The Jewish neighbourhood of a town
is mostly the part where Jews were allowed to set up their lives. It is the
quarter where the important institutions of Jewish religious life started such
as the mikva, study house (Beth haMidrash), synagogue... In Berlin, for example,
Jews were mentioned the first time in 1295. They were expelled several times.
Nowadays Jewish community goes back to 1671 when some families came from Vienna.
The first institutions were on the edge of the medieval town (Rosenstrasse).
Today it is the neighborhood around
Oranienburger Strasse and the
New Synagogue which is called the „Jewish Neighbourhood". It attracts
many visitors who want to see Jewish sites such as the first cemetery, the
former home for old aged citizens, the Jewish highschool, the former orphanage,
the community center of Addas Jisroel (orthodox community). Every week 10 open
tours about „Jewish Berlin" are listed in different newspapers. The participants
- most are non Jews - come to see the past and present „Jewish neighborhood".
Many visitors are amazed when they are told that the population was mixed ant
that the percentage of the Jewish population in the center of Berlin
(Berlin-Mitte) was about 10 % in 1933. Most of these tours only cover the Jewish
past except when they stay in front of the Jewish highschool. And it is
mentioned that today Berlin`s Jewish population is about 12.000.
During the last nine years three
Jewish restaurants were opened nearby but the number of restaurants
which pretend to be „Jewish" is higher such as the „Mendelssohn" where roast
pork is served. What is the need behind this search covering „all things
Where are the places and spaces of Jewish life? Are they public, half-public or
private? How do all the security issues affect Jewish life?
„Jewish neighborhood" is not only constituted by concrete places and sites in
the topography of a city, it is also a cultural phenomena such as Jewish
restaurants, theaters, culture, music... In Berlin most things labelled „Jewish"
(Klezmer, theater, restaurants, guides tours) are performed by non Jews for a
non Jewish audience. Diana Pinto, who lives in Paris and whose field is social
science, quotes in her
„Towards a New European Jewish Identity":
„The third and most difficult
challenge is the Jewish Space: how should Jews approach and intervene in
Europe's growing Jewish spaces, increasingly initiated, populated and even
administered by non-Jews?"
What and where are the places in your
city which you define and perceive as Jewish ones in past and present times
(maybe a Jewish youth center, community center, youth camps)? What constitutes a
Jewish place or space? What is the significance of these places for you? How do
you perceive the places which are „Jewish".
Berlin / haGalil onLine 25-10-2000