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Archive for the month “April, 2013”

The Spectacle of the Other

ImageThe Jewish Museum in Berlin has launched new exhibit called The Whole Truth: Everything You Wanted to Know About Jews. An aspect of the show features Jewish men and women taking turns sitting in a display-case answering spectators questions about Jewish life and culture in Germany. According to the museum the purpose of this exhibition is to educate contemporary Germans about what it means to be Jewish in a country that lives in the shadow of genocide.

We find this show an offense against any thinking person of any race, nationality, religion, class, age, gender and sexual orientation! By exhibiting self-proclaimed Jews as if they were circus attractions the museum is reinforcing the stereotypes of the Jew as less than human and the ultimate other.

The exhibit upholds that the German is the normative and positions the Jew as the eternal outsider thus reinforcing one of the most hideous stereotypes. Indeed, the relationship between Germans and Jews is fraught with great anxiety and conflict. Once again the Jew is asked to explain and justify his/her existence.

HOW DARE THEY! Hitler wanted to create a museum of an extinct race once the final solution had been accomplished. How ironic it is that the Jewish Museum of Berlin should present the Jews in Germany as a member of an endangered species who is dependent on the good will of the German people in order for them to exist.

What were the curators of this so called art exhibit thinking? It is a known fact that once you put something on display in a museum its preciousness connotes the end of its natural development–the objet is entombed and frozen in time and space–no longer a danger to anyone. 

Are Jews in Germany so threatening to their neighbors that the only way the German feels safe engaging with a Jew is within the confines of a museum?

What does this say about Germans and Jews today? Has nothing been learned from the horrors of the holocaust? A recent survey by Israeli researches reveals a 30% jump in Anti-Semitism world wide in the last year. Is this exhibit a symptom of the reemergence of the sickness known as Anti-Semitism.

On this the eve of Holocaust Remembrance day (Yom HaShoah) April 7-8 let us view this exhibit as a cautionary tale and hope that we have learned the lessons of the past.  

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