JBuzz News January 21, 2014: UNESCO exhibit on Jewish ties to Israel rescheduled for June




UNESCO exhibit on Jewish ties to Israel rescheduled for June

Source: Times of Israel, 1-21-13

UNESCO's Director General Irina Bokova poses with the Simon Wiesenthal Center's Rabbi Marvin Hier and a poster for the exhibit on the Jewish people's 3,500 connection to the land of Israel which she subsequently cancelled. (photo credit: Courtesy Simon Wiesenthal Center)

UNESCO’s Director General Irina Bokova poses with the Simon Wiesenthal Center’s Rabbi Marvin Hier and a poster for the exhibit on the Jewish people’s 3,500-year connection to the land of Israel, which she subsequently cancelled. (photo credit: Courtesy Simon Wiesenthal Center)

UN body had faced storm of criticism for canceling ‘People, Book, Land: The 3,500 Year Relationship of the Jewish People to the Holy Land’ show under Arab pressure, claiming it could ‘endanger peace process’…READ MORE


JBuzz News June 13, 2013: Exhibition at Auschwitz-Birkenau Honors Children of Holocaust




Exhibition at Auschwitz-Birkenau Honors Children of Holocaust

Janek Skarzynski/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel found the name of Judith, the twin sister of his father-in-law, among the Book of Names exhibit at Auschwitz-Birkenau on Thursday.

Source: NYT, 6-13-13

A multimedia exhibition that tries to push visitors beyond their knowledge of the facts of the Nazis’ Final Solution was dedicated on Thursday….READ MORE

JBuzz News January 27, 2013: Yad Vashem marks worldwide commemoration of International Holocaust Remembrance Day




Yad Vashem marks worldwide commemoration

Source: Jerusalem Post, 1-27-13

“Gathering the Fragments” brings in collection of personal items at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem….READ MORE

Jane Davis: Poet Emma Lazarus embodied Jewish values




Jane Davis: Poet Emma Lazarus embodied Jewish values

Source: Huntsville Times, 11-18-11

Emma Lazarus: Nov. 14, 2011 Emma Lazarus: Nov. 14, 2011

Jane Davis, a professor of history and religion, invites visitors to the exhibit about poet Emma Lazarus and the Statue of Liberty. at Athens-Limestone Public Library through Dec. 16, 2011. (The Huntsville Times/Kay Campbell) Watch video

Emma Lazarus, the poet and essayist who wrote the famous “Give me your tired, your poor” lines now enshrined in the base of the Statue of Liberty, came from one of the founding families of the United States.
But during the frenzied years around the Civil War, she found herself, because her family was Jewish, cast as an outsider as virulent anti-Semitism began to rise in the U.S.

Lazarus’ own paradoxical insider-outsider status as well as Judaism’s emphasis on the importance of caring for the community created in the mostly secular poet a deep sympathy for the immigrants crowding into her native New York City during the post-war period, says Jane Davis, who has taught history and religion at Calhoun State Community College.

A display of banners giving an overview of the life and times of Lazarus, who died in 1887 at the age of 37, is on view at the Athens-Limestone Public Library, 405 E. South St. in Athens, through Dec. 16.

“She is the one who changed the entire meaning of the Statue of Liberty,” Davis said as she walked through the panels this week. “Her poem refigured it as a beacon of hope to immigrants, not the message of release from monarchy that Bertholdi and the other French creators intended.”…READ MORE

The complete sonnet, “The New Colossus,” posted on the Liberty State Park’s website.

Edna Nahshon: Dolled Up An exhibit in Tel Aviv surveys the changes in Israeli history, and the nation’s self-perception, through the once-popular medium of decorative dolls




Source: Tablet, 7-15-11

A figure of two members of a youth movement sitting on a tree trunk, made in the 1950s.From the Yaron Gayer collection; photos courtesy Eretz Israel Museum

To those who grew up in the pre-television Israel of the 1950s and 1960s—the country’s first broadcast came in 1966—the physical world that lay beyond our narrow territorial confines, its colors, smells, and textures, was often imagined via small personal collections of souvenirs: coins, stamps, cards, matchboxes, empty cologne bottles, napkins, and other potential discards. Modest thematized collections of trivial bric-a-brac went beyond kids’ stuff; grown-ups were equally engaged, showcasing in their modest living-rooms carefully assembled displays of small objects acquired in far-off lands like salt shakers and miniature liquor bottles. The curatorial emphasis was mostly on variety, not aesthetics, the decorative trophies endowing the household with social prestige and marking the collector as diligent and intelligent.

Dolls in national costumes were a particular favorite. These 4-to-7-inch figures were not meant to be played with, and when we children were given permission to hold them—one at a time, and only after our hands were inspected for cleanliness—we were forewarned to handle them carefully, and we felt privileged and trustworthy. Fingering the delicate lace mantilla of the Spanish doll, the tiny dirndl skirt of the Swiss, the gold flecks on the Mexican’s sombrero, or the shiny black boots of the Russian was an unmatched pleasure, a flight of fancy to faraway regions of the imagination, to rivers and mountains and steppes, to languages and sounds, to songs and dances that were as exotic to us as the Orient had been to the European imagination. Yet a measure of local patriotism was never absent from these homey international extravaganzas—every collection I remember included an Israeli doll, usually of a typical sabra in khaki shorts or a Yemenite Jew with long sidelocks in an elaborate ethnic garb, thus asserting our own national identity and our proud membership in the family of nations.

These displays seemed to disappear as I grew older. I never gave them a second thought. The local dolls I sometime glimpsed in store windows now struck me as crass trinkets of the tourist industry, much like the wooden camels with which they often shared space on the same shelves.

A Land and Its Dolls,” a captivating exhibition that opened in May at the Eretz Israel Museum in Tel Aviv, brought back these memories.

Shelly Shenhav-Keller, the anthropologist who curated the exhibition, assembled more than 200 dolls from museums, organizations, and private collectors—some of them non-Israelis who, as tourists, had bought the dolls as mementos of their visit. As souvenirs go, these dolls encapsulate their period’s essential notion of Israeliness, and thus, says Shenhav-Keller, they express important aspects of the construction of Israeli identity and societal values, ranging from the early uniformity of the melting-pot ideal to the multiethnic and multicultural spirit of more recent years.

All the dolls displayed in the exhibition were produced in Israel, first by individual artists and craftspeople and later, as demand grew, by local workshops. The earliest dolls in the exhibition—a middle-eastern man and woman—were created by Rivka Stark-Avivi (1895-1979) in 1919. The most recent ones are from the 1980s: Local production of Israeli souvenir dolls came to an end in the 1990s, when there was little demand for them mostly due to the sharp reduction in tourism caused by the first Intifada. Dolls of a more recent vintage are bound to be made in China….READ MORE

Journey Into Morocco’s Past through The New York Center For Jewish History


Source: Morocco Board, 1-2-11

Sometimes a museum exhibit invites us to inquire further and uncover a body of knowledge that was always there, that others have studied for decades (if not centuries), and that changes the way we look at things.  The small but well-designed museum exhibit, Looking Back: The Jews of Morocco held at the Center for Jewish History in New York City, running through April 18, 2011, is one of these “inviting” museum exhibits.

Taken together with the masterful and lyrical opening night keynote address by University of Oklahoma Professor Norman A. Stillman introducing it on October 14, 2010, the exhibit is recommended for all who are interested in the subject of Jews in Morocco or the Sephardic Jewish experience in North Africa.[1] This article will give an overview of the event and add context with supplemental sources.

Integration of Jews in Morocco for Centuries

The museum provides a selective history of the Jews in Morocco from their arrival in Morocco around 586 B.C.E. (the period of the destruction of the First Temple) to the present.  A series of panels covers their experience and contributions from the earliest Jewish settlements in pre-Islamic times, through the arrival of Arab populations and thereafter, and through the era of the French protectorate (commencing in 1912) and World War II; Moroccan independence in 1956; and the mass Jewish emigration from Morocco.

A key theme of the exhibit is the integration of Jews into Moroccan society. The first panel entitled “Introduction of Moroccan Jewry” notes that “Jews settled among the Berber population [in Morocco] in the pre-Islamic period, and some Berber tribes are said to have converted to Judaism.” Another adds: “A symbiotic relationship between Berbers and Jews was rich and enduring over the centuries.  Conversant in Berber dialects, Jews dressed like Berbers, practiced saint worship like them, and participated in … [their] celebrations.”[2] According to a separate essay by Yaelle Azagury, “[i]n some regions of the Atlas Mountains, Jews lived so close to traditional Arab tribes that one could hardly tell the difference: They looked like Arabs, spoke only Arabic, and possessed a limited awareness of the modern world.”[3] To the same effect, Professor Daniel Schroeter observed in another source that in “Berber-speaking regions, Jews were usually bilingual, speaking Berber with their Muslim neighbors, and Judeo-Arabic at home.  In a few of the most isolated communities of the High Atlas, some Jewish communities spoke Berber only.”[4]READ MORE

Exhibition: Taking the A Train to ‘The Fourth Reich’ German Jews Who Fled to Washington Heights

Taking the A Train to ‘The Fourth Reich’

A Munich Exhibit Looks at the German Jews Who Fled to Washington Heights

Source: Forward, 7-8-09

In 2008, the German city of Munich celebrated its 850th birthday amid much fanfare, and various cultural institutions were asked to mark the occasion. When the recently opened Jewish Museum was approached, it reacted with ambivalence. Indeed, for nearly half the history of Munich — more than 400 years — Jews were excluded from taking part in the life of the city.

This is where Bernhard Purin, the museum’s director, stepped in. Last September, the museum unveiled its contribution to the festival year, City Without Jews: The Dark Side of Munich’s History, a stark and effective exhibition about the various persecutions and expulsions that formed the bedrock of Munich’s history of antisemitism long before the Holocaust. The exhibit runs until the end of August.

Opened in May 2007, the Jewish Museum Munich is the youngest Jewish museum in Europe. The contrast to Jewish Museum Berlin — Germany’s most famous such museum — could hardly be more striking.

Where the Berlin museum attempts an exhaustive history of the Jewish experience in Germany, starting with the Middle Ages and leading up to the present day, the approach favored by Munich is to represent the history of Jews in that city via a compact and thoughtful permanent collection that combines interactive installations, artwork and a few well-chosen ritual objects and historical artifacts. A visitor can take in the exhibit in less than an hour, before making his way upstairs to view the changing exhibitions.

The same impulse for compression characterizes City Without Jews, which tells its story through a dozen small displays of representative objects and video interviews.

For instance, the pogrom of 1285, sparked by accusations of ritual murder, where between 68 and 187 members of Munich’s first Jewish community were locked inside their burning synagogue, is signified by a 19th-century edition of the Nuremberg Memorbuch, the 1296 commemoration of prominent community leaders and martyrs compiled by the Nuremberg Jewish community.

The 1349 accusation of host desecration — a common medieval accusation that the Jews abused the consecrated host in order to repeat the suffering of Christ — is represented through a 1624 painting, which was displayed for nearly 200 years in Munich’s St. Salvator Church. The old folklorist legend of the Wandering Jew inspired artists from Heinrich Heine to Richard Wagner before the Nazis twisted it to embody all the degenerative traits they ascribed to the Jews. This phantomlike figure that has, over time, emblemized the internal experience of Jews in the Diaspora is represented by a coat stand with an umbrella and an old edition of the newspaper Frankfurter Zeitung; it is a reference to a Lion Feuchtwanger story in which the Wandering Jew is spotted in Munich’s famous Odeon Café, reading a newspaper.

The Nazi persecution and mass murder are metonymically represented by an empty trunk with the initials of its last owner, Rosa Picard. A businesswoman from Munich, Picard filled the trunk with valuables and entrusted it to a Christian family before she and her family perished.

A counterpoint to this decidedly downbeat exhibition is the three-part series of temporary installations, Places of Exile.

“We wanted to answer the question:Where did the Jews of Munich live when they were not allowed to live in Munich? So we looked for three places of exile,” Purin explained.

After exhibits on Istanbul and Tel Aviv, the final installment, on display until August 30, looks at New York City’s Washington Heights, which became the center of Munich’s exiled Jewish community during World War II.

In particular, the exhibit focuses on Beth Hillel Synagogue, a Conservative congregation founded in 1940 by the chief rabbi of the Munich Jewish community, Leo Baerwald, who had fled Germany. The first services, held on Rosh Hashanah of that year in the Paramount Hall on 183rd Street, attracted 800 people.

Initially, services were held in German and followed the tradition of southern German Jews, known as Minhag Schwaben. German Jews were such a prominent minority, and so much German was spoken on the streets of Washington Heights in the 1940s and ’50s, that they ironically nicknamed the neighborhood “Das Vierte Reich” — or the Fourth Reich.

In the first decade, the congregation grew to 750 families from 200 and moved into a former post office at 571 West 182nd Street, just south of Yeshiva University. As members became more assimilated and prosperous, services were increasingly held in English. Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, the congregation was in steady decline caused by suburbanization and the new waves of immigrants from the Dominican Republic, which changed the demographic of the neighborhood.

In 1980, Beth Hillel merged with the Orthodox Congregation Beth Israel and, despite ever-shrinking numbers, managed to survive until 2000, when it finally closed its doors. Today, the building on 182nd Street is home to a department store.

Purin’s co-curator for the project is Celia J. Bergoffen, an urban archeologist who excavated the Eldridge Street Synagogue mikveh in 2001. Together with Purin, she conducted interviews with members of the community and tracked down pertinent artifacts.

“It was funny to see that they were very professional in talking about their childhood in Germany, because that’s what they are doing in schools and for the [Steven] Spielberg video project, but they never were asked about the other 80% of their lives, which started in 1939 or 1940, when they were teenagers in Washington Heights,” Purin explained.

Among the surviving congregants of Beth Hillel is Eric Bloch, a professor emeritus at Albert Einstein College of Medicine, who was born in Munich in 1928. In an interview with Bergoffen, he discusses the role that the congregation played in easing the transition to America: “I think the importance of Beth Hillel and the other Jewish congregations was to help immigrants establish themselves in the new country. They were a very important source of support.” The interview is published in the exhibition brochure, which can be ordered, free of charge, from the museum.

Among the items installed in the exhibition are two memorial stones from Munich’s destroyed main synagogue and a yellow Jewish star that wound up at a synagogue in Paramus, N.J. Another relic is the parochet (ark curtain) from Beth Hillel, which was found in 2002 at a Berlin flea market.

“It is in some ways a little bit funny that the history of this congregation in Washington Heights will now be kept in Munich,” Purin mused.

City Without Jews: The Dark Side of Munich’s History and Places of Exile 3: Munich and Washington Heights are on view at the Jewish Museum Munich until August 30.

A.J. Goldmann is a writer based in Berlin. His articles on art and culture have appeared in various publications, including The Wall Street Journal, USA Today and The Christian Science Monitor.