Exhibition | Moses Mendelssohn in His Time

Posted in exhibitions by Editor on April 15, 2022

Johann Christoph Frisch, Portrait of Moses Mendelssohn, detail, 1783
(Jewish Museum Berlin, 2013.355.0; photo by Roman März)

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Opening this week at the Jewish Museum in Berlin:

‘We Dreamed of Nothing but Enlightenment’: Moses Mendelssohn in His Time
‘Wir träumten von nichts als Aufklärung’: Moses Mendelssohn in seiner Zeit

Jüdisches Museum Berlin, 14 April — 11 September 2022

Immigrant, Enlightenment philosopher, and self-made intellectual: in his time, Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) was already a European celebrity, and he remains a central figure in German Judaism to this day. This exhibition tells of Mendelssohn’s life in Berlin and shows him as a figure who integrated polarizing forces in the midst of historical upheaval and awakening.

With his Christian and Jewish friends, Moses Mendelssohn discussed philosophical and political questions. As an author he challenged his audience to think critically. As an observant Jew, he linked tradition with Enlightenment ideas, and championed secular education and civil equality for his ‘Jewish nation’. His translation of the Torah made religious knowledge accessible to all. The exhibition presents the era of the Enlightenment as a laboratory for radical change, in which human rights, freedom of opinion, and the diversity of individual ways of life were articulated and demanded. With his arguments for the emancipation of Jews, rights for minorities, and the separation of religion and the state, Mendelssohn opened paths into modernity—and provoked questions about Jewish identity that persist to this day.

Inka Bertz and Thomas Lackmann, eds., ‘Wir träumten von nichts als Aufklärung’: Moses Mendelssohn (Cologne: Wienand Verlag, 2022), 248 pages, ISBN 978-3868326901, €30.


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