What Memories Do You Associate with the High Holidays?

Employees of the Jewish Museum Berlin respond:

“When I think back, I remember first of all friends and family, followed by food – a whole lot of food.” Roland Schmidt, Host

“I remember the meals at my grandmother’s as so sumptuous and sprawling that I had the feeling I needed to fast not just on Yom Kippur but for the whole rest of the year.” Alina Gromova, Academic Employee in the Fellowship Program, and Guide

Drawing of a fish on a plate

© Alina Gromova, Jewish Museum Berlin

“To stay on the culinary topic, I can bring up the days when gefilte fish was still cooked at home. You would order two carp at the fishmonger – who was doing enough business in September to last the entire year, because the customers celebrating Rosh ha-Shanah would stand in line for live fish. You would carry home the floundering content in a metal bucket on the tram, accompanied by the cold glares of ditrustful animal rights activists sitting near you. At home a bathtub filled with water waits for its new inhabitants, who guarantee that personal hygiene of the other residents will be reduced to homeopathic measures for a few days. This unpleasant torture – both for the fish and the people – serves the purpose of desilting the carp. One day before Rosh ha-Shanah, the fish are killed with one purposeful blow to the head, which is covered with a hand-towel. They are then taken out and cooked, while other fish are cooked and minced in a meat grinder. What else must be done with the fish before they become gefilte fish on a plate for Rosh ha-Shanah, garnished with carrot slices on a bed of jelly, I can’t say. Together with the kreplach soup, this food would transport us for two days to another world, away from our everyday life at school, in the city, and even in the country where we lived.” Cilly Kugelmann, Program Director

Place card with a young couple and Hebrew letters

Place card with New Year greetings in Hebrew, from our collections
© Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jens Ziehe

“The High Holidays call up memories of fancy dresses and new shoes, apples, honey and children’s wine. In the 1980s, I remember playing with my sisters in the courtyard of Pestalozzistr. synagogue when services got dull. During the Wende-years, I attended Berlin’s first joint East-West High Holiday services at Rykestr. synagogue, which people were telling me was a historic event, though I remember finding them no different than usual. In the 1990s, I spent the High Holidays sitting on the floor of the Toronto Jewish Community Center gymnasium, which the egalitarians, who were skeptical of religious decor, converted into a synagogue.” Naomi Lubrich, Media

Screenshot of our Online Showcase with different postcards

In our Online Showcase you will find Rosh ha-Shana postcards from the past.

“Above all I remember family reunions in Paris. We would have 20 people seated at the table and my great-aunt Liliane Weinberg cooked the most delicious food. Since she and my great-uncle Marcel died, the family has more or less drifted apart and we only meet sporadically for family celebrations. In Paris we would either walk to the synagogue on the Rue Buffault or to the Grande Synagogue de la Victoire. It only occurs to me in retrospect how lively, young, and dynamic the congregation in Paris is, in comparison with Berlin.” Sarah Hiron, Education

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