Jewish Life in Germany Today: Where Are the Young People? An Interview with Karen Körber.

Colour photo of a women gesticulating

Dr. Karen Körber, the first scholar ever to benefit from the Fellowship Program of the Jewish Museum Berlin © JMB, Photo: Ernst Fesseler

The Jewish community in Germany has undergone a profound change in recent years—and the protagonists behind that change are the primary focus of research undertaken by Dr. Karen Körber, the first scholar of the Fellowship Program of the Jewish Museum Berlin. For the last two years Dr. Körber has been investigating “Daily Realities: Jewish Life in Germany Today” and she recently spoke to me about her findings.

Karen, the Fellowship Program of the JMB supports research into Jewish history and culture as well as into broader-ranging aspects of migration and diversity in Germany. You are the first person ever to complete the two-year Fellowship Program—a pioneer, so to speak—and I’d be interested to hear about that experience.

I found myself in a very open situation and was able to do much as I liked. All fellowship programs are fundamentally privileged set-ups but this particular one has the advantage of being attached to a well-endowed institution of international renown.  continue reading


Generation “kosher light”— On the Lifestyle of Young Jews of Russian Descent

Tomorrow evening, 9 September 2014, the cultural anthropologist Alina Gromova will present her book “Generation ‘kosher light’” (transcript Verlag 2013) in the Academy of the Jewish Museum Berlin. As in the case of the many other authors whose “New German Stories” we recently discussed, we put three questions to Ms. Gromova prior to her reading:

A woman with glasses, black clothes and long brown hair looks directly at the camera

Alina Gromova © Judith Metze

Alina, for your study of an international group of young Jews in Berlin you took the city itself as your springboard. Exploring the locations where your subjects live, hang out, mingle and party enabled you to chart their diverse notions of identity, tradition and religion. Why did you opt for such an explicitly spatial focus?

Identity and tradition are terms often difficult to grasp, because they are interwoven with symbols, values, wishful thinking or memories. A space, however, has not only a symbolic but also a physical dimension and is therefore more palpable. Personally, I don’t see a space as a 3-D void waiting to be filled by people or things. On the contrary, people and things are what create a space in the first place. And urban space is especially fascinating, I find, because a broad cultural and religious spectrum often occupies one and the same spot, however tiny; and different elements simultaneously give rise there to their own spaces, so the result is a palimpsest of spaces that then interconnect.

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“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