A German art exhibit about Jews is stirring controversy.
The exhibit, "The Whole Truth, everything you wanted to know about Jews," opened this month and runs until Sept. 1 at the Jewish Museum in Berlin. Commonly known as the “Jew in a Box,” the exhibit has a Jewish man or woman sitting in a glass enclosure for two hours a day answering visitors’ questions about the religion and its people, AP reports.
"A lot of our visitors don't know any Jews and have questions they want to ask," museum official Tina Luedecke told the news outlet. The exhibit takes place almost 70 years since the Holocaust that killed 88 percent of the German Jewish population.
“How does someone become a Jew?” “What is the Jewish take on Jesus and Mohammed?” “Are the Jews a Chosen People?” are some questions the museum poses on its website for potential visitors.
Continue Reading Below
Today there are approximately 200,000 Jews living in Germany -- a minute figure compared to the country’s national population of 82 million, according to the AP.
"I feel a bit like an animal in the zoo, but in reality that's what it's like being a Jew in Germany," Ido Porat, a 33-year-old Israeli living in Germany told AP after sitting in the box. "You are a very interesting object to most people here."
It’s this unorthodox display that has garnered criticism.
The Jerusalem Post points to the resemblance between the glass box and the Nazi war criminal Adolf Eichmann who was enclosed in a bulletproof glass booth during his 1961 trial.
Eran Levy, an Israeli living in Berlin, told AP that the exhibit is dehumanizing.
“It’s a horrible thing to do – completely degrading and not helpful,” he told the news outlet. “The Jewish Museum absolutely missed the point if they wanted to do anything to improve the relations between Germans and Jews.”
This isn’t the first exhibit at the Jewish Museum in Berlin to conjure up controversy.
Last September, the museum hosted Dr. Judith Butler, an American philosopher and anti-Israel activist who urged the 700-person audience to boycott the Jewish nation, the Jerusalem Post reports.
Since World War II, Germany has implemented strong measures to support the Jewish population. German state education requires Holocaust study and Holocaust denial is considered a crime.
But anti-Semitism remains.
Last year the German city of Cologne barred circumcision for causing “bodily harm.” After Jewish and Muslim groups condemned the measure, German Chancellor Angela Merkel stepped in and passed legislation that legalized the practice, BBC reports.
Ilana Gluz, an 18-year-old Jewish student who lives in Cologne, has been bullied because of her religion, she told Deutsche Welle.
"Hey, Jew, are you stingy or what?" a student asked her. Gluz says teachers often ignore the racial slurs. "Teachers hardly dare discuss the topic," she said.
And discrimination takes place outside the classroom.
Sammy Porath and his father have plans to open a kosher health food store in Cologne that would openly advertise halal products over kosher ones, he told Deutsche Welle.
"We don't need a brick tossed through our shop window," he says.
Miriam Goldmann, the Jewish Museum's curator, says the controversial exhibit's approach is the best way to overcome cultural barriers. "We wanted to provoke, that's true, and some people may find the show outrageous or objectionable," Goldmann told AP. "But that's fine by us."