«There are many definitions of Jewishness.»

Four questions for Darja Pisetzki

Dar­ja Alex­an­dra Pisetz­ki stu­di­ed Jewish muse­ums and cul­tu­ral insti­tu­ti­ons in the Ale­man­nic regi­on. She wro­te her doc­to­ral dis­ser­ta­ti­on in 2021 on how the insti­tu­ti­ons depict Juda­ism, in par­ti­cu­lar dis­tin­guis­hing bet­ween dis­plays which show Jewish self-repre­sen­ta­ti­on from an inner per­spec­ti­ve and dis­plays about Juda­ism from an exter­nal per­spec­ti­ve. Her book appeared this mon­th. Nao­mi Lub­rich spo­ke with the aut­hor about a rese­arch pro­ject which led her across Euro­pean bor­ders into Jewish vil­la­ge histories.

Nao­mi Lub­rich: Dar­ja, you stu­di­ed Ale­man­nic Jewish muse­ums and cul­tu­ral insti­tu­ti­ons and just publis­hed your obser­va­tions. Why did you choo­se the topic?

Dar­ja Pisetz­ki: As a stu­dent, I was inte­res­ted the dif­fe­rence bet­ween dis­plays of Juda­ism from an inner per­spec­ti­ve and dis­plays about Juda­ism from an exter­nal per­spec­ti­ve. I wro­te my master’s the­sis on the inau­gu­ra­ti­on of Jewish muse­ums in Ger­ma­ny after 1945 with a par­ti­cu­lar focus on the Jewish Muse­um Ber­lin. The Jewish Muse­um Ber­lin was cri­ti­ci­zed for not suf­fi­ci­ent­ly invol­ving the Jewish com­mu­ni­ty in the con­cep­tu­al work on the per­ma­nent exhi­bi­ti­on in 2001 and the­re­fo­re of pre­sen­ting a view of Juda­ism from the out­side, in other words «othe­ring» Jews. After com­ple­ting my master’s degree, I wan­ted to look into this ques­ti­on more clo­se­ly. I was par­ti­cu­lar­ly inte­res­ted in the per­spec­ti­ve from which «Jewish­ness» is pre­sen­ted and com­mu­ni­ca­ted in other countries.

 NL: What is spe­cial about the Ale­man­nic lan­guage area?

DP: The majo­ri­ty of Ale­man­nic Jews lived in vil­la­ges and small towns in the 18th and ear­ly 19th cen­tu­ries. Des­pi­te natio­nal bor­ders and the vast­ness of the regi­on in which they lived, the Jews in this com­mu­ni­ty shared a com­mon lan­guage, reli­gi­on, and modes of employ­ment. Local Jewish muse­ums today tell of the living con­di­ti­ons, inter­com­mu­nal exchan­ge, and cul­tu­ral and reli­gious prac­ti­ces of the so-cal­led «Dorf­ju­den,» (vil­la­ge Jews).

 NL: How Jewish muse­ums defi­ne «Jewish­ness» varies from muse­um to muse­um. What sur­pri­sed you most?

DP: What sur­pri­sed me most was the wide spec­trum of pos­si­bi­li­ties in how to defi­ne what Juda­ism is. It beca­me clear that the­re is no sin­gle defi­ni­ti­on of what Juda­ism or «Jewish­ness» is today. My rese­arch on Jewish muse­ums and Jewish out­re­ach pro­jects has broa­den­ed my under­stan­ding of «Jewish­ness,» to inclu­de reli­gious, eth­nic, cul­tu­ral, his­to­ri­cal, and phi­lo­so­phi­cal aspects as well as ques­ti­ons of identity.

 NL: Jewish muse­ums, inclu­ding ours, have chan­ged a lot in the past twen­ty years. How do you think they will evol­ve in the next twen­ty years?

DP: Today, at a time when infor­ma­ti­on and know­ledge is avail­ab­le any­ti­me and any­whe­re, muse­ums will pro­bab­ly chan­ge most in the way they pre­sent and com­mu­ni­ca­te their topics. They will beco­me incre­a­singly inter­ac­ti­ve pla­ces of exchan­ge with visi­tors. I’m curious to see how Jewish muse­ums will bridge the gap bet­ween his­to­ri­cal and modern topics and at the same time enter into dia­lo­gue with their visi­tors. The «Dop­pel­tür» cul­tu­ral cen­ter, for examp­le, will con­vey the histo­ry of Jewish life in the Surb­tal by means of short films. Visi­tors can choo­se which topics they want to view. The selec­tion of topics inclu­des migra­ti­on, Jewish religion/culture and the coexis­tence of Jews and Chris­ti­ans. And the visi­tors can deci­de how the sto­ry told in the films should continue.

 NL: Dar­ja, thank you very much for your insights. 

verfasst am 16.09.2022