The Whole Truth
... everything you always wanted to know about Jews
An exhibition of the Jewish Museum Berlin in cooperation with the Jewish Museum Hohenems
A Rabbi is asked why Jews always answer a question with another question. "Why not?" he replies. The response throws the question back to the asker, provoking him or her to rethink the matter independently. At the same time, refusing to answer the question expresses the belief that there are no right or wrong answers, but a large number of valid responses.
With the exhibition "The Whole Truth," the Jewish Museum Berlin confronts various questions about Judaism and being Jewish: the FAQs, the difficult questions, the funny questions, the clever questions, and the questions that really have no answer.
Some of them make the questioner uneasy, some are politically incorrect, while others betray something about the person who asks them.
How does someone become a Jew? What am I, if my mother is Christian and my father is Jewish? What is the Jewish take on Jesus and Mohammed? Are the Jews a Chosen People?
With an even-handed and witty touch, we present questions through extraordinary objects and installations taken from religious practice, everyday life and contemporary art.
"How do you recognize a Jew?"
One of the installations guides visitors through 70 Jewish hats, among them a shtreimel, a borsalino, a mitznefet, and kippot with motifs of a Mercedes’s star and Angry Birds – some are traditional, some are funny, others are commercial items. Some Jewish hats took their shapes from historical dress regulations and can be understood, even today, as signs of religious as well as ideological and political identification and affiliation. Other head coverings are discreet symbols of an affiliation that the wearer wishes to demonstrate to the outside world.
"Ask the Rabbi"
In a life-size film installation, visitors encounter rabbinic answers to questions concerning religious laws in everyday life. Seven rabbis in service in Germany provide information from various perspectives – orthodox, liberal, conservative, progressive – and to various questions: Can a person be Jewish without being circumcised? Can a Jew ever stop being a Jew? What is the significance of Jesus and Muhammad for Judaism?
In our blog you can gain insight into the shooting of this film.
"Jews in a showcase"
"Are there any Jews left in Germany?" This question is answered by means of a highly unusual 'exhibit.' At selected times, a Jewish guest will take a seat in a showcase and will – if desired – react to visitors’ questions and comments. If you would like to know the names of our invited showcase guests in advance, please consult our facebook-page or follow our tweets.
During the Long Museum Night on 31 August 2013, six guests will be in the showcase. For more information, see our events calender.
22 March 2013 - 1 September 2013
Old Building, first level
with the museum ticket (7 euros, reduced rate 3,50 euros)
Throughout the exhibition, literary and documentary voices speak about Jewish identity today. Visitors will not receive simple or 'right' answers, but will hear a multitude of opinions varying according to the speakers. The exhibition presents 180 objects which offer insight into Jewish thinking and inner-Jewish questions of identity, in particular those that develop in a non-Jewish environment.
"The Whole Truth" picks up on controversial social debates, asks counter questions and sensitizes the viewers to stereotypical images and patterns of thought. And, every once in a while, a question will be answered. For instance, on our blog Blogerim, or here:
The JMB Journal no. 8 accompanies the 2013 spring exhibition "The Whole Truth …everything you always wanted to know about Jews." In 100 pages and nine essays, it addresses questions pertaining to Judaism and Jewish identity that are echoed in the exhibition's topics. And so, for example, the Swiss literary scholar Caspar Battegay explores the possibility of representing "Jewish normality" in contemporary German film, the British columnist and documentary filmmaker Toby Lichtig analyzes the debates surrounding the practice and ritual of circumcision, the Berlin-based columnist Leeor Engländer zeros in on stereotypes, and the Talmud scholar Daniel Boyarin answers questions on Shabbat, sex and Satan.
Events Accompanying the Exhibition
Accompanying the exhibition, the museum offers a film series on the theme, an evening with three rabbis answering questions, as well as guided tours through the exhibition and a workshop for students and young adults.
30 May 2013, 7.30 pm
How can a Jew go to Heaven? One question, many answers
Program director Cilly Kugelmann interviews four practicing rabbi in Germany about otherworldly and commonplace matters, about dietary laws, sin, Shabbat and all that is important in Judaism. The rabbis represent four different religious currents: Orthodox, Masorti (conservative), Hasidism, and German Reform Judaism. They will answer questions from the audience about God and the world and throw light on their perspectives of Jewish theology.
Avichai Apel, born in Jerusalem, rabbi to the Jewish religious community of greater Dortmund and board member of the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference Germany.
Dr. Daniel Katz, born in New York, rabbi to the Conservative Jewish community of Weiden and founding member of the General Rabbinical Conference.
Yehuda Teichtal, born in New York, rabbi to the Jewish community of Berlin and chairman of the Jewish Education Center Chabad Lubavitch, Berlin.
Jona Simon, born in Bielefeld, rabbi of the National Association of Jewish Communities of Lower Saxony.
1 July 2013, 7.30 pm
From Exile in Paradise to Redemption in Hell
Jews and Judaism in Germany: past, present and future
Talk David Solomon in English
The encounter between German and Jewish culture has resulted in a remarkable story that has shaped the modern world.
In his unique and innovative style, globally roaming scholar, teacher and writer David Solomon will survey the complex and fascinating history of the Jews of Germany, with a view to addressing several basic questions; among them: what defines a Jew in Germany, and why are Jews living in Germany today?
1 September 2013, 12 to 4 pm
Ask me, I’m not Jewish
A showcase at the Jewish Museum Berlin has become famous. It is part of the current exhibition "The Whole Truth ... everything you always wanted to know about Jews." Daily except Saturdays since March, Jewish guests have taken a seat in the plexiglass showcase and answered the question "Are there still Jews in Germany?." This concept has been the source of worldwide enthusiasm, discussions, and criticism – an ideal opportunity to follow up with a further initiative.
1 September 2013, 12 to 4 pm
Old Building, first level
with the museum ticket: 7 euros, 3.50 euros reduced rate
Tel: +49 (0)30 259 93 517
Fax: +49 (0)30 259 93 409
On the final day of the special exhibition under the motto "Ask me, I’m not Jewish," guests will take a seat in our display case who are not Jewish but are often subjected to presuppositions due to their origin or appearance. Tuba Arikan has been invited. She is a German Muslim who grew up in an Anatolian family of guest workers in Berlin. As she wears a headscarf, she is confronted with questions about her identity always and everywhere. "Without an ironic approach to my everyday life, I would go crazy!" she says. She and three other guests will answer questions.
The following films have been shown as part of the "Monday Movies" series accompanying the exhibition:
Directed by Joel Fendelman
USA, 2011, 80 mins, in English
Daud is an 11-year-old boy from Brooklyn. After a misunderstanding, he is perceived to be Jewish, and called David. He makes friends with his peers, young Jewish boys, and is caught in a conflict-he is the son of an Imam.
Hats of Jerusalem
Directed by Nati Adler
Israel, 2006, 52 mins, original version with English subtitles
Hats are not just a basic protection from weather. This film explores the diversity of characteristic headwear in Jeruaselem. Behind every type of hat is a story, explored by the filmmaker Nati Adler in this quirky yet informative documentary.
Directed by Roberta Grassman
USA, 2012, 73 mins, in English
Everybody knows this Hebrew song: from the school choir or the version by Harry Belafonte, as party music or the background to sporting events. This film reveals the power of a single song that expresses and preserves identity, and tells stories while bridging cultural differences.
Im Himmel, unter der Erde
[In Heaven, under the Earth]
Directed by Britta Wauer
Germany, 2012, 90 mins
In her documentary film, Britta Wauer portrays a place full of life – the largest Jewish cemetery in Europe where burials still take place in Berlin-Weissensee. People from all over the world come here to visit not only the dead. A film about stories told by a special place.
Jealous of the birds
Directed by Jordan Bahat
Germany/Poland/USA, 2011, 78 mins, German/English/Polish with English subtitles
Why did about 15,000 Holocaust survivors stay in Germany after the Second World War? Starting with his grandparents’ story, director Jordan Bahat talks to survivors and their descendants in this documentary. A unique film about what it means to live as a Jew in Germany.
Jew by Choice
Directed by David Bernet/Robert Ralston
Germany, 2007, 54 mins, in German
Up to 100 German Christians or atheists annually register a request to convert with Jewish communities in Germany and Israel. This film shows how and why people choose to act on their desire to identify with Judaism, how they interact with their old environments, and how they are absorbed into their new ones.
Directed by Danae Elon
Canada 2009, 84 mins
An expectant mother wonders whether or not she will circumcise her son after his birth. Viewers accompany the filmmaker Danae Elon on her search for answers in this personal, funny, and at the same time thoughtful documentary.
Der Weg nach Mekka - Die Reise des Muhammad Asad
[The Road to Mecca - The Journey of Muhammad Asad]
Directed by Georg Misch
Austria, 2008, 92 mins, various languages (German subtitles)
In his early 20s, the Jew Leopold Weiss set off on a trip to the Middle East. He left Judaism behind him, converted to Islam, and changed his name to Muhammad Asad.
Asad is one of the most important Muslims of the 20th century. He was an advisor at the Royal Court of Saudi Arabia, a translator of the Koran, a founder of Pakistan and then its Ambassador to the UN.
When Two Sing
Directed by Richard Heidinger/Paul Brody
Germany, 2013, 75 mins, English original version
The trumpeter Paul Brody searches for the creative spark between Jewish culture and musical innovation in this low-budget production. While the trumpet asks, the big voices of Jewish music today respond – Alan Bern, David Krakauer, Adrienne Cooper, Steven Bernstein, Frank London, Theodore Bikel, Andy Statman and others.
12 August 2013: world première attended by Paul Brody and Richard Heidinger at the Jewish Museum Berlin.