Trials of a Truth Seeker

The exhibition “The Whole Truth … everything you always wanted to know about Jews” opens next week. The curatorial team steps back to admire the showcases and compliment one another on a job well done.

Not quite. Let me guide you through my morning.

8:45    Arrive at office and stack my drawers with the healthy snacks I have purchased: bananas, apples and organic crispy wafers.

Doll in box with styrofoam

Unpacking the “Smash-Me Bernie” Madoff figurine, manufacturer: Modelworks © photo: Michal Friedlander, Jewish Museum Berlin

8:50    Walk over to the galleries to view the showcases, which need to be placed in their final positions this morning.

9:00    Galleries eerily empty. Project manager cheerfully mentions that there is snow on the Autobahn from Dresden to Berlin. A few showcases have made it through, but their legs are on the Autobahn. Will call when legs arrive.

9:10    Back to office. Time to authorize the final release of the exhibition texts for production. Make good progress. A colleague pops her head in and glances at the samples in my hand. She points her Smartphone at the texts that are printed on a color background. “Just as I suspected,” she announces, “the English texts cannot be seen by a color-bind visitor.” “How do you know?” “I have to check our web-site for maximum accessibility and have an app here that shows me how the world looks to a color-blind person. Did you know that 10% of men are color-blind?”

10:15    Decide to close office door. 2 bananas.

10:30    Receive scan of an image that is to be blown up to one meter in diameter in the exhibition. It is the stamp used by a rabbi in southern Germany to certify that products are kosher. He has very kindly agreed to make an image available to us. Oops. There is a typo in the first stamp: his name is spelled wrong in Hebrew. Never mind, there’s the second stamp. This cannot be true! It should read “Jüdische Gemeinde” (“Jewish Community of …”) but instead it reads “Indische Gemeinde” (“Indian community of …”).

10:40    Safety in numbers. I brave the snow and go to the team office down the road. We can review texts together. Already feel better. Cashews and dried cranberries for all. “Buddha has a capital ‘B’ in English, right?” my colleague calls out to me. I return the question with “Is ‘Mitznefet’ spelled without the first ‘t’ in the German transliteration of the Hebrew, like Bar Mizwa?” A reassuring “Ja!” We are old hands and have been pumping out texts here for the past twelve years.

Bernie Madoff-doll with silver hair and a pitchfork

“Smash-Me Bernie” Madoff figurine, after restoration, manufacturer: Modelworks © photo: Thomas Valentin Harb, Jewish Museum Berlin

12:15 The Bernard Madoff “Smash Me” doll has arrived, a trident-toting statuette of the criminal financial advisor. It seems he is very smashable as his head broke off during shipping. His glasses are missing, hair and eyebrows are uncharacteristically red. I call our paintings conservator: “I know that you have a lot to do, but if you have a free moment, could you give Bernie a make-over? His hair should be silver.”

13:00    Time for a quick lunch break. We are late to the Mensa. The fruit salad is gone and I am forced to have a large slice of rhubarb cake. Exhibition team exchanges info over the lunch table. The dress is still in Australia, the ceramics are stuck in customs: the invoice is inside, rather than outside the box. A critical debate: will anyone notice, apart from us, if there is a slight inconsistency in the wording of the credit lines in the labels?

To be continued…

Michal Friedlander, Curator for Judaica and Applied Arts

Comment by caroline bonwitt on 19. March 2013 at 17:53

always wanted to know what you did !

Comment by Deborah Horner on 31. March 2013 at 04:47

“Why do Jews think they are special?” …who made up that question? I am Jewish, child of refugees from Berlin (but barely), with a orthodox rabbi grandfather (Emil Bernhard Cohn of Grunewald….go see his bus-stop in Delbruck Strasse) and I have to wonder about some of the questions presented on the website and also some of the answers which I personally did not even understand. I would like to know who was involved intellectually in the formulation of this exhibit. Reading what I have so far, I really wonder about how it was conceived. I hope to visit the exhibit, but thus far, I do not have a good feeling about it.

Leave a comment