"Der schejne Jid". Images of the Jewish Body in Myth and Ritual
The exhibition entitled "Der schejne Jid. Images of the Jewish Body in Myth and Ritual" deals with the significance and meanings of Jewish rituals and their interpretation. We display different presentations of birth and circumcision, marriage and ritual purity of women, Sabbath and ritual preparation of food as well as rituals of illness and burial in a Jewish and Christian context. Furthermore, we analyze the myth about the nature of the "ill" and "healthy" Jewish body.
The central premise of the exhibition is that the reading of Judaism as a "scientific religion" was a consequence of the late nineteenth century erroneous belief that Jews were a race. For even those Jews who no longer or to a limited degree, practiced the rituals of Judaism, insisted that Judaism was a "rational" religion. They did this to avoid or mitigate the charge that Jews were biologically rather than culturally "different". By scientifically interpreting the Jewish rituals, Jewish scientists also tried to react to anti-Semitic stereotypes. The theory that circumcision was a prophylaxis of diseases such as syphilis and tuberculosis, was a reaction to the anti-Semitic assertion, that circumcision was the cause of these illnesses.
Judaism was also a central issue of the 1911 Dresden international hygiene exhibition to which we also refer in our show. The Dresden exhibition presented the first large analysis of the approach of Jewish scientists and theologians in a larger context: they tried to resolve the "question" of perceived Jewish physical difference by making the "science" of Jewish hygiene intrinsic to Jewish ritual belief. This interpretation was intended to refute above all anti-Semitic stereotypes. But what they couldn't know at that time was that the theory of eugenics was to serve as the basis for the annihilation of the Jews by the National Socialists during the subsequent decades.
Curators: Sander Gilman, Rhoda Rosen, Gabriele Kohlbauer-Fritz