Rentzsch
But Israeli children at least have to spend the day in nature, because the custom on Tu bi-Shevat is to make an excursion into the country to plant trees. Most look forward to it; for some, however – and I as a child was included in this latter group – it’s a relief when the cultivation of trees is replaced by some other form of togetherness in the shelter of the classroom.
In fact, in the last fifteen years the tradition of planting that had already been nurtured by the Zionist movement has been increasingly augmented by a new tradition, that of the Tu bi-Shevat seder, whose name alludes to the seder (Hebrew: order) at the beginning of Passover. Continue reading
Maybe I should have fasted, but instead, I was rubbing my injured knee and wrist, picking up my bicycle from the road where I’d fallen.
On Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, one is supposed to reflect on one’s sins over the last year, to apologize to friends and family, to pray and to fast. And as it is the holiest of all Jewish holidays, it is widely respected in Israel, even by atheists. Trains, buses, and airplanes all stop running; shops and restaurants remain closed; even driving a car is taboo. And so, with the streets and highways empty and nothing on the radio or TV, it has become the perfect occasion for those of us who don’t take atonement all that seriously to go out for a bike ride. Continue reading