My name is Adam Joachim “A.J.” Goldmann. I’m a cultural journalist and critic, living in Berlin since 2007. I have a column on German theater for the New York Times and also write about music, film, and art for The Wall Street Journal, The Forward, Opera News Magazine, and Tablet.
Where did the idea for your portrait’s staging and setting come from?
The Book Burning Memorial on Bebelplatz was one of the very first places I visited when I came to Berlin for the first time in 2003. I was deeply moved by the memorial itself, which marks the absence of a presence, as well as the fact that this display of barbarism took place there of all places, between Humboldt University and the Staatsoper Unter den Linden, at the center of this axis of high culture and education. Years later, as an opera critic, I started spending time at that opera house. Whenever I walk across Bebelplatz during intermissions, I think about the bizarreness of the history of this country and this city where barbarity and civilization are so closely linked.
How do you experience Jewish life in Berlin?
In Berlin, I’ve always tried to create my own kehilla outside the official community with homemade Shabbat and holiday meals where I bring together my Jewish and non-Jewish friends and they gorge themselves. I’m from New York, where there are synagogues and minyans for every possible persuasion of Judaism and Jewishness. And yet I constantly have the feeling that the shul for me hasn’t been built yet. I’m very happy about all the young, alternative initiatives that you can find these days in Kreuzberg, for example, and I only wish they had already existed 14 years ago when I was new in Berlin and didn’t have to travel all over the place.
Describe your life in Berlin in three adjectives.
Improvised, unorthodox (but not in Deborah Feldman’s use of the word!), individual.
What would your wish be for the future of Jewish life in Berlin?
My wish is for Jewish life in Berlin to keep getting more creative, more intellectually curious, more open, and more colorful. More self-confident, brave, and prepared (including on an official level) to accept new, unconventional, cultural ideas and representations of Judaism and Jewishness. I also wish that one day non-Jewish Germans would understand Curb Your Enthusiasm.
Jewish Museum Berlin (2021), Adam Joachim Goldmann. Interview and Photo from the Frédéric Brenner – ZERHEILT: HEALED TO PIECES Exhibition Opening.