“I wish more people would look in my eyes instead of at my scarf”

A Conversation with Fereshta Ludin about the Headscarf Debate, Discrimination, and Her Hopes for the Future.

To win the right to work as a teacher in the classroom while wearing her headscarf, Fereshta Ludin had to go all the way to the German Supreme Court (see below). On 17 September 2015, she will join us as part of the series “New German Stories” to introduce her book Enthüllung der Fereshta Ludin. Die mit dem Kopftuch (“The Unveiling of Fereshta Ludin: The One with the Headscarf”). Rafiqa Younes and Julia Jürgens spoke with her in the lead-up to the event.

Book cover with a photo of a woman with head scarf

Book cover © Deutscher Levante Verlag

Ms. Ludin, did you ever guess that the first lawsuit you filed against your employers, in 1998 when you were 25 years old, would set off a nationwide debate about the headscarf ban?

You can’t really imagine something like that. I was still very young and idealistic. I wanted to work as a teacher and had no intention of provoking the public or any politicians.

From your perspective, was it worth it to go all that way through courts, becoming, as you did, a public figure – “the one with the headscarf” as the title of your book ironically references?

I don’t regret a single step along the way. I would have regretted much more, to have had to endure the injustice. I took an active stand against discrimination by going through the courts. Many other women were also affected. It was never my aim to become a public person.  continue reading

Question of the month: “Why do women have to cover their hair with a wig or scarf after getting married?”

A wall full of questions at the exhibition "The whole truth" © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Thomas Valentin Harb

A wall full of questions at the exhibition “The whole truth” © Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Thomas Valentin Harb

Just over a year ago the Jewish Museum’s special exhibition entitled “The whole truth… everything you always wanted to know about Jews” ended. The only remnants – aside from the animated discussions and empty display cases – were thousands of pink post-it notes, which we kept and read through painstakingly. In the upcoming months we want to respond to some of the questions, comments, and impressions that visitors left behind. Thus to the question above.

Orthodox women do not show their hair in public after their wedding.  continue reading

Forgotten Women Artists

An Appeal for Recognition and Dignity

“We used to throw stones at her – we thought she was a witch.” With these words, a former resident of Rishon LeZion ruefully told me of her childhood encounters with the sculptor and doll maker, Edith Samuel. Edith wore her long, dark, European skirts under the searing Middle Eastern sun and suffered from a physical deformity. The daughter of a liberal German rabbi, Edith and her sister Eva were both artists who left their home city of Essen in the 1930s and immigrated to Palestine.

photo of a pottery wheel and other equipment

The pottery wheel belonging to Paula Ahronson, Eva Samuel’s business partner, is preserved in private hands and untouched since her death in 1998
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Michal Friedlander

The Samuel sisters worked long hours, struggled to earn a living and did not gain the recognition that they deserved, during their lifetimes. The exhibition “Tonalities” at the Jewish Museum Berlin aims to bring forgotten women artists back into the public arena. It presents Eva Samuel’s works and that of other women ceramicists who were forced to leave Germany after 1933.

My search for transplanted German, Jewish women in the applied arts began many years prior to my encounter with the Samuel sisters. It was Emmy Roth who first captured my attention. Born in 1885, Roth was an exceptionally talented and internationally successful silversmith, who worked in Berlin. She immigrated to Palestine and fell into obscurity, ultimately taking her own life in 1942. Her male refugee colleagues, Ludwig Wolpert and David Gumbel, were appointed to teach metalwork at the Jerusalem New Bezalel School of Art in the late 1930s. They are feted in Israel today, whereas Roth is still completely unknown there.  continue reading