I’ve been to Munich many times, but never had the chance to visit the local Jewish Museum. This morning I took a few hours off to make up for this lacuna.
The museum opened in 2007, alongside the new synagogue and Jewish Community Centre on St. Jakobs Platz, a short walk from Marienplatz. The entire square is dominated by the three buildings, a magnificent presence in the heart of Munich, the city where it all started. In the picture below you can see the Jewish Centre on the right, the museum building in the back and the synagogue in the centre (the building on the left is the Munich City museum).
The museum itself is surprisingly small. There is a permanent exhibition in the basement, covering some artifacts from Jewish Munich and some Jewish paraphernalia. One of the exhibits is a board game made to encourage aliyah to Israel – Das Alijah Spiel. The amount of items on display are perhaps the most striking aspect of the museum, a sad testimony to the complete and utter destruction of the Jewish community here.
Part of the exhibition is a comic strip created by a Jewish author, Jordan Gorfinkel, for a local paper (I think). The display is of a particular strip describing a visit to Munich of an old Holocaust survivor with his grandchildren. Visitors can browse through many more of the strips on computer stations.
On the first floor is a temporary exhibition entitled “Step right in! Step right out!”. It tells the story of dozens of individuals who converted to another religion: Jews who became Christians or Muslims; Christians who became Jews; religious people who became atheists; and other combinations. The stories are told through personal artifacts belonging to these people – a book, a certificate, a garment – and through videos.
In one of the videos, showing a short clip from a movie about a German man who converted to Judaism and was circumcised in a hospital in Israel, I was surprised to see the mohel who circumcised my son: Dr. Cyril Fine z”l. This fine man, who passed away a few years ago, held a world record for the number of circumcisions performed in one day. He used to circumcise gerim, mainly ex-Soviet Jews who converted in Israel.
After the museum visit I had lunch at the Einstein restaurant in the Jewish Centre. This is the third time I’ve eaten there and I highly recommend it, as it’s one of the best kosher restaurants one can find outside Israel.