“I didn’t want to ‘get lost:’ ” A conversation with Rabbi David Goldberg

In the summer of 2012, there was an intense discussion in Germany about whether the circumcision of boys constitutes bodily harm under the law. Preceding this so-called ‘circumcision debate’ was a decision by Cologne’s district court that criminalized the ritual circumcision of boys. A high point in the debate occurred when a German doctor registered a legal complaint against Rabbi David Goldberg, of Hof, claiming that he was liable for “dangerous personal injury” due to the circumcisions he performed. I spoke with him about the complaint, and about his feelings as well as the reactions that he encountered during that period.

Elderly man in a suit with glasses and full beard

Rabbi David Goldberg © private

Dear Rabbi Goldberg, how did it happen that you were reported?

That’s easy to explain: I’m known in Germany as a circumciser and I’m easy to find through my website. Opponents of circumcision were looking for a sacrificial victim and they found it in me. Because the people who made the complaints against me…

… there were more than one?

Yes, there were a number of them. But the people behind them didn’t even know me. They were simply looking for a scapegoat.

How was it for you during that period?

 continue reading

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

Pickelhauben, honor crosses and / or Germania? On the differences and similarities between two exhibitions about the First World War currently on show in Berlin

“Our inclination to hopefulness and expectations of a final victory are unabated and yet the long wait does at times begin to worry us.”

The cultural and literary historian Ludwig Geiger, son of the famous reformist rabbi Abraham Geiger, penned these lines to a friend on 5 December 1914. The “long wait” which had started to trouble him four months after the Great War broke out, ultimately dragged on for almost four more years and yet failed to bring the victory so yearned for. Soldiers at the time could barely imagine what massive destruction this first modern war would wreak. The paltry equipment with which they set off for the front is proof enough of that.

Dr Max Litthauer's Pickelhaube (spiked helmet) with camouflage covering, 1914–1918. Donated by Bart Ullstein © Jewish Museum Berlin, Photo: Jens Ziehe.

Dr Max Litthauer’s Pickelhaube (spiked helmet) with camouflage covering, 1914–1918. Donated by Bart Ullstein © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe.

On display both in the exhibition “The First World War in Jewish Memory” at the Jewish Museum Berlin and in the special exhibition “1914–1918. The First World War” at the German Historical Museum (DHM) are Pickelhauben, spiked helmets made of hardened (boiled) leather and with a cloth covering for camouflage—for a metal spike protruding above a trench and catching the sunlight made its wearer a sitting target. On my guided tours of the two exhibitions, I take the Pickelhaube as an opportunity to talk about how much this war differed from previous ones as well as how ill-prepared the military was, initially, for the new weaponry deployed.
 continue reading