Joyful and Yet Threatening:

Why Lilith Fascinates Our Visitors

View of our permanent exhibition © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

View of our permanent exhibition
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

One of the tours of the permanent exhibition that I offer regularly is on the subject of women in Judaism. Visitors interested in this topic are usually women’s groups and people already familiar with the essentials of Judaism and Jewish history. I enjoy the lively discussions I have with participants of this tour. When we talk about the life of Glikl of Hameln, Dorothea Schlegel, Albertine Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, and Else Lasker-Schüler, or about Lilith and Eve, we’re also discussing women’s rights – and that means our own rights!

People have heard a wide variety of things about Lilith: “Doesn’t she appear in Goethe’s Faust?” “Lilith is important for fortune telling with cards.” “Adam’s first wife, before Eve.” Some think of Lilith as a threatening ghostly figure, and others named their daughter after her, since she also represents self-determination, independence, unbridled ferocity, and joyous sensuality. Her model of life contrasts with the traditional image of women – in fact, she is Eve’s foil. No wonder that the name Lilith is known above all in feminist circles.  continue reading


The Appeal of Playing with Limited Space

Since the end of August visitors to the permanent exhibition have been able to purchase small artworks from an ‘art vending machine.’ The artworks have been created by Jewish artists living and working in Berlin.

Paper mezuzah with pull-out comic strip

Paper mezuzah with pull-out comic strip by Zara Verity Morris
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

Today we present one of the artists: Zara Verity Morris from London. Morris is currently studying for her Masters degree at the “Institute for Art in Context,” at the Berlin University of the Arts. For the art vending machine she has created a comic strip called “The Mezuzah” on a pull-out paper scroll. (A mezuzah is a small case, which is attached to the door posts of Jewish households. Inside is a handwritten parchment scroll with the Hebrew prayer “Shema Yisrael” (“Hear O Israel”).

Christiane Bauer: Zara, can you for starters briefly explain to me why you produced this particular object for the art vending machine?

Zara Verity Morris: I found it an interesting challenge to play with the limited space of the art vending machine, and wanted to make something that could be unfolded once it has been taken out. The long paper roll was inspired by the formal connection between the Torah and a mezuzah.
When I was a young child, I found a few mezuzot in a drawer in varying conditions. A few had open cases. I was surprised to discover a paper scroll lying inside one of them with Hebrew writing on it. I was excited, and thought it was like a toy Torah. As a child, one of my favourite parts of being at a service at synagogue was the heavy Torah being ‘undressed’ by two people; getting its velvet cover and decorations taken off to reveal the plain paper scroll underneath. I decided to turn these childhood memories into a comic.

How does “The Mezuzah” fit into your previous work?  continue reading


Shortly before Time Begins:

What We Won’t Be Showing, after All

In a few days, indeed in a matter of hours, our special exhibition “A Time for Everything” will open to the public: a display of both sacred and profane objects presented in the context of “Rituals Against Forgetting.” Almost all the objects kindly loaned us have arrived by now, walls have been painted, texts written, showcases installed, and the complete English version of the exhibition webpage will be launched in a few minutes.

Yet much looks very different now, from how it was conceived and planned initially. Up to the very last minute, we had to juggle decisions as to what should be done, and how, and to drop certain ideas that proved infeasible. We are currently shooting the exhibition trailer and already have some scenes ‘in the can,’ namely those which struck us as most interesting and promising. Yet doubtless also some of those will land on the cutting-room floor however — as did this statement from Cilly Kugelmann on the exhibition title and the meaning of time:

The theme of time, or, to be more precise, the Jewish perspective on times, is the primary focus of our forthcoming issue of the JMB Journal, too.  continue reading