Kol Nidre and the “Civil Improvement of the Jews” – Controversies throughout the Ages

Religious ceremony with soldiers

Postcard “Kol Nidre outside Metz 1870,” gift of Liselotte Eschenbach, more information on the object in our German-language online collection
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

On 23 September of this year, we will celebrate Yom Kippur. As always on the eve of the Day of Atonement, synagogues will be overflowing with people anxiously waiting for the singing of Kol Nidre, a prayer (in form of a declaration) in Aramaic and Hebrew that implores God to forget “all vows, obligations, oaths or anathemas, pledges of all names, which we have vowed, sworn, devoted, or bound ourselves to,” either from the past year or for the year to come. This somewhat surprising imploration has caused many prominent Jewish thinkers to question the prayer’s validity.  continue reading

Shared Roleplay, Undermined Certainties, Red Rooms and Potato Peelers

A Conversation about the Exhibition “Obedience”

The exhibition “Obedience. An Installation in 15 Rooms by Saskia Boddeke & Peter Greenaway,” which has just been extended for two months, prompts extremely varied visitor responses. Atalya Laufer and Marc Wrasse regularly give guided tours of the exhibition. They talked to me recently about the experiences they’ve had, how they see the exhibition, and what they believe is at the root of visitors’ reactions.

Mirjam Wenzel: What form do your guided tours of the exhibition take?

A female visitor looking at a book, in the background other visitors

Visitor in the “Golden Room” with manuscripts of the three monotheistic religions © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jule Roehr

Marc Wrasse: We don’t so much guide visitors as accompany them on a three-step journey of discovery. We welcome the group and give a brief introductory talk, during which we point out that the Museum commissioned two artists to create the exhibition. Then, together with the visitors, we read aloud the relevant passage of the Bible—incidentally, the translation by Moses Mendelsohn—before leaving them to the exhibition.

Atalya Laufer: I prefer to use the translation by Martin Buber and Franz Rosenzweig.

Marc: But you too use roleplay, do you not, when reading the Bible story? That way, we make it clear that we want to explore the exhibition with our visitors and enjoy a shared experience.  continue reading

“I was never disengaged”

A Conversation with Rachel Heuberger on the Biblical Story of the Binding of Isaac and the Exhibition “Obedience”

An old man and a young man, a person dressed in white and a man dressed in dark colours with long red hair and a donkey, all moving on tarmac

Still from a film in the installation “Obedience”
© S. Boddeke & P. Greenaway, photo: Digidaan

The exhibition “Obedience. An Installation in 15 Rooms by Saskia Boddeke & Peter Greenaway” has been open for some time now at the Jewish Museum Berlin. As with every exhibition, this one meets the approval of our visitors to various degrees. Unlike other exhibitions however, the feedback – which often reaches us later – is different than what we might have anticipated. Indeed, this was the case with Dr. Rachel Heuberger, the curator of the Hebraica and Judaica collections at the University Library of Frankfurt. We spoke right after her visit about her thoughts and impressions.

Mirjam Wenzel: You just saw the exhibition “Obedience” by Saskia Boddeke and Peter Greenaway. How would you describe it?  continue reading