Freedom of religion is a human right. This includes not only the right of religious communities to freely exercise their religion, but also the right to change one‘s religion. But conversion, the change from one faith to another, is laden with conflicts. Anyone converting, questions the articles of faith that he or she is leaving. And confirms the truth claim raised by the religion he or she turns to.
For a long time, conversions had been characterized by coercion, social pressure, and forced assimilation. Not least, this applied to conversions from Judaism to Christianity. Social discussions of this topic are not without conflict even today; in fact, they touch on new taboos and open questions. In a joint exhibition, the Jewish museums of Hohenems, Frankfurt am Main, and Munich offer a stage for these controversies. The diversity of the individual motives, the various ways in which religious communities deal with converts, their rituals, and, finally, personal successes and failures are presented in all their contradictions in this exhibition.
Conversions serve the most diverse interests: for the religions and their communities they result in an increase in believers, political power, or material resources. For the converts themselves, this is about their identity and finding spiritual meaning, but at times this is also about financial and material advantages; about the avoidance or resolution of personal conflicts; about acceptance in a community; about the possibility of marriage and social ascent. The topic has gained a new dramatic topicality before the background of global migration and the process of Europe’s reinvention. Minorities are not everywhere minorities—nor are majorities everywhere majorities. Conversion also means dividing one’s own biography into a “before” and “after” and into a “passage” that usually is manifested in a ritual. The exhibition therefore follows converts on their path from one religion to the other and looks whether their hopes and wishes were fulfilled and whether their problems could be solved that way or kept lingering. The exhibition tells of converts and their life dramas across time and space in Europe, of well-known personalities such as Heinrich Heine, Edith Stein, Gustav Mahler, Nahida Lazarus and Leopold Weiss (who became Muhammad Asad) but mainly of unknown individuals whose stories shift the focus onto everyday life.
An exhibition of the Jewish museums of Hohenems, Frankfurt am Main, and Munich.
Hannes Sulzenbacher (Wien)
Regina Laudage-Kleeberg (Münster)
Hannes Sulzenbacher (Wien)
Martin Kohlbauer (Wien)
atelier stecher (Götzis)
Roland Stecher and Thomas Matt
Hanno Loewy (Hohenems)
Coordination Frankfurt and Munich:
Fritz Backhaus and Michal Grunwald (Frankfurt am Main)
Ulrike Heikaus (Munich)
Tanja Fuchs (Hohenems)
Public relations / organization:
Birgit Sohler (Hohenems)
Gerlinde Fritz (Hohenems)