Jew in a Box

Controversial museum exhibit in Berlin creates quite a stir.

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Comments (42)

(35) Anonymous, August 24, 2013 8:09 AM

Germans don't know Jews

Encountering a Jew in Germany is so rare, that yes, elevating the experience to an abstract display ( as was done with the box - to show that we are also humans) is maybe what Germans need.
Actually this saddens Me as a Jew living in Germany

(34) Beverly Kurtin, April 21, 2013 10:48 PM

I see nothing wrong or degrading

If the gentleman had just been sitting at a desk or in just a chair, who would even notice? But "Jew in the Box?" Now THAT is attention-getting. Isolation? Yes! Because that is the way man people see us, as being somehow trying to be above others, especially when they (deliberately?) misunderstand what it means when Hashem called us his "chosen people."
I've spoken at churches or hosted church people at my shul and when the question invariably arises, "Why do you Jews call yourselves the chosen people?" I just say NOTHING. I open my Tenach and ask the to turn to the appropriate section of their bibles and ask in return,"Would someone please read WHO said that we are chosen?"
Who is speaking? G-d or the Jewish people? From this day on, never tell the untruth that the Jews call themselves chosen. G-d said it, not us. But what were we chosen for? To be better than others? No, not at all, that is absurd. We were chosen to keep commands that non-Jews don't HAVE to keep. Do you feel guilty when eating bacon and eggs? How about when chomping on a ham sandwich? Jews are prohibited from eating anything from a pig, you are not.
Jews have many obligations that non-Jews don't. That is all that G-d meant when he said we were chosen for his service. READ what the bible says, not what you think it says.
THOSE are the kinds of question the "Jew in the Box" was probably asked...and more.
Again, the BOX was what gave him the opportunity to have conversations with people who might not otherwise had that opportunity.
I applaud the entire idea! By being in the box, light was shed and light is what is needed to dim the darkness of Jew-hate.

(33) Jim Stivers, April 14, 2013 2:29 AM

Double edged

I agree with the Rabbi. However, being a bit contraversial will stir up attention that was not there before and some conversations that weren't done before either. Also given the current rise of hatred that seems to be out there,it might be a good form of safety as well.

(32) Barbara, April 12, 2013 5:56 PM

Like the exhibit overall

I agree that it would be better to have a Jew in the exhibit to answer questions, but not in a box. However, if the box is there to protect the person from a crazy person, then perhaps its a good idea. What's the likelihood of the Jew being attacked in Germany? I don't think the exhibit is degrading overall -- it's a great idea to have a real person in the exhibit, so that visitors can feel free to ask questions, rather than people wandering around the exhibit hall asking whether they can answer questions, which may inhibit most people.

(31) Miek, April 11, 2013 11:20 PM

Out Of the Box

Being in a box connotes having to be contained, isolated, constrained. And especially in Germany - the next notch downwards would have been barbed wire strung around the display. Sorry, but this is offensive to me.

Regina, April 14, 2013 2:41 AM

I agree completely

If the intent of this exhibit had come from a pure place of goodness, the creator(s) would NEVER had put the Jew, the human being who is a Jew, in a box. Who created this exhibit? Who funded it?

(30) Yankel, April 11, 2013 5:51 PM

How about Jew on a throne?

Jew in a box?
How about Jew on a throne?

It is definitely degrading.

(29) Lisa, April 11, 2013 2:13 PM

Protection

You just never know if some crazy person would want to protest and take action against the Jew. But then again hire security and put him, behind a information booth to help answer questions about all the stuff Jewish. I love my Jewish brothers and sisters. <3

(28) Sondra Brown, April 11, 2013 1:00 PM

Degrdation vs. Education

Jews live in a box all over the world and many people elate to us that way- we are only as insignificant as we think and allow ourselves to be. I was in Germanyin 1979 and thi sis a positive step fo rthe country

(27) STENBOM, April 11, 2013 12:11 PM

IT'S NOT A SIDESHOW

IT'S NOT A SIDESHOW!!! WHAT IT IS IS A WAY OF FINDING OUT ABOUT THE JEWISH PEOPLE AND THEIR STRUGGLE TO GET TO WHERE THEY ARE NOW. IT'S A SIMPLE WAY OF FINDING OUT SOMETHING ABOUT GOD'S PEOPLE. M. STENBOM

(26) Raphaelle Do Lern Hwei, April 11, 2013 5:54 AM

Disturbing!

The discription of a Jew in a plexiglass box reminds me disturbingly of the shore animal life (eg hermit crab, crab, mud skipper) reptile and stick insect exhibits in the local Singapore Zoological Gardens. The Jewish Curators should be stationed at certain points of the exhibition hall.
Go see Singapore's Peranakan Museum. Ladies in ethnic costumes are the curators and ushers. (Paranakan are naturalised Malayans who have adopted the dress, cruisine usually minus halal food and parts of the native Malay people).
My Mum's mother wears her culture proudly.

(25) Lisa, April 11, 2013 4:00 AM

Location, location, location.....

A plexi glass box is better than a pine box!!
No, we don't need to see it, albeit some would say it's "art".... Not hurting anyone.
If it were in a different location, lets take NY for example, then I think it would be pushing the envelope....or as some would say, thinking out of the box.

(24) Danielle, April 11, 2013 1:25 AM

RIDICULOUS

Then I would suggest you put one of each race in a box and do the same with them...go a step further and put single mom;s or victims of rape, or successful business starter, or whoever and interview them about what it is like to be them....please...it is up to people to get to know each other whenever they want or can do so...but in a box...that is not realistic and profoundly dishonoring to do to any one in my view.

(23) Anonymous, April 11, 2013 12:40 AM

Please, don't go there

Yes, I agree with Yaakov Solomon -- demystify Jews and Judaism. But as he suggested do it in a humane and more natural way. We are not to be put in a box in any sense of the word.

(22) Kenneth H. Ryesky, April 10, 2013 9:14 PM

Some Jews would benefit by seeing a similar exhibit

Never mind the postwar German population!

I have spoken with many frum Jews who live in such locales as Lakewood, Monsey, Borough Park, Flatbush, Bnei Brak, etc., who have no conception that there are also frum Jews in other places; who have no conception of the challenges we face in keeping the mitzvot; and who, unfortunately, hold those of us who live in these "out of town" communities in low esteem if not contempt.

Maybe these people might benefit from seeing an exhibit of "out of town" frum Jews.

And I, for one, would be quite willing to take my turn sitting in that box, so I could educate my sheltered frum Jewish brethren.

(21) Joyce, April 10, 2013 4:56 AM

I approve of his being in the box.

As a Jewess who has been greatly involved for over 45 years in speaking to Non-Jews about Judaism, I have often felt I was in a box, almost as a strange, unknown species. Living in a country where we have only 9,400 Jews, most people had never come in contact with any of us. The questions I have been asked were astonishingly ignorant and i was able to enlighted many people. One thing I discovered early on is that you can enlighten the ignorant, but never the bigot! I applaud anything that will make people sit up and learn that we "do not have tails", "do not bury our dead standing up" and though we do care for one another, our compassion and help is not only for people of our faith but extended to all of humanity within our sphere.

(20) Phyllis, April 10, 2013 3:05 AM

absolutely disgusting

There are thirteen million individual Jewish human beings in this world. One individual who is willing to sit in a box is one individual in a box -- not representive of each and every Jewish person. Do they consider a Jewish person equal to a monkey in a cage?

(19) Samantha, April 9, 2013 8:44 PM

at the zoo

I agree with the Rabbi. Putting anything (let alone any BODY) in a box makes it/them an object. It does not surprise me that the curators of this show consider Jews as objects (as well as the"other". I wonder if anyone attached to the Museum staff even considered asking the Jewish community if this might be offensive. Living things in boxes are usually animals in zoos;en route to a destination or at research facilities. The obvious comparison of Jews to animals was not lost on this reader!
That this exhibit happened in Berlin...was no surprise to me.

Anonymous, April 10, 2013 4:54 PM

Responsibility

Its the Jewish curators who decided to do it, not the non Jews, and no Jews at large in Germany were not asked. Berlin Jewish museum does some strange things sometimes like be anti zionist as well. So for once no, to blame the Non Jews would be incorrect.

(18) Daisy Harari mayer, April 9, 2013 8:31 PM

Germany

My husbuds family lost a lot of family in Germany and 1936 /1939. My father in law and my mother in law came t brazil and get married, and save themselves they had two boys. And life goes on. Now I tell you it is a shame for Germany to do such exhibition we are not animals or toys but we are different then other in our judaisme.
So if somebody won't to know what is a Jewish so go to learn Judaism
Shame again on Europe.
Daisy.

Anonymous, April 10, 2013 4:52 PM

Responsiblity lies with the museum

Daisy, I can understand your feelings. Please note that its the Jewish directors of the Jewish museum who decided on the contents of the exhbition and noone else. Apart from that I think its tasteless like you. Best,

(17) Jan, April 9, 2013 7:52 PM

jew in a box

Not a good idea. unless it's a joke. Is it? terrible idea. We are not all the same so no one will learn anything.

(16) Marvisher Rebbe, April 9, 2013 7:42 PM

Jew in a Glass Box?

Let the exhibit also show a Christian in glass box and a Muslim in a glass box. An equal opportunity for all three major religions. Then take tjhe show on the road..

Lisa, April 11, 2013 4:03 AM

Would they be men or women??

Can u say 2's company & 3's a crowd! Would love to see it!!

(15) J.S., April 9, 2013 6:14 PM

Utterly offensive

Exhibiting Jews is offensive and demeaning. There is no excuse for this.

(14) Harold, April 9, 2013 5:49 PM

Jew in the box carnival freak show

Would be controversial if non Jews put it together, instead it is just a stupid display of liberal Jews trying to demonstrate to the world they are so clever they know how to "think outside the box." What is it like to be the bearded lady? How does it feel to be a midget? What does a Jew feel like?

(13) Lea, April 9, 2013 4:12 PM

we are different, and how!

Dear Rabbi Salomon, you say that we are as everybody else: not so. Read the Kuzari, Maharal, Rav Kook. Read what the Lapid Ha'esh said who was in several deathcamps and marches. The lowest of the Jews is so much higher than the best of the gentiles, he was a witness to that, as he said. Therefore a Jew needs selfrespect and pride in his being. Not like an animal in a box.

Lea

(12) HumminBird, April 9, 2013 4:06 PM

Seems OK to me!

I am not offended at all that the artists used a box. Everyone knows what happened to Jews in Germany's war. Excellent visual, speaking volumes. It sort of reminds me of Yoko Lennon's art piece, where you climb a ladder & hammer a nail in a board. Simple, but factual. Maybe they used a plexiglass box to bring back the memory of their "terrorists" trial. I wasn't aware he was in one, & am glad to know. My only other thought is maybe they could place a recorded history message cd in the box, too, which the "Jew in the box" could play as people come in...so he wouldn't have to talk so much & repeat everything (which he prob doesn't mind doing, anyway)

, April 10, 2013 3:11 AM

Let's intellectualize that too, perphaps you will call it art. Instead, try to straighten your spine and stop bowing to every opportunity to humiliate the Jew and your suggestions of having a cd are more degrading, it sounds like "let's throw him a banana in the cage". If the Germans want to see a Jew, they should go to church.

(11) Laurence, April 9, 2013 3:49 PM

Not worth debating - If you want to peak someone’s interest you have to have something catchy and advertising "Jew in a box" to get the curious to visit the museum is worth a try. All that it would take is a kiosk (box) with audio/video with someone sitting on a chair displayed on the screen and anyone standing in front of the screen can interact with the person sitting on the chair, ask questions and receive answers as well as the person on the screen pose questions and answer them.

(10) Sandy Price, April 9, 2013 3:47 PM

Surprise. No horns.

As a Jewish child who grew up in Kansas, I was always a Jew in a Box. I represented my people, whether or not the Judaism I was taught was adequate. There were plenty of children in my classes who had never met a Jew before, or not knowingly. A couple of weeks ago, when I first read about this, I was moved to blog about being a metaphorical Jew in a Box. If you're interested, you can read it here: http://tinyurl.com/surprisenohorns. The important thing isn't whether I am as educated as a rabbi. The important thing is to meet me, to find that I am human like they are, that I am not an exotic creature with unique physical characteristics. That I look decidedly normal. It is conceivable to believe that antisemitic myths like blood libel might be true because we live on a planet where some people still do animal sacrifice, and there is even the occasional cannibalistic tribe. The only way we put an end the fear is to allow "the other" to meet us.

(9) J Fleming, April 9, 2013 3:34 PM

As an artist and a Jew-by-choice myself, I disagree with your opinion that this is degrading. Unlike the trial with Eichmann, the Jew who sits the box is not on trial for doing something wrong, they are free to leave after their two hour (I believe) sitting in the box. Choice is what takes this degradation away. An exhibit at the Museum of Natural History in NYC is behind plexiglass. Yes, sometimes you have to get people's attention by doing something a little shocking and potentially controversial - stimulates conversation. Some people have commented that this exhibit isn't beauty. Though I do not produce what would be modern art, I do appreciate thinking that is in this case figuratively and realistically thinking outside of the box. What is more beautiful than the human form? And what is interesting in Germany of all places is the literal transparency of dealing with what Jews are - human - in a country where their humanity was questioned to the point of rationalizing inhumane treatment. I think that this is a brave way to explore the idea as boldly as they are and I applaud their concept. Additionally, I would pose, no pun intended, that if everyone who was an artist performed their art like everyone else then how many pieces would be necessary to fill any gallery? You'd get bored looking at the same representations of any part of nature or life. I also further the idea that this is a piece of what is called "living art", where something is exposed to the elements in one way, shape or form and the piece is not the same as it was on the second day or the third day or subsequent days. The questions asked and the responses will not be by rote, since as the saying goes, 'two Jews, three opinions', so it will be changing with each volunteer, questioner and answer. Are we so afraid of putting the light on what it is to be a Jew that we have to have authorized representatives to be in the box? Living and breathing Judaism, that is truly beautiful!

(8) Anonymous, April 9, 2013 2:50 PM

Jewish Education

Feel there are better ways to teach about Jews and their history especially Shoah.

(7) debra, April 9, 2013 7:35 AM

Another Issue

Aside from the controversy of the "Jew in the Box" whether it was degrading or not to Jews, we should look at the Jews they chose to go into the box. Who was given the "authority" to represent us as Jews. Answer questions that were based on their personal knowledge of being a Jew. Perhaps they were only teaching curious and uninformed Germans the wrong values and beliefs of what Jews believe. Were they qualified to answers questions properly, representing Jews with a false representation or not? That is another topic of discussion.

(6) carolyn, April 8, 2013 7:47 PM

You cant see the Jews because of the Box!

I understand conceptual art well and I think I understand what is going on here and this is my opinion. We put people mentally in boxes all the time, and make judgments about them. We consider it civilized but it is not and no conversation takes place. It is all done in privacy and our minds never change what we think. It gets taught to others as fact, when it is not. As outlandish and as painful as this seems on the surface and it is, who else but a Jew would dare to do this? The Jew in the box is very symbolic and, by free will, not a prisoner is saying look at me, here I am, this is who I am, do you have any questions? This Jew in the box is a person so strong and sure of himself, and in Berlin none the less to say, I define myself as a Jew, not you, not a box, not the Shoah, or any amount of persecution, I am eternal. It is the ultimate in defiance and bravery. To be able to do and say this in a genuine effort to heal, and educate after all that has taken place there is a bold statement of victory. Six million Jews are murdered and the Jew in the box is undeterred or defeated. He is still on track, a light to those in darkness, willing to die for what he believes in, but still able to move forward with his mission to heal the world. The box is a reminder of what we see, in a very narrow view. It is a powerful reminder of how we treat each other in a very edgy, matter of fact, uncomfortable public way. The Jew is not the one humiliated or on display, it is the box. What comes to mind is the expression” You cant see the forest because of the trees, in this case” you can’t see the Jews because of the box”! Everyone should cringe at this and see the big picture. Would the message be as strong if the box were not there? I dont think so. There are boxes of hatred everywhere that you can feel but not see. This one you cant miss. It is the ultimate "what is wrong with this picture?"

sandy, April 9, 2013 3:39 PM

Here! Here!

I couldn't have said it better myself.

(5) Anonymous, April 8, 2013 7:15 PM

Tasteless

I was at the exhibition and found the box thing tasteless . Apparently the aim is to make the situation of Jews in Germany clear: one is very much in a minority and due to history, "very special". Well, thats the reason why i don't advertise my judaism here. However, its true for any minority anywhere. The whole exhibiiton is not as good as it could be, provocative advertisement but a missed chance to get rid of many misperceptions and prejudices. It would have been better to let people have a chat or ask questions without a box, but even that.... we are not in a Zoo!

(4) David, April 8, 2013 1:07 PM

Different perspective

Hi, As a non-Jew who stumbled across this site while searching genealogy. I thought I may offer a different perspective. At first glance it would seem this is a very distasteful and degrading thing to do to anyone, but especially to a Jewish person in Germany considering the history, However like one poster mentioned if it is really a "safe room" to prevent harm to the person, It may be different, However If violence against a Jew was expected so surely that they must build a "box" around him, then Germany seems to need allot farther to go with race relations. Now speaking of which, I look at the front page of your website, and see several faces that look just like me or my friends even though I am not Jewish, and an article set up like a Dear Abby type advice column, where a teenage Jewish girl, again could have been my niece just by looking at her, was having "feelings" for a non-Jewish boy. The advise was to basically train her brain not to like him or such. The 1st example was to think of a "monkey" and try to get it out of your head... Really? was this a random example? or was it chosen for a reason? I have actually heard a Jewish boy in my youth who was angry use the same term to describe us, as "monkeys" again, even though I doubt anyone but God could tell we were of different race. I think if a White person in America had given the same advice against a Jew, or Indian, or Black, or Mexican or whatever, the outrage would still be pouring out. If she meant by the example for the girl to "wink wink" remember they are like monkeys, then you Jews have a long way to go as well.

Nechama Weiss, April 9, 2013 5:04 PM

G-d Forbid! I read that article and I'm sure the responder did not mean in any way that a human being, a precious special human being could be relegated as a monkey. She just used an example and I'm sure she would be shocked that someone possibly mistook it in this way. Jews do not marry non-Jews. However, Jews do not despise non-Jews or look at them as inferior human beings.

(3) Anonymous, April 8, 2013 4:20 AM

Jewish self worth

We have been persecuted so many years now we have stooped to a fear of being worthwhile?! It was the way to get the exibit attention, but This is tasteless.Haven't we suffered enough humiliation from the anti-Semites who put us in cages like animals? It's another way for them to make us a laughingstock, and adds salt to the wounds of Holocaust survivors! Why is every Jew so silent over this? We victimize ourselves.

(2) Martin Nero, April 8, 2013 2:56 AM

Orthodox Jew in a box

Would rabbi Solomon be in favor of setting up similar exhibits in NYC and Washington, D.C. Jewish museums but with an orthodox/Hasidic Jew in the "box"? Probably many secular Jews have never met an Orthodox Jew and this could be a learning experience.as far as the box is concerned, I think this was done for publicity and guess what? It worked!

(1) TMay, April 7, 2013 8:39 PM

Safety?

I don't know the kind of plexiglass they used. Art always has a little leeway. There's also a certain amount of leeway due to the fact that it is a different culture. My attitude is that a Jew is safer in a preferably bullet proof box and is behind plexiglass for the same reason that bankers are often behind protective glass. There are people in Germany for whom killing a Jew would be in their minds their ticket to admittance to their version of paradise, be it by bullets or by a knife. It might be hard to find a Jew when they are 1 /4 of 1% of the population and here there is a Jew advertised with the location and hours, and it would be a symbolic victory for them. After all, terrorists like to create terror. After a bank was held up in my small town and banking employees were taken hostage, you should have seen how fast the plexiglass went up at those banks. Criminals do take advantage of opportunities created. Here's another question: if a Jewish Museum makes a Jew vulnerable to the public at large, should they risk the life and health of one Jew to provide Germans with the opportunity of talking to a Jew? What kind of publicity would the Jewish Museum get if the Jew made available is attacked? Would an armed guard standing there create a better impression? No. Are they searching people when they enter the museum?

 

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