Greetings from Berlin XI

Answers denied

An uncomfortable exhibition in the Jewish Museum Berlin

 A Rabbi is asked why Jews always answer a question with another question. "Why not?", he replies. 
Reading this text written in large letters on a wall even before the real beginning of the exhibition “The Whole Truth …everything you always wantedto know about Jews” I should have been warned. In retrospect I can only wonder why I was so naïve to expect real answers to the questions I have about being Jewish. 
I totally agree
But when I entered the first exhibition room I was confident to find facts and stories which would explain to me some aspects of Jewry I always had puzzled about. I was especially curious to meet the Jewish person which I knew was “exhibited” to answer questions of the audience. Would I have the courage to talk to him or her? How would I feel communicating with a human being exposed in a showcase? 

When I entered the first room I nearly stumbled about questions which were projected on the floor, like: 

What makes someone Jewish?
Are all Jews religious?
How can you recognize a Jew?
Is it possible for a Jew to be the German Federal President?

I went to the first exhibition unit, dealing with the question why Jews are the chosen people and thought that I just did not get the answer because I am not well-informed about theological issues. I did not understand what the exhibited Thora scroll in combination with one quotation from the Bible and another from Martin Buber should teach me. 

The Thora scroll
When I found the meaning of the second exhibition unit, dealing with the question “Why does everyone love the Jews?”, even more confusing I was frustrated. 

Why oranges?
Standing in front of unit number four – “Is a German allowed to criticize Israel?” – I suddenly got it! The showcase depicted a muzzle for German shepherds. 

The muzzle
Then I realised that the objects and quotations were not selected to give answers but to show that there is no single “true” answer to such complicated and charged questions. I would lie claiming that I enjoyed this moment of realisation and I felt like being made to look silly, perhaps because I am German. So I continued my tour a little bit sulky. But after having understood the principle of the exhibition I began to enjoy the contradictions and provoking exhibits. 

Installation with a variety of hats

Interactive unit
Somehow it fit in with the experience that the Jewish person did not sit in the showcase designed for him or her. Do you guess why? Because it was Shabatt. 

"Are there still Jews in Germany?"


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