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March 29, 2013 4:33 pm

Berlin Jewish Museum Faces Criticism for Placing Jews in Glass Case for Exhibit

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Seven decades after the Holocaust, the Berlin Jewish Museum asks Jewish men or women to sit in a glass box and answer questions from visitors about Judaism. Photo: © Jüdisches Museum Berlin, photo: Linus Lintner.

Almost 70 years after the Holocaust, the Jewish Museum in Berlin is fending off criticism for hosting an exhibit, “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews,” which asks Jewish men and women to sit in a glass box and answer questions by visitors about Jews and Judaism.

Adolf Hitler’s Nazi government planned and executed the murder of six million Jews by 1945. Today “a lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask,” said museum official Tina Luedecke, according to Fox News.

“With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life,” Luedecke said.

But critics have voiced concern that the exhibit is not an appropriate way to educate the German public about Judaism. In addition to the glass box, another part of the exhibit includes a placard asking “How you recognize a Jew?” next to several yarmulkes, black hats and Jewish women’s hair covers. In another section, visitors are asked if Jews are “particularly good looking, influential, intelligent, animal loving or business savvy.”

As to the box idea, prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer, according to the Associated Press, rhetorically asked, “Why don’t they give him a banana and a glass of water, turn up the heat and make the Jew feel really cozy in his glass box?”

The Jewish museum curator, Miriam Goldmann, says the “in your face” approach is necessary to deal with a subject still painful in Germany for both Jews and non-Jews. The exhibit has attracted a lot of visitors. While sitting in the box, Ido Porat, a 33-year-old Israeli, was asked what should be brought to a Shabbat dinner in Israel and why only Jewish men and not women wear yarmulkes. Another person asked about Judaism and homosexuality.

Some German Jews and Israeli Jews volunteering at the museum are resigned to the idea. “With so few of us, you almost inevitably feel like an exhibition piece. Once you’ve been ‘outed’ as a Jew, you always have to be the expert and answer all questions regarding anything related to religion, Israel, the Holocaust and so on,” museum volunteer Leeor Englander said.

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  • leander22

    No idea why I find the Algemeiner mails regularly in my mail box now. Is there some type of marketing going on? Interesting how well the email collection methods work by now.

    That said, I am one of those horrible non-Jewish Germans, with quite a few Jewish, half-Jewish and/or friends who have only a Jewish father. For whatever reason I like a lot of the people of this “tribe”. And I love a specific type of “Jewish features” ironically since it reminds me of my non-Jewish grandfather, it is most visible when faces have some patina or life.

    That said, I find the idea slightly odd. But then it is not quite as bad as exhibiting “savages”, a couple of “savages” with the crowd around the cage nervously waiting for them to copulate, as happen a couple of centuries ago. No, the savages didn’t feed the pornographic appetite of the audience. Which is the best part of the story.

    Thus, dear Miriam Goldmann, I slightly lean towards Stephan Kramer’s perfectly visualized impression. Maybe you or your curators reflect more deeply about how to show that Jews are just normal people, some very lovely people among them, some very wise and intelligent ones, like my real and spiritual friends, but yes some not so lovely ones too. Just like any other group. For instance, in spite of all, the Germans.

    Another asks if Jews consider themselves the chosen people. It includes a poem by Jewish author Leonard Fein: “How odd of God to choose the Jews. But how on earth could we refuse?”

    Well, considering this from the slightly less superficial article from Haaretz, I may not belong to the target group. But strictly good Museum.

  • elan

    the glass box represents the german detachment that allowed them to approach jewish extermination as if it were a science project. this is the same jewish museum that hosted a woman advocating boycotts against israel. maybe they need to change the name of this museum to j-museum.

  • art frank

    Have any of the gentile visitors inquired about the Jews’ horns?

  • mark roseman, ph.d.

    why not have Siemens finance a wing on cultural diversity and feature live gypsies, homosexuals, retarded, black and others the Nazis did not successfully exterminate but now they want to preserve.

    The Germans are making schmucks of those they could not kill off.

    Its clear to me in the specious name of education, the Germans are having another field day with some of our Jewish spokespeople serving their German citizens much as capos did during WWII.

    The shame on the Germans continues.

  • Paul

    I don’t see a problem with it. No one is forcing them to answer the questions.