Jeremy Zwelling Assistant Professor of Jewish Studies and Assistant Professor of Religion Yaniv Feller penned an article over the summer titled “Too Good to be True?” for the Tel Aviv Review of Books.
In the piece, Feller discusses the Museum of the Jewish People (ANU), which first opened March 2021. One of the museum’s main exhibits begins with a segment called “Mosaic: Identity and Culture in Our Times” before moving into the historical roots of Judaism, exploring different forms of Judaism in contemporary and historical contexts, as well as the diversity of the Jewish people and the way they observe their religion.
“The question of whether there is such a singular object of research called Jewish history—indeed, whether the history of the Jewish people is unified—has confronted every historian of the Jews. In implicitly answering it, the new exhibition at ANU offers a different historiography to that of its predecessor,” Feller writes.
He argues that the museum could have been constructed anywhere in the world but its specific location within Israel calls into question the role of Israeli politics in the Jewish faith. Feller cites various Israeli politicians who have fought against the LBGTQ+ community, contending that such people inherently affect the religion of the country they seek to represent.
“It is about who gets to define Jewishness,” Feller states.
Feller then analyzes the relationship between politics and Judaism, concluding that Judaism cannot be defined by any one place or identity.
“ANU is everything its creators hoped it would be. A cutting-edge, beautifully executed, comprehensive museum of the Jewish people. And precisely because of that, it feels at odds with its location. As the Museum of the Jewish People, its permanent exhibition is inspirational, but also aspirational. It is increasingly at odds with the diverging paths of the Jewish people and the State of Israel in which the museum is located.”