Jewish Museums:

Foundation Histories and Current Positionings

Übrig, Jüdisches Museum Hohenems (2016); Foto: Dietmar Walser, Hohenems (Ausschnitt)


The event will take place either in person in the seminar room of the Dubnow Institute/Museum für Völkerkunde, Leipzig or digitally. Please note the information in the program.
For digital events, you will find the access link on the Dubnow Institute homepage a few days before the event.
Registration is not required.

Jewish Museums emerged in Europe in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, mostly as a result of secularization and emancipation processes and on the initiative of Jewish organizations or individuals. These institutions were shut down by the National Socialists, and their collections were plundered, scattered, and destroyed.

Few museums were reopened after the war, and then under entirely different circumstances. Many places only witnessed increased initiatives to reestablish Jewish Museums from the 1980s. The impetus was frequently the »rediscovery« of a synagogue, an archaeological find, or a preserved (but usually only fragmentary) collection. Sometimes, these reestablishments were driven by Jewish communities or individuals, but often they were the result of non-Jewish initiatives or associations.

Picking up on the debate about the foundation of a Jewish Museum in Saxony, this research colloquium will highlight this process: Why, when, where, and on behalf of whom is and was the exhibition of Jewish history regarded as relevant? What actors have supported the establishment of Jewish Museums, and who has tried to prevent them?

A focus will also lie on the manner in which Jewish history has been exhibited in the past and present, and how it could be exhibited in future: What narratives have exhibitions developed? What objects are regarded and conveyed as Jewish? What emphases are placed and what omissions have there been? What is the future of Jewish Museums?


11 May 2023, 5.15 p.m., Dubnow Institute
Emile Schrijver
Jüdische Museen in Europa – ein Überblick
(Lecture in German)

1 June 2023, 5.15 p.m., Dubnow Institute
Hetty Berg
Jewish History in Museums. A report from Amsterdam and Berlin
(Lecture in English)

15 June 2023, 5.15 p.m., digital
Verena Kasper-Marienberg
Jüdische Ritualgegenstände in Museen: ein Vergleich zwischen Europa und den USA
(Lecture in German)

22 June 2023, 5.15 p.m., digital
Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett
Why Jewish Museums Matter: The Creation of POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews
(Lecture in English)

29 June 2023, 5.15 p.m., Vortragssaal im Grassi-Museum für Völkerkunde, Leipzig
Ein jüdisches Museum für Sachsen?
Aufgaben – Inhalte – Objekte
Panel discussion (German) with Alina Gromova, Daniel Ristau, and Johanna Sänger

Hetty Berg, Jewish Museums Berlin | Dr. Alina Gromova, Centrum Judaicum Berlin/ICOM Germany | Ass.-Prof. Dr. Verena Kasper-Marienberg, North Carolina State University, Raleigh NC | Prof. Dr. Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews, Warsaw | Dr. Daniel Ristau, Projekt »Synagogen-Gedenkbuch Hessen«, Hessisches Institut für Landesgeschichte | Dr. Johanna Sänger, Stadtgeschichtliches Museum Leipzig | Prof. Dr. Emile Schrijver, Jewish Cultural Quarter in Amsterdam/Association of European Jewish Museums (AEJM)

Sommer semster 2023, thursdays, 5.15-6.45 p.m.
In-person or digital