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Houses made from red and white and blue checkered plastic travel bags, sitting on cardboard boxes

matchmaker matchmaker

Constructions in the Global Shtetl / Longing for a Better Past

The Anatevka shtetl in the Ukraine was made famous around the world by the musical Fiddler on the Roof. Since the 1960s American Jews in particular have projected onto this surface their own idyllic notions of the pre-Holocaust past of East European Jewry. In the installation matchmaker matchmaker, Matthias Böttger and Max Schumacher juxtaposed this idealized image of the culturally homogenous past with the complex present.

Past exhibition

Map with all buildings that belong to the Jewish Museum Berlin. The Libeskind building is marked in green


Libeskind Building level 2, permanent exhibition, segment “The Present”
Lindenstraße 9–14, 10969 Berlin

The installation focuses on issues of urban-planning and identity, working with the idea of a “globalized” shtetl. Video images of shtetls and large cities by the Japanese artist Hiroko Tanahashi are shown inside twelve miniature, stylized houses. These are covered with the same colorful checkered burlap used to make what in Germany are known as “Polish suitcases.” Emigrants the whole world over use such bags to transport their belongings from one home to another. The houses in this global shtetl are significant in two ways: as suitcases, they evoke restlessness, as houses they symbolize rootedness.

The installation draws on three sources of inspiration: the Yiddish stories of Sholem Aleichem, the musical Fiddler on the Roof (by Joseph Stein, Broadway premiere in 1964, itself based on stories by Aleichem), and the film version of the musical (USA 1971, director: Norman Jewison). The installation takes its name from the musical's catchiest tune, matchmaker, matchmaker.

Exhibition Information at a Glance

  • When 26 Jun to 27 Sep 2003
  • Where Libeskind Building level 2, permanent exhibition, segment “The Present”
    Lindenstraße 9–14, 10969 Berlin
    See location on map
Two men between houses made of checkered plastic bags on cardboard boxes, in the background a projection

Max Schumacher and Matthias Böttger at the opening; Jewish Museum Berlin, photo: Sönke Tollkühn

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