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Jewish Life Today

Screenshot of the "faces" module

© Jewish Museum Berlin

The Rafael Roth Learning Center presents Jewish life in Germany, past and present. In "Faces," Jews speak about their lives today and their attitudes towards religion and society, home and family, which differ as greatly as their lifestyles, their backgrounds and their ages. 

Aviel in his kitchen

Aviel: "When I first came here, the doner kebab question came up. You know… Should I eat one?"

Each series treats a specific theme. The first series, "What does kosher mean to you?" takes the Jewish dietary laws as a point of departure, from which to talk about rituals and traditions, family and friends, discrimination and exclusion. The interviewees discuss the liberty involved in abstinence, the allure of forbidden foods, as well as organic products and vegetarianism.

Irene in her apartment

Irene: "In GDR times, there was a kosher shop in Berlin, and the people who lived traditionally bought there. You'd meet the members of the community for a chat, a bit like in a village. After the fall of the Wall, the shop was closed."

Members of one Berlin-based family speak about celebrating Shabbat and about the difficulties they face, weekly, in finding kosher meat. We explain why Jewish custom separates milk and meat, and how to prepare gefilte fish. Having to rediscover Jewish traditions after 1989 is a subject for Jews from the former GDR and Eastern Europe. Others, by contrast, find themselves estranged by these traditions.

Andreas in front of a cupboard

Andreas: "Every family, every group, has rules. And those outside the group find it hard to understand the rules."

One question reappears as an underlying concern throughout: How can Jews in a non-Jewish environment live according to their tradition, not to mention develop their religious-cultural identity? Hillel pointed out: "The rules are like a suggestion… They are a frame for us to play with."

Shlomit, sitting on a sofa

Shlomit: "The way I see it, meat is fundamentally not kosher. Since an animal's blood can never completely drain, meat cannot be kosher."

The interviews document the diversity of Jewish life today. They suit the interactive and non-linear Korsakow-system developed by the Berlin-based artist and multi-media filmmaker Florian Thalhofer. A first selection of interviews were presented as a part of the exhibition "kosher & co" in autumn 2009.

Not all of those interviewed agreed to show their films online. We respect their request for privacy. As a result, we chose to show “What does kosher mean to you” in the Rafael Roth Learning Center only. Come and visit us!

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Specific aspects of Jewish dietary laws are explained in short film sequences placed among and between the interviews. This film describes the distinction between pure and impure animals.
© Jewish Museum Berlin, film: Florian Thalhöfer

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