Happy Moments for a Curator
Ilse Bing’s Photograph “New York—The Elevated and Me”

A self-portrait shot by Ilse Bing on her first trip to New York in 1936 has been imprinted on my mind’s eye for a very long time. The image was up for sale only twice in the last twenty years. On the first occasion, in 2009, a vintage print went at auction for the princely sum of 25,000.00 EUR. Given its rarity and great market value, I imagined at the time that the enchanting image was unlikely ever to become a part of our collection. For me, it came to be the very epitome of wishful thinking.

black white photograph of the skyline New York with Ilse Bing in specular reflection

Ilse Bing, “New York—The Elevated and Me,” print from 1988 of the original negative from 1936. Jewish Museum Berlin © Estate of Ilse Bing

 

The photograph depicts a station on the Elevated (subway line) in New York and the reflection in a small round mirror of the photographer with her Leica. The title “New York—The Elevated and Me” underscores the hybridity here of cityscape and self-portrait.

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“I see a land bright and clear,
and the time’s comin’ near
When we’ll live in this land, you and me…”

Pessach is approaching – the festival of exodus and freedom. This year, there is less talk of having the festive meal at large community gatherings. It is obvious, although unspoken, that smaller gatherings in the home make more sense. We are becoming alienated from our community centers through fear. Keep a low profile. Don’t speak Hebrew on the streets. Some people are removing the mezuzah from their front doorposts, a traditional object that visibly identifies a Jewish household. There is a mood of caution and nervous apprehension.

How did it get to this point?

Advertisement for the "Cycling Unites"-Critical-Mass-Tour in Berlin on 22 March 2015: Imam Ferid Heider and Rabbi Daniel Alter are cycling together

Advertisement with Imam Ferid Heider and Rabbi Daniel Alter for the “Cycling Unites”-Critical-Mass-Tour in Berlin on 22 March 2015, photo: Michal Friedlander

June, 2014
A drunken man rolls slowly off the train platform and plops onto the tracks at Friedrichstrasse station. Around sixty people witness the moment and look away, hoping that someone else will solve the stinky, awkward problem. And so it was. An Italian and an Israeli jumped down to haul the semi-conscious man to safety. The passengers walked around the startled little group, pressing forward to make the oncoming train.

July 2014
Dinner party small talk. The discussions nearest me are taking a more political turn and I am just not in the mood to talk about Israel. Too late. The young man next to me asks if I saw the recent pro-Palestinian demonstration on the Kurfürstendamm? He becomes very still and lowers his voice.  continue reading


David’s circumcision: Why a question mark can also tell a story

Complementing our special exhibit, Snip It! Stances on ritual circumcision, our blogger team went looking for Jews and Muslims who could speak on the topic from a very personal perspective, whether for or against circumcising their sons. We called upon our networks of friends and acquaintances and received a range of responses in return. Some made us smile; others, like this one about David, gave us pause. It is retold to us by Shlomit Tulgan, our colleague in the education department who knows him from childhood:

Black and white photography: a man with kippa is playing Backgammon with two kids

Shlomit met David in the Jewish Culture Center in Berlin
On this photo you see a tutor of the Berlin Jewish Community’s youth center on Joachimstalerstr playing Backgammon with kids, Berlin 1992 © Photo: Michael Kerstgens, Jewish Museum Berlin

David was born to a secular Jewish mother and, at 22, chose to be circumcised in Berlin’s Jewish Hospital. His reason was to “get back to his roots and regain what his parents had denied him.” David was no “sad child,” remembers Shlomit, who met him most of all at the Berlin Jewish Community’s youth center on Joachimstalerstr. Seemingly every month he was in love with another Jewish girl, and he was popular among the opposite sex despite his nature to move swiftly from one to the next. The youth center was particularly supportive when the circumcision was performed. Recovering in a hospital bed, David’s Lebanese flatmate and friend  continue reading