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Berlin Jewish Museum’s ‘Jew in the Box’ Exhibit

Some people are not happy about this

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(CBS)

Move over MoMA. There is a new avant-garde concept afoot and it’s not a placid Scottish actress sleeping in a box.

Berlin’s Jewish Museum, which aesthetically is a one-of-a-kind museum, but has done odd things recently like cede academic Judith Butler a platform to promote a boycott of Israel, has a new exhibit that has informally been named “Jew in the Box.” It’s not quite as the pernicious as the name suggests, but it’s definitely causing a stir.

To help educate postwar generations, an exhibit at the Jewish Museum features a Jewish man or woman seated inside a glass box for two hours a day through August to answer visitors’ questions about Jews and Jewish life. The base of the box asks: “Are there still Jews in Germany?”

“A lot of our visitors don’t know any Jews and have questions they want to ask,” museum official Tina Luedecke said. “With this exhibition we offer an opportunity for those people to know more about Jews and Jewish life.”

But not everybody thinks putting a Jew on display is the best way to build understanding and mutual respect.

Since the exhibit — “The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews” — opened this month, the “Jew in the Box,” as it is popularly known, has drawn sharp criticism within the Jewish community — especially in the city where the Nazis orchestrated the slaughter of 6 million Jews until Adolf Hitler’s defeat in 1945.

“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,” prominent Berlin Jewish community figure Stephan Kramer told The Associated Press. “They actually asked me if I wanted to participate. But I told them I’m not available.”

After spending a month-plus working on The Scroll in Berlin last summer, my (admittedly limited) impression of how Germans approach the subject of Jews and Jewish history is heavily colored with polite curiosity. But it goes both ways. One friend I made–who was roughly my age–explained her tenuous sense of history as part of a German family that was thrown out of Poland after the war and immediately fell behind the Iron Curtain’s reach into East Germany. There were a surprising level of common ground between us.

Ultimately, if we want to build some better understanding between Jews and Germans, we ought to consider sending the Jewish teenagers who tramp through the darkest points of Polish history on the March of the Living to Germany instead of Israel to achieve a mutually beneficial connection between the Jewish past, the Jewish present, and Germany.

While this exhibit feels a little too precious for its own good, I think it probably also fills a need.

Related: The Professor’s Shoddy History [Tablet]
Tilda Swinton, MoMA’s Sleeping Beauty [CNN]
Exhibit of Jews in Germany Raises Interest, Ire [ABC]

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I agree 100%! Tell the Jewish teens (and their parents!) to check out the program called “Germany Close Up”. Their website is http://www.germanycloseup.de. It is an excellent program. I was a participant this past January through a partnership with GCU, the Jewish Theological Seminary, and American Jewish University. The program is life changing.

herbcaen says:

besides hosting a venue for Israel boycotts, the Jewish museum is well stocked with anti-Israel texts in the gift shop. If someone told me that this museum was selling Holocaust denial texts I would be only mildly surprised. Since this creepy museum hates Israel and Zionism, I recommend tourists boycott, divest and sanction this museum. I would rather visit a sewage treatment plant

Herb Caen is dead. Your assertion that the museum itself hates Israel is perhaps an oversimplification. If that’s how you like to look at it I can’t stop you. A museum that does not question the history with which it is concerned is not a museum; it is a shrine.

It is not a Jewish teen’s duty to influence Germany’s attitude towards us. That is in a way, making Jews responsible for the Nazi era.

herbcaen says:

Im sure in a few years this “museum” will question whether the Holocaust occurred. No doubt you will be happy with this line of questioning

Honestly? It leaves me with a vaguely creeped-out reminder that the megalomaniacal cretin who made Charlie Chaplin mustaches unpopular (yeah , I’m not dignifying him by using his name) had planned a “Museum of a Vanished Race” once he wiped out Judaism. So while I think the novel idea of having Jews act as ‘Performance Artist/Docents’ to answer the questions of curious non Jews, it is unnerving, to say the least.

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Berlin Jewish Museum’s ‘Jew in the Box’ Exhibit

Some people are not happy about this

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