Jewish Cul­ture

While the Jüdis­che Kul­turtage, or Jewish Cul­ture Days, brings to­gether Jewish mu­sic, To­rah lec­tures, and Is­raeli chefs, Solveig Stein­hardt takes a bite of a de­li­cious sabich sand­wich.


The Jewish Cul­ture Days fes­ti­val is a good ex­cuse to learn about the re­birth of Jewish Ber­lin.


Back in the Mid­dle Ages, when Ber­lin was lit­tle more than a vil­lage, a few Jewish families set­tled into what later be­came known as Mitte’s Kleiner Jü­den­hof, found­ing a com­mu­nity that pros­pered through to mod­ern times in al­ter­nat­ing waves of ex­pul­sions and read­mis­sions ac­cord­ing to each ruler’s mood. With the Eman­ci­pa­tion De­cree of 1812, the Jews ob­tained Prus­sian cit­i­zen­ship and Ber­lin be­came an im­por­tant cen­ter of Jewish life and the home of im­por­tant philo­soph­i­cal move­ments such as Moses Men­delssohn’s Jewish En­light­en­ment, the Haskalah. In hopes of bet­ter in­te­gra­tion into Euro­pean so­ci­ety and in­creased sec­u­lar ed­u­ca­tion, the Haskalah ul­ti­mately re­sulted in Jewish eman­ci­pa­tion and in the birth of Re­form Ju­daism. At the out­break of World War I, Ber­lin Jews fought in the war as Ger­man cit­i­zens, but only 15 years later they were be­ing per­se­cuted again and soon de­ported to con­cen­tra­tion camps by the Nazi regime. Af­ter the war, it took the Ger­mans a cou­ple decades to be­gin fac­ing their past and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties, but once this process was started, there was no stop­ping it. From the enor­mous Me­mo­rial to the Mur­dered Jews of Europe near Bran­den­burg Gate to the Stolper­steine (brass stones bear­ing the name of a de­ported per­son), from ste­les list­ing con­cen­tra­tion camps to the Bavar­ian Vier­tel’s mov­ing signs re­port­ing the Nazi re­stric­tions and bans pro­mul­gated against the Jews, Ber­lin is now one big Shoah me­mo­rial, and the re­cent re­lease of hu­mor­ous books about Hitler is a sign that the Holo­caust is some­thing Ger­mans can fi­nally talk about openly. In the past decades, mass mi­gra­tion of Rus­sian Jews into the city has set the foun­da­tions for a Jewish re­birth. This was fol­lowed by the ar­rival of an es­ti­mated 15,000 young Is­raelis, who have been mov­ing to

trendy Ber­lin de­spite their Ger­man- or Pol­ish-born grand­par­ents’ fears. With 10 syn­a­gogues, a hand­ful of Jewish schools, and a 10-day cul­tural fes­ti­val, Ber­lin’s Jewish com­mu­nity is now one of the liveli­est in Europe.


From 4–14 Septem­ber, the Jüdis­che Kul­turtage (www.juedis­che-kul­ will be cel­e­brat­ing Jewish cul­ture with an all-round pro­gram of mu­si­cal, lit­er­ary, cin­e­matic, and culi­nary events, be­gin­ning with coun­tertenor Jochen Kowal­ski

and the Vogler Quar­tet’s trib­ute to clas­si­cal com­poser Max Kowal­ski (1882–1956). Things will get a lit­tle wilder on 6 Septem­ber, when DJs Shicco and Rap a Toi will com­bine the trendy at­mos­pheres of Ber­lin and Tel Aviv at the Tel Aviv Party (Rocco & Sanny club, Friedrich­str. 113). If you were ex­pect­ing clar­inets and vi­o­lins, lis­ten to the Jewish

Mon­keys’ klezmer rock tunes on 7 Septem­ber, but the real mu­si­cal high­light this year is Idan Raichel: The cross-cul­tural singer merges Is­raeli tones and the oc­ca­sional re­li­gious chant with Ethiopian mu­sic and Caribbean rhythms and will be play­ing at the Rykestraße sy­n­a­gogue on 11 Septem­ber. Lec­tures on Jewish his­tory and reli­gion and Jewish movies will fea­ture through­out the du­ra­tion of the fes­ti­val, while on 6 Septem­ber all of Ber­lin’s syn­a­gogues will open their doors to of­fer in­sights into the di­ver­sity of Ber­lin’s Jewish life, which ranges from Ashke­nazi to Sephardi and from ortho­dox to lib­eral-egal­i­tar­ian. And since there would be no Jewish cul­ture with­out food, the or­ga­niz­ers have also recre­ated the lively at­mos­phere of Tel Aviv’s most pop­u­lar mar­ket, the Shuk Ha'Carmel, com­plete with spice ven­dors and falafel stands (7 Septem­ber, Fasa­nen­str.). With a sound­track of live klezmer, it will be a truly kosher ex­pe­ri­ence.


The thing about Jewish cui­sine is that there isn’t a real Jewish cui­sine. Jewish food is a col­lec­tion of many tra­di­tions ab­sorbed by the Jewish di­as­pora and adapted to the di­etary laws of the kashrus and, some­times, to food-re­lated re­stric­tions im­posed by lo­cal gov­ern­ments. Gen­er­ally speak­ing, how­ever, Ber­lin’s Jewish restau­rants and eater­ies ei­ther fo­cus on the Rus­sian and Amer­i­can Ashke­nazi tra­di­tions or on Is­rael’s Mid­dle East­ern in­flu­ences. At Salomon Bagels (Pots­damer Platz Arkaden, Alte Pots­damer Str. 7) you can or­der New York­style bagels with cheese­cake and cin­na­mon rolls along­side a good cof­fee, while the kosher Beth

Café (Tu­chol­skystr. 40) serves clas­sics like gefilte fish and matzo dumplings to both re­li­gious and lay gour­mands. Restau­rant Masel Topf (Rykestr. 2) takes din­ers on a culi­nary jour­ney to Rus­sia with a menu ori­ented to­ward the shtetls, the vil­lages of the Yid­dish world. But there is one de­light that shouts “Is­rael” more than any­thing else: hum­mus. Is­rael’s fa­vorite dip can be en­joyed in var­i­ous ways, all of which can be tried at Dji­malaya (In­vali­den­str. 159). A lit­tle less fa­mous but just as de­li­cious is sabich, the Shab­bat morn­ing sand­wich of the Iraqi Jews, now avail­able in Ber­lin at Zula (Huse­mannstr. 10.) This round­shaped and round-fla­vored spe­cialty con­tains fried egg­plant, hum­mus, veg­eta­bles, and a hard-boiled egg that has cooked in a red sauce for hours, all wrapped up in pita bread.

Be­low: The Vogler Quar­tet will be per­form­ing with Jochen Kowal­ski on 4 Septem­ber.

Left: Tel Aviv's Shuk Ha'Carmel mar­ket will be recre­ated on Fasa­nen­straße on 7 Septem­ber. Above: The Rykestraße sy­n­a­gogue in Pren­zlauer Berg.

Catch the Jewish Mon­keys' klezmer rock songs on 7 Septem­ber.

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