Great Out-of-the-Box Thinking

Ach, I never knew these Berliners could be so creative.

I do not endorse Berlin’s Jewish Museum, which has had its share of controversy in the past, but I do like their exhibit, “Jew in the Box.”

The Holocaust was a seminal event in the history of mankind. I know that. You, a Hamodia reader, also assuredly know that. The dozens of politicians, elected officials and whatnot who rushed out their comments on the exhibit profess to know that. And I have no doubt that they believe it.

The German people mostly know that. Now, at least. But a disturbing vein of Holocaust apathy, or even antipathy, has been slowly bulging through their Teutonic skin. Put simply, German youth do not want to feel guilty for the crimes of their parents and grandparents. And all the annual reparations and ubiquitous Holocaust memorials make them feel guilty.

For the past 60 years, ever since Israeli Prime Minister David Ben Gurion and German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer signed the controversial agreement a week before Rosh Hashanah of 1952, Germany has been a firm ally of the Jewish state. They have strayed from time to time, particularly in their voting in tandem with Europe’s almost kneejerk Palestinian affinity, but Germany has by and large had Israel’s back.

Will that remain the same in 60 years from now? Will a German leader consider it an obligatory function of any foreign visit to once again acknowledge their contract for Israel’s defense? How much longer can they be counted on?

I’m always surprised at how little non-Jews know about us, our customs, our way of life — even if we have the same human feelings as the rest of society. There is something about the black hat that makes an outsider think, “maybe he’s not allowed to speak to me.”

That dehumanizing factor is what the exhibit was meant to address. That’s it. No anti-Semitism. No racist bigotry from a new world historian. Sorry, Mr. Foxman, maybe next time.

And they did a good job at it. This debate here proves it. It got people to think about who Jews are, and opened a path for any German with the 3.50 euro to pay for admission to ask any question about Jews, check through the glass box for their horns, and maybe come away with a better understanding of the Sons of Abraham.

While you and I, and Avi Klar, presumably do not need such displays, and I doubt I would go to one showcasing a different race or ethnicity, if you have some young person willing to be encased in a glass coop and show the world what a Jew looks like, as the expression goes, be my guest.

Getting word out to the masses used to be a difficult proposition, with the expense involved in printing circulars and the tight control the media had on common knowledge. But they sure got away with murder. Closely written pamphlets, with run-on sentences and graphically challenged layouts informed humankind of the latest scientific discoveries or the burglary around the block.

With every John Doe having his own blog today, the forces of good must utilize more striking imagery to capture attention. They’re competing with the “Holocaust on your plate” guys at PETA, the “Israeli War Crimes: Your Tax Dollars at Work” of the Mideast Awareness Campaign, and worse ads that regularly shock readers and viewers.

In truth, Orthodox Jews have traditionally not engaged in educating the non-Jewish world about the Holocaust  but if a secular organization wants to do so, as long as they keep politics out of it they are welcome.

And if the biggest sticker shock German viewers have about Jew in the Box is that it reminds them of the Eichmann exhibit, well, then the Jewish Museum has a much bigger problem on their hands.