As Easter and Passover overlap on the last day, there doesn’t seem to be a more appropriate time to post this narrative I wrote for one of my pieces that was in the Propeller Group show, entitled: Live Longer and Piss Off your Heirs. Guest curators were Olga Korper and Taiga Lipson.
The idea behind the title was…
Olga: Getting old is not for sissies.
Taiga: Rage, rage against the dying of the light!!
Olga: Artists, if your oeuvre were to be represented by one work, what would it be?
Taiga: We want to see your perspective on life practices and superstitions and bad habits and secret victories. What’s your personal prescription for living longer?
Olga: Freedom is more important to me than almost anything else, and that’s what we’re offering you here. Make a choice that best represents your thoughts, your creativity, and your soul.
I came up with the idea after I heard of the show. Thank you to Frances Patella for making me aware of it and for the opportunity to voice something that has been sitting with me for years.
BERLINER NEUE SYNAGOGE TRIPTYCH – GEBETBUCH
EDITION 1/6, 11” X 27”
ARCHIVAL PIGMENT PRINT ON EPSON HOT PRESS BRIGHT
Gebetbuch has a tremendous personal significance for me. Both my parents were German immigrants. I grew up immersed in German culture, the German language and basically, the idea of Gemütlichkeit; however there was also the dark cloud of the Nazi era. I still find it difficult to reconcile that perhaps some of my now-deceased relatives back in Germany could have had their part in this dark history. Even complacency was taking part.
Nine years ago, I met Simon, who is now my husband. At my first visit, I asked him about a picture of the synagogue that was hanging in the living room. He really minimized its importance and told me he was non-religious. Months later, I discovered that he had been raised in an orthodox home and went for ten years to Hebrew school. Although he was not religious, he was very much culturally Jewish. Months later, I asked him why he renounced his heritage so casually. He told me: “I wanted you to like me.”
That line shocked me. Why wouldn’t I like him?
Years later, we took a trip together to Germany to visit Berlin and see the sites. We saw the beauty and richness of Jewish culture and learned of the former Jewish intelligentsia that existed in pre-war Berlin. We also saw the horror of how the Nazi’s tried to annihilate any trace of the Jews. The Holocaust museum and the Holocaust memorial certainly left an impression on both of us Yet the strongest impact made upon me was when I first saw and then entered the Neue Synagoge.
Beautifully restored on the exterior and in some parts of the interior – here was a place of worship of a religion that is thousands of years old and the Nazi’s tried to raze it to the ground. However, it has survived and flourished once again, although protected by security since, unfortunately, there is still anti-Semitism.
In this synagogue I was able to see how the two cultures melded at one time. The key artefact was the Gebetbuch (Prayer book) – which was written in Hebrew and in German (with the gothic Fraktur font) – also, inside was an inscription from a Großvater to his Enkelkind.
What a different world this would have been, had it not been for the Holocaust? If only those two cultures could have flourished together! Berlin was so progressive already at the turn of the last century – the beautiful synergy of these two cultures together in the arts and sciences, all but destroyed. However, both survived differently and a greater understanding has come out of a disastrous outcome.