The Whole Truth
...Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Jews
The Whole Truth... everything you always wanted to know about Jews
With this exhibition, the Jewish Museum Berlin confronted various questions about Judaism and being Jewish: the FAQs, the difficult questions, the funny questions, the clever questions, and the questions that really have no answer.
Some of them made the questioner uneasy and some were politically incorrect, while others revealed something about the person who asked them.
How does someone become a Jew?
If my mother is Christian and my father is Jewish, what am I?
Is it okay to make jokes about the Holocaust?
Are the Jews the "Chosen People"?
With an even-handed and witty touch, we presented such questions through extraordinary objects and installations taken from religious practice, everyday life, and contemporary art.
"How do you recognize a Jew?"
One of the installations in the exhibition guided visitors through seventy items of Jewish headwear, among them a shtreimel, a borsalino, a mitznefet, and kippot bearing the Mercedes logo and Angry Birds. Some are traditional, some funny, and others commercialized.
Some Jewish hats took their shapes from historical dress regulations and can be understood, even today, as signs of religious as well as ideological and political identification and affiliation. Other head coverings are coded symbols of an affiliation that the wearer wishes to demonstrate to the outside world.
Ask the Rabbi
In a life-size film installation, visitors encountered rabbinical answers to questions about religious laws. Seven rabbis with current positions in Germany answered a wide assortment of questions about how religious laws should be applied in everyday life: Can a person be Jewish without being circumcised? Can a Jew ever stop being a Jew? What is the significance of Jesus and Muhammad for Judaism? (You can read a post on the Jewish Museum Berlin's blog about the filming process.)
Jews in a Display Case
"Are there any Jews left in Germany?" This question is answered by means of a highly unusual "display." Various Jewish guests, including the singer Peaches, spent an hour or two each on a chair in an open display case in the exhibition and responded to the visitors' questions and comments.
Two of our guests kindly reflected on their experiences in the display case in posts for the Jewish Museum Berlin's blog: "From Wagner to the Weather: My Two Hours as a Living Exhibition Object in the Show 'The Whole Truth,'" by Signe Rossbach, and "In the Showcase" by Olga Mannheimer.
Throughout the exhibition, literary and personal voices spoke about Jewish identity today. Rather than receiving clear or "correct" answers, visitors heard a multitude of perspectives that varied by the individual responding. The exhibition presented a total of 180 objects that offered insight into Jewish thinking and intra-Jewish questions of identity, particularly in relation to the non-Jewish environment.
The Whole Truth took up controversial social debates, responded with counter-questions, and raised museumgoers' awareness of stereotypical images and preconceptions. And, every once in a while, a question was simply answered – for example, on Blogerim, the Jewish Museum Berlin's blog.
An exhibition of the Jewish Museum Berlin in cooperation with the Jewish Museum Hohenems.