Neither King David nor Cilly Kugelmann can solve this problem

On the difficulties the organizers of the “Welcome to Jerusalem” exhibition encountered doing justice to the ideal of justice

The colour photo shows the façade of the Jewish Museum Berlin with a traffic sign with the inscription "Welcome to Jerusalem" in English, Arabic and Hebrew.

The much-discussed sign outside the museum, Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Jule Roehr

In the Islamic tradition and in the Koran itself, the biblical story of David and Uriah is told in a metaphorical form that differs from the version in the Bible (Koran: Sura 38/21–25): two brothers come to King David and ask him to settle a dispute between them. One of them describes the situation. He tells David that his brother has 99 ewes, but he himself only has one. Now his brother was pressuring him to give him his only ewe. Directly after this brief depiction, David passes his judgment: the one brother’s desire to add the one ewe to his 99 was an injustice to the other brother. The judgment could have been the end of the story, had David not suddenly realized that his decision was unjust. He regretted it deeply. Many Muslim commentators have discussed the sudden turn in the story. One explanation for why the judgment is unjust despite the clarity of the situation is that David made his decision after hearing only one side. In this interpretation, the moral of the story is that in conflicts or disputes, both sides must be allowed to present their perspectives and arguments.  continue reading


Complex, interwoven, and emotional

Experts discuss political adult education on the Middle East conflict

Various brochures lie on a table, with titles such as "Where does hatred of Jews come from?"

Many educational providers offer materials for confronting anti-Semitism pedagogically; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Nadja Rentzsch

“Emotional” and “complex” are words often used to describe the Middle East conflict and approaches to it. How should it be handled in the everyday practice of education and continuing education? This is one of the questions in my research project “Didactics of the Middle East Conflict,” which I am conducting as a W. M. Blumenthal Fellow (more about the project on the museum website).

At a university or an institute, generally there is a research colloquium full of people working on similar themes, or who at least come from the same discipline. In such colloquia, one can present new work, discuss initial findings, get feedback about dealing with difficulties, and discover stimulating new ideas. At a museum, people engage with a great variety of topics, but not with empirical research on the didactics of the Middle East conflict. And so on September 8th, I invited external experts on educational work relating to the Middle East conflict, anti-Semitism, and racism to come to the museum. We discussed teaching and learning on this subject with members of the Education Department and the museum’s Academy Programs.  continue reading


“And next Sunday, no one will be thinking of the election anymore”

The 1930 German Federal Election

Black-and-white photograph of a man wearing a suit and glasses reading a newspaper while sitting at a table

Heinz Arzt reading the newspaper, 1920; Jewish Museum Berlin, gift of Hilde Pearton, née Bialostotzky

Recently I was leafing through the inventory listing of a family collection that has been in our archives for many years. I wanted to rework the index in order to bring it up to our current standards. The collection included documents, photographs, and objects from the Arzt and Bialostotzky families. In the twenty-three page inventory, a letter was listed for the Berlin liqueur manufacturer Heinz Arzt (1866–1931) in the category “correspondence,” but neither a sender nor recipient was listed, to say nothing of its contents. The extremely brief description went: “Letter: hand-written, 14 Sept. 1930.”

So I went into the archives and pulled the document numbered 2001/219/28 from box 451 to complete the listing. Suddenly, I was holding a fascinating piece of history in my hands: the so-called letter turned out to be a brief report on the Reichstag election eighty-seven years ago.  continue reading