“The Year 2058” is an exception.
Up to now, exhibitions at the museum have dealt with the past or with contemporary issues. But there has been no exhibition dealing specifically with the future. Yet the future is just as important in that it is open to our influence.
In the early 1950s, three people determined to make the Jews of Stockholm more Jewish by founding a Jewish school and a centre for Jewish activities. They achieved this without the support of the Jewish congregation which did not want to take part. Joseph Ettlinger, Anna Rock and Fritz Hollander changed the face of Jewish life in Stockholm, giving it deeper roots, and we should like to pay homage to their inspiration and conviction – and their belief that it was possible to make a difference.
”The Year 2058” discusses whether we Jews will still remain in Stockholm in fifty years¹ time, and if so, shall we have become so assimilated that we are no longer Jews, or shall we have united with the Christians? Or will things be much as they are today? Or will the pressure of anti-Semitism have become so strong that the Jews are preoccupied with defending themselves as one of the forecasts on our wall of quotations suggests? Or will Klippgatan on Södermalm have become a busy jewish neighbourhood with kosher restaurants and a Cabbala Centre?
Regardless of what actually occurs, we Jews have a responsibility to coming generations, a duty to preserve our distinctive character and to try to survive. If it really is so important not to break the chain, as the last Jew in Stockholm asks himself in one of our films included in the exhibition.
This discussion is not exclusive to Jews. Kurds, Assyrians, Roma and others ask themselves how one can survive in this homogeneous and Lutheran land. How does one preserve one¹s own culture in this northerly province?
It can be done.
We arrived in 1774, and have survived , so far.
Yvonne Jacobsson, Director, Jewish Museum in Stockholm
Ricki Neuman, concept and manuscript
Ricki Neuman has initiated och developed the idea. The exhibition is designed by Lina Sporrong with photographs and layout by Karl Gabor.
Notes on the design for “The Year 2058”
My task involved creating a place for three experts and their views on the future. the experts report from their “own” workstations which should seem convincingly alive but also rather strictly positioned with a red light above each expert’s name and professional title.
Each has a desk with files, papers and topical books as well as a notice board. After due consideration, the notice boards were covered in fabric in the classical manner. We have used notice boards of this type since the 1950s and they will doubtless go on being used for some time yet. Ideas can be presented on the boards and people can add their own comments on post-its.
The Jews of Stockholm speak to us from lighted windows in a silhouette of Stockholm with some new elements. I have borrowed architect Gert Wingårdh’s proposed skyscraper and have added a larger mosque in the city. Lighting the silhouette has also created a dreamlike shadow of Stockholm in the future that appears on the outer wall of the cinema.
Exhibition and set designer
From design to exhibition
In the year 2058 Sweden will no longer have its own Prime Minister but will be part of federal Europe governed from Brussels. the world will be divided into five power blocks. Europe is in fourth place and last is the regressing Arabian Empire. Stocks of oil are giving out. The Arab states were the great losers in the Third World War and the resulting peace treaty secured the future of the state of Israel as one of a small number of non-aligned countries outside the five power blocks.
Ninety percent of the world’s population live in cities or urban areas and almost everything that people see, hear, smell, touch or taste is now manufactured by other people.
sweden is still, in name, a welfare state and a democracy but the welfare is haphazard in outcome and there is little to vote on in this peripheral part of Europe. the world, at this time, is dividing into very rich people and very poor and the Jews are among the winners.
Belonging to an ethnic minority can be advantageous in an increasingly globalized world, especially when nation states are declining. An ethnic identity can act as a sort of guarantee not only for similar values but also for daring to do business and exchanging confidences with each other. For example, within the ethnic group capital is readily available and simpler transactions can be sealed with a handshake.
Externally there is nothing to be gained by emphasizing one’s Jewishness. We are progressing towards a world in which everyone is alike on the surface. This is a necessary consequence of globalization. Alienation and racism will affect large numbers of people in the future too.
There is good reason to be pessimistic. The pop group Abba’s message “The Winner Takes It All” was cabled across the globe. It will be even truer tomorrow.
Thanks to the Internet, for the first time people can live in parallel worlds, a real world and a virtual one in which one can mix with people and earn one’s livelihood as well as living one’s Jewish identity.
I am already able to place my alter ego in the virtual world in the form of an avatar or icon. I can also take out ideas, artefacts and income from the virtual world and then make use of them in the real world. And i can visit virtual shops, museums, lectures, gambling dens and science centres or tour the world’s only virtual embassy so far, which happens to be Swedish.
there was a time when we had learnt to socialize by telephone and people sat at either end of a thin wire and exchanged ideas.
In the virtual world one does not merely converse with people but socializes with them in several dimensions that completely absorb the person taking part and that leave one with a sense of being in the real world. We can liken the virtual world to a film in which one takes part oneself and in which one can influence events.
A future J-World is a global, parallel Jewish world that will make it possible to live a Jewish life wherever one happens to be and that will make it easier for the small Jewish congregation in Stockholm, since in the J-World it will always be possible to contact somebody when one wants to do something together with another Jew, regardless of the time and place or the actual size of the congregation.
In other words, one will have no difficulty in assembling a quorum of people for teaching, telling jewish jokes or discussing Israel. One needs only to enter the Internet.
A majority of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel in 2058. The difference between Judaism in Israel and in the Diaspora will be all the greater. Israel will be dominated by Jews who define themselves as orthodox or Charedim (ultra orthodox). But even those Israeli Jews who see themselves as secular will observe the Sabbath and the Jewish festivals and very few Israeli Jews will be living in mixed marriages.
In the Diaspora the reverse will hold true. Most Diaspora Jews will now embrace reform or liberal ideals. Many of them will be living in mixed marriages or will have one non-Jewish parent. These families still celebrate the Jewish feasts but combine them with the celebration of other religious festivals. This may mean that the Jewish identity becomes less substantial.
On the other hand, it is more difficult to live a naturally Jewish life outside of Israel, and it will continue to be so. And so Jews in the diaspora often develop a more conscious and stronger Jewish identity.
What will the future bring? Will it be possible to find a form of Jewish identity that can unite secular and religious, Israeli Jews and those of the Diaspora, conservative and progressive Jews? This must be an identity that does not primarily rely either on the ideas or practice of the faith but on a conscious decision to participate.
One way of achieving this is, perhaps, to see Judaism as a narrative, the ancient story of a people’s experience of meetings with the divine, of suffering and salvation, of vulnerability and of blessings; an ever-developing story to which new chapters are added and which each individual hands on to others in accordance with their circumstances, abilities and aptitudes.
It is problematic that Jewish social life in Stockholm appears to be very exclusive. it often functions like a club with invisible rules of admission. Generally people keep to the accepted patterns and this does not encourage renewal. It is interesting that there has been greater openness to change on the religious side. The fact that the congregation is now positive about employing a woman rabbi is the result of a long and purposeful process that has led to egalitarian services in the synagogue. Today, men and women are equal and, for the first time in the history of Judaism in Sweden, they can both take part in religious ceremonies. This is profound. I was recently able to receive and carry the Torah and to take part in the procession behind the cantors. Holding the Torah scrolls close to my body was a wonderful experience and then seeing them put back into the ark. I really felt that i was participating.
Född och uppvuxen i Israel, bott i Sverige i 25 år, teatervetare
Will there be Jewish life in Stockholm in fifty years’ time? This depends more on the society around us than on ourselves. anti-Semitism can make it difficult to be a Jew but it also makes us conscious of our Jewish heritage and provides a foundation for the sense of a common fate, creates consciousness of our being part of history and, possibly, even a future.
A vision: both popular and organized anti-Semitism will decline as will religion’s hold on people’s lives while Israel becomes a state among other states in the Middle East. In that case we shall face a real test – that of preserving and developing a Jewish identity which is not empowered by the trauma of the Holocaust, or by religious obligations or by Zionism and Israel.
I look forward to a Jewish life based on a positive desire to be a Jew – because one is part of a tradition of ideas, a perspective on the world and an attitude to life which is enriching: a sense of community, a special view of the world and of human kind and a particular way of reacting – sometimes neurotic, sometimes humorous. Even such an identity can be handed down from one generation to the next. It must simply be more fun to be Jewish, and more interesting, more profound and more complex, more enriching and more difficult than merely being “normal”.
There are many of my generation who have grown up extremely Swedish, with parents who have really wanted to be part of Sweden. The children feel secure in their Swedish identity while many of us are afraid that something is being lost. And so we have a growing interest in gaining more knowledge of our tradition and our religion which are inseparable. For me the big question is: If i want to live as a Jew and not necessarily as a religious Jew, can I remain in Stockholm or must i live in Israel or the USA?
The Diaspora is important as long as it continues to exist. But a time will come when it has played out its role. There is currently a strong movement among young Jews all over the world. They are moving back to Israel. This is a reason for my wanting to move there. It is there that the Jewish drama will take place. At the moment our people find themselves in a very special time. Only twice in history have we been in a similar situation as regards the land of Israel, and have been faced by a similar opening: when we marched out of slavery in Egypt and when we returned from captivity in Babylon.
More people than ever are speaking Hebrew. This augurs well for the future. Language is power. And language is more than just words. It is claimed that Yiddish is a sort of German but with other values. There was a time when we Jews were a religious congregation but we are now an ethnic and social grouping; and in Stockholm a very small one. Israel is more important to those of us who live in small congregations. We are not self-sufficient and this makes us vulnerable. Had we been able to transfer the spirit and sense of community at Glämsta to the Jewish Centre in town, then we should have succeeded and I would be less anxious about our future. If we want to survive in Stockholm then neither ethnicity nor socializing with other Jews nor contact with Israel will suffice.
In fifty years’ time it will be accepted that one is a Jew, even in religious life, if one feels like a Jew and has at least one Jewish parent. All conversions will be valid everywhere, even those undertaken by conservative or reform rabbis. Instead of today’s services that are often “performances” with a passive audience I see in the future a spiritual life in which everyone takes part with singing and music and where there are often moments of reflection and silence in our large and beautiful synagogue. Finally, kosher slaughter will be permitted in Sweden, Ahmed Rahmi will be safely behind bars and Radio Islam will no longer be on the Internet. Nor will other websites that spread hatred since they will automatically be cut off in the same way that websites featuring child pornography are blacked out today.
Sadly, I believe that the Muslim minority will have gained a stronger position in our country, aided by Sweden’s longing for cultural self-annihilation. And so anti-Semitism will be more common. Memories of the Holocaust will fade if they are not integrated into Jewish beliefs and ideas. I have personal experience of the camps and am an active member of the association of Holocaust Survivors in Sweden. We are currently working with a group of third-generation youngsters, girls and boys whose grandparents survived. They will receive training from the association so that they can go out and spread information about the Holocaust in the schools.
The Swedish Jews are not an island in the world but are influenced by global political developments. Religion and culture have always been sensitive to new trends even if Jewish culture has remained relatively homogeneous throughout history. The Jewish congregation seems to me like an exclusive club. Knowledge of our Jewish traditions and our languages, but also spiritual values have been undermined and the accepted view seems to be that identifying oneself as Jewish is enough. I do not mean that things should be preserved just for the sake of preserving them. There is no intrinsic value in being Jewish. We are our history and tradition. If we neglect to learn about them the very idea of being Jewish will collapse, regardless of which wing of Judaism we belong to. And our identity will hardly be stronger than a group of people who support the same soccer team.
The majority of Jews do not need to be religious for us to be able to survive in Stockholm but, in that case, there needs to be something else at the core, for example a Jewish view of the world, a Jewish attitude and this already exists. It requires knowledge, contact with Jewish culture and Jewish literature and a relationship with the sources of Judaism. In Sweden we could gain a great deal if we were to embrace the history of European Jewry. This would enable us to see more clearly what the Diaspora has achieved and it would give us a stronger identity as well as providing a marker in relation to American and Israeli Judaism
Listen to the “exhibition” in Swedish:
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Pictures from the exhibition
Pictures from the three new films from the exhibition, describing three different scenarios of the future:
In Aronsberg we meet the only remaining Jew in Stockholm. He is disappointed, angry and frustrated. How did it get to be like this? Did we invest too much in Israel? We were the most ideal minority in the world.
Klippgatan shows a Jewish renaissance on Södermalm in Stockholm, where anyone can listen to Klezmer, learn Cabbala and eat Gefillte Fish. But the press calls it a gated community, and the neighbours take to violence.
JesMos is the fastest growing communion and has bought the Globe Arena. Finally, after two thousand years, a reunion of Jews and Christians! But the