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On 23 August 2020, the Jewish Museum Berlin is opening its new core exhibition. Until then the museum will be closed for renovations.

After the Exhibition is Before the Exhibition

“Snip it!” as Follow-up to the Exhibition “The Whole Truth”

Martina Lüdicke

Our exhibition entitled The whole truth… everything you always wanted to know about Jews ended more than a year ago. Besides the animated discussions and empty display cases, there are thousands of pink post-it notes left over. Visitors stuck their questions, commentary, and impressions on a concrete wall after they went through the exhibition and left the museum.

A kind of analog “facebook” arose out of these contributions, above and beyond the contents of the exhibition itself. Visitors commented on each others’ notes and raised new questions: on the history of Jews in Germany, on the conflict in the Middle East, on the relationship between Christianity and Judaism, and – again and again – on the subject of circumcision. At this point, the Jewish Museum Berlin had already decided to dedicate not just another blog post to the contentious topic (as part of the series “Question of the month”), but an entire new exhibition.

We recall: in May of 2012 a district court in Cologne handed down a controversial ruling, declaring the ritual circumcision of boys by a doctor to be an infliction of bodily harm according to the criminal code. The court’s decision unleashed a broad public debate: what is religious freedom? Who determines what a child’s wellbeing is? How much disagreement can a secular society tolerate? Who is the “we” and who is the “you”?

Wall full of pink sticky notes

A wall full of questions at the exhibition The whole truth; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Thomas Valentin Harb

Close-up view of a grey wall with pink notes

Questions and commetaries about circumcision; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Martina Lüdicke

In our new exhibition Snip it! Stances on ritual circumcision we take this as our starting point, examining the question of what this ritual means from the perspective of the three monotheistic religions. To do this we are using the classic resources of a cultural-historical exhibition: painting, sculpture, and photographs, together with everyday objects and those associated with this ritual, as well as a whole series of film clips.

In preparation, we also took another look at the post-it notes with questions about circumcision. Starting from 23. October 2014, you can visit the exhibition rooms and learn why circumcision has played such a central role in Jewish tradition. The question of why Prince Charles is circumcised remains, however, unanswered.

Martina Lüdicke, Special Exhibitions

Citation recommendation:

Martina Lüdicke (2014), After the Exhibition is Before the Exhibition. “Snip it!” as Follow-up to the Exhibition “The Whole Truth”.

Behind the Scenes: Entries on the Exhibition “Snip it! Stances on Circumcision” (9)

Entries on the Exhibition “Snip it! Stances on Circumcision”

Interviews and stories by our employees, which were published as part of the exhibition Snip it! Stances on Circumcision, you can now read here on our website.

After the Exhibition is Before the Exhibition

Martina Lüdicke on the decision to dedicate a separate exhibition to questions of circumcision raised in the exhibition The Whole Truth

On Belonging and Family Debates

A conversation about a circumcision that didn’t happen

“I didn’t want to ‘get lost’”

Alice Lanzke talked with Rabbi Goldberg about the complaint that he was liable for “dangerous personal injury” due to the circumcisions he performed.

“It was only later that I had my doubts”

Mirjam Wenzel talked with Naomi about her thoughts on ritual circumcision, then and now.

David’s Circumcision

Shlomit Tulgan, who knows David from childhood, tells us the story of his circumcision.

On the Hamster Wheel of Argumentation

Andy Simanowitz, guide in the exhibition Snip it!, reports on stubborn questions and spirals of argumentation.

“Part of something greater”

Alice Lanzke spoke with Amitay and Meital from Israel about the circumcision of their son.

A Circumcision to Keep the (Family) Peace

Alice Lanzke spoke with a Muslim mother about the question: should her four-year-old son be circumcised?

“The best solution would be that the baby is a girl”

Jörg Waßmer prepared the inventory of Fritz Wachsner’s estate and got some insights into an internal Jewish debate about circumcision.