An exhibit illustrating 1700 Years of Jewish Life in German-Speaking Lands will open on Friday, Nov. 4. Hosted by the Athenaeum Foundation, the Shared History Project of the Leo Baeck Institute will continue through Nov. 27 in the Atheneum Artspace.
The traveling exhibit uses iconic artifacts to explore how interwoven the lives of Jewish people and their non-Jewish neighbors have been in the 17 centuries since the presence of Jews in the Rhineland was first documented in 321 CE.
“We are honored to host an exhibit that shows the depth of German-Jewish heritage beyond their complex history,” said Athenaeum Foundation President Craig Mince. “This exhibit connects the history of the Jewish faith to themes of modern-day life, and we look forward to sharing that knowledge with the Indianapolis community.”
The year 2021 marked the 1700th anniversary of a Roman imperial edict authorizing the municipal authorities of the Roman colony at the site of modern-day Cologne to recruit Jews to serve on the municipal council. This document is the earliest evidence of a Jewish presence north of the Alps, and institutions in Germany and beyond marked the occasion with a yearlong festival of exhibitions, events and commemoration.
The modular, free-standing exhibit consists of 12 wooden frames with the exhibition materials printed on vinyl banners that can be arranged in a variety of configurations. Viewers are encouraged to consider the objects as they relate to recurring themes of Jewish life including migration, inclusion and acculturation as well as exile, persecution and resilience.
The exhibit will also feature work from Karen Baldner, associate faculty at the Herron School of Art & Design, who comes from a Jewish-German family persecuted during World War II. Her work explores how Germans, coming from non-Jewish and Jewish family backgrounds, interact in a post-Shoah world. She encourages viewers to explore the “unspeakable” together without being silent.
For more information about the Athenaeum, please visit athenaeumindy.org. For more information about the Shared History Project, visit sharedhistoryproject.org.
PHOTO ABOVE: The Athenaeum, built as Das Deutsche Haus in 1894, serves as a community center for many cultural, business and nonprofit groups, including the YMCA, Young Actors Theatre and The Rathskeller restaurant.