Religious encounters at the Danish Jewish Museum

Religious encounters at the Danish Jewish Museum

By Jonas Wissing Larsen

The topic of this post is the exhibition Rum og Rummelighed (Space and Spaciousness) at the Danish Jewish museum. I think Rum og Rummelighed, is a great title to the exhibition, as it shows how a certain space can contain different groups of people, and how they sometimes clash and learn to live together in the same space. I also think spaciousness, or inclusiveness, is a topic that is highly relevant today as minority groups are still often stereotyped, which can course problems for co-existence. I did not have to go further than the entrance of the museum to see the problems between the Jewish minority and other groups, as the museum is constantly guarded by police vehicles due to fear of a terrorist attack. I have chosen to see the exhibition as a contact zone, where the Danish Christian majority meets the Jewish minority, and the focus is on the historical clashes between the two communities.

When I first entered the museum, I was met by a friendly employee, who gave me a map over the museum and explained that the exhibition had different themes. One of the themes, I noticed in the exhibition, was the many clashes between Jews and Christians, and one of the earliest clashes was the riot against Jews in the early 19th century, where they were blamed for the Danish financial situation. The riot happened in cities all over the country, which shows, that it was not just a single city that had gone mad, but the entire country that blamed Jews for the bankruptcy of the state of Denmark.

Picture of the riot against the Jewish minority in 1819. (Photo by the blogger)

An important part of the exhibition is about World War II, where the relationship between the state of Denmark and the Jews living there were put to the test. One of the stories told in the exhibition is about the rescue mission in 1943, where many Jews were sailed to Sweden and saved from the Germans. But sad stories about Jews, who did not make it are also a part of the exhibition. One of these is the story about a Jewish, German woman, who tried to flee to Denmark in 1938, but were denied residence and later died in a concentration camp.

Picture of the letter that denied the Jewish woman residence in Denmark. (Photo by the blogger)

I think the examples with the Jewish woman and the riot both raise the question: Is this how we want Danish society to treat people just because they have a different religion? Even though these things happened a long time ago, I think they might be a warning of how bad it can end if religious or ethnic groups are stereotyped and the dialogue is dysfunctional.

Picture of the cinema that shows the Danish Jewish people’s history. (Photo by the blogger)

The video in the picture above, showed how the Jews arrived in Denmark from all over Europe, often because they were thrown out of their former countries, where they were no longer tolerated. Therefore, Jews in Denmark are a very mixed group, with different standpoints, and as the exhibition also shows, they often disagree upon religious matters.

Exhibition text that explains why Jews in Denmark are a very mixed group. (Photo by the blogger).

When you see in the exhibition how differently Jews interpret their religion and how many different countries they come from, does it really make sense to try to tell one common story about Jews? One of the purposes of this exhibition is to show that Jews should not be stereotyped, as they are just as different as every other person. Therefore, this exhibition might help Danes understand Jewish people so we can avoid or at least take precautionary measures against big clashes in the future.

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