On April 27 in Hannon Library’s Von Der Ahe Family Suite, the Jewish studies program held “A Golem for Berlin,” which featured work from artist Joshua Abarbanel. On Holocaust Remembrance Day, Abarbanel introduced the two golems he created and discussed their historical significance, as well as their impact on today’s conversation of the Holocaust.
Dr. Margarete Feinstein, the acting director of the LMU Jewish studies program, introduced the concept of the golem and explained how it connects to Holocaust Remembrance Day. The golem, as she described, is an inanimate male figure made of clay, which is then brought to life by two or three rabbis. It is depicted either as a servant, a savior of the Jewish community or a creature that runs amok and warns of the dangers to come.
She then introduced Joshua Abarbanel, who describes his work as “order out of chaos,” since he created the golem by placing wooden Hebrew letters on top of each other. He states that he “created a sense of poetic mystery, or noble sadness, in the work of a golem that has been deactivated, waiting for some sort of call.”
Abarbanel originally made one golem, which was featured in the library on the day of the event. In 2015, the Jewish Museum in Berlin requested a larger version of the golem to feature as an exhibit, leading them to commission their golem.
He connected the golem to Holocaust Remembrance Day by discussing Weissensee Cemetery, a Jewish cemetery that was untouched by the Germans and the various bombings. Some claimed that a golem protected the site, which resulted in its preservation throughout and after World War II.
Abarbanel is wary of the golems he created, however, calling them “not a solution, but a band-aid.” He discussed two approaches to using the physical nature, either as one who solves the problem themselves or uses power to solve it for them. He ensured that the golems would never be animated by purposefully not making the last key. He wishes that his creations always remain in wait.
Aviva Tannin, a junior political science major, agrees with Abarbanel’s admission, stating that she would stay away from using a golem after hearing “cautionary tales of humans creating something or trying to control things beyond their control, never ending well.”
On the other hand, Don Powers, an avid attendee of LMU events, considers it “impressive that someone could make something like [the golem].” He admires the golem, and believes that it truly helped the Jews during World War II.