“A Is for Jewish – A Journey through Now In 22 Letters”
Exhibition dates: 26 November 2018–30 September 2019
Press Release, 23 November 2018
The new exhibition A Is for Jewish – A Journey through Now in 22 Letters, explores Jewish identities and everyday realities in Germany today.
“The exhibition looks at the Jewish present day in all its diversity and contradictions,” says Léontine Meijer-van Mensch, Program Director of the Jewish Museum Berlin. Many young Jews are currently redefining their relationship with Germany – they no longer want to be seen solely in terms of the Shoah, antisemitism, and Israel.
From Aleph to Tav
Moving through the 400 square-meter space, visitors encounter three-dimensional letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Twenty-two spotlights illuminate the everyday lives of religious or secular Jews, the long-established or newcomers to Germany. There are around 200,000 Jews living in Germany. Half are registered members of Jewish communities, and 90 percent of those are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. The Jewish groups differ in origin, language, and religious practices. In the exhibition, photographs, videos, paintings, and ritual objects from the twenty-first century show how Judaism and Jews define themselves in Germany today. Among the artists on display are Zoya Cherkassy, Leonard Freed, Hadassa Goldvicht, Victoria Hanna, Barbara Honigmann, and Alona Rodeh.
Whether aleph, bet, or daled – each outsize letter draws the visitor’s attention to positions taken by Jews today. The path through the exhibition begins with ALEPH and Victoria Hanna’s video piece Twenty-Two Letters. One of the most dazzling Israeli musicians working today, Hanna turns language into sound with her Kabbalistic rap compositions. BET addresses the Bar and Bat Mitzvah ceremonies in which boys aged thirteen and girls aged twelve are received as adult members of the congregation. The letter DALED here stands for “de-integration,” and describes the provocative movement of a new generation of Jewish artists who reject the victim status assigned to them by Germany’s memory culture.
“Kids and Rabbis Love This Fish So”
Automatically kosher: the letter KAPH shows a gummy-bear automat, along with a display case explaining the Jewish dietary rules. These define which foodstuffs are kosher and how they may be eaten. To ensure the gummy bears are kosher (that is, fit for consumption), they are made with gelatin from fish instead of the usual pork gelatin.
Getting to Know the Mitzvot
A 1.5 m high mitzvot wheel, built specially for the exhibition, gives visitors a tongue-in-cheek introduction to the 248 commandments and 365 prohibitions to be found in the Torah. Constantly observing these positive and negative commandments is key to a religious life. This is the origin of the expression “to do a mitzvah,” for example helping someone out. Visitors spin the wheel, and based on the topic it lands on – tattoos, displeasure, grudges – receive explanations and practical suggestions regarding selected mitzvot.
What Makes Music Jewish?
There are many different possible answers to that: the language, the topic, the melody, the artist’s descent? In six interviews, musicians including Daniel Kahn, Ben Salomo, and Sharon Suliman offer personal insights into their songs and answer the question of what makes – or doesn’t make – their music specifically Jewish. The interviews were prepared and carried out by youngsters participating in the Refik Veseli School’s 2017/18 history workshop.
“Is ‘Jewish’ a Language?”
In a new departure, more than a hundred students from Berlin schools participated in creating the exhibition, contributing questions, ideas, and research. For example, they made the four artistic video commentaries for the letter VAV: “Wishes” (03:48 min.), “Clichés” (02:30 min.), “Questions” (01:57 min.), and “Shutting Down” (02:10 min.). The participation process was conceived and implemented by the artists’ collective SIDEviews e.V.
|Exhibition dates||26 November 2018 – 30 September 2019|
|Location||Eric. F. Ross Gallery|
|Admission||With the museum ticket (€8, reduced €3)|
For further information on the exhibition, visit https://www.jmberlin.de/en/exhibition-a-is-for-jewish
Supported by the Friends of the Jewish Museum Berlin