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.
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.
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.
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|
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?"|