NEW YORK -- Berlin's avant-garde, and to date empty, Jewish Museum
will inaugurate its first exhibition Sept. 9, amid budding yet
hesitant interest in German travel by Jewish-Americans.
The museum, whose empty galleries have received around 350,000
visitors since January 1999, already is standard fare on most
Berlin tours thanks to its architectural merits, said Stuart Katz,
president of TAL Tours, a Valley Stream, N.Y.-based tour operator
that's crafted a new Jewish heritage package to Germany and Israel
in cooperation with German flag carrier Lufthansa and the
countries' tourism boards.
Designed by New York architect Daniel Libeskind, the unusual
structure on Berlin's Lindenstrasse resembles a zig-zag or
lightning bolt, contrasting severely with the baroque Municipal
Museum next door.
The new exhibit, "Two Millennia of Jewish History," is a
three-part exploration of Judaism, the Holocaust, and post-war
Jewish life in Germany.
Artifacts, documents, audio-visual presentations, interactive
PCs and other media will explore German-Jewish history and the
Jewish influence in Berlin since the Middle Ages.
But the new museum exhibits themselves may not have a big impact
on travel to Germany by some Jewish-Americans still reluctant to
visit the city where the Nazi-run Holocaust was planned.
"I don't think the museum's existence alone will convince Jewish
travelers to visit Berlin," TAL Tours' Katz said.
Sophia Kulich, a Jewish travel specialist with E&M Travel,
Westport, Conn., has fielded inquiries on Berlin from prospective
Jewish visitors -- but hasn't booked a trip.
"I have no problem with sending people there," Kulich said.
"Jewish travelers go to Poland, Hungary and Prague, but they still
have a problem going to Germany.
"But there is some interest," she noted. "Personally, I don't
think avoiding Germany's rich Jewish heritage helps."
German tourism officials expect the museum to become as
important to Berlin as the Holocaust Memorial Museum is to
Washington, where it is one of the top five draws.
"We expect a similar wave of ongoing interest by Germans and
travelers from every continent," said Ricarda Lindner, marketing
manager at the German National Tourist Office in New York.
Starting Sept. 12, the Jewish Museum Berlin will be open daily,
save Rosh Hashana, Yom Kippur and Christmas Eve, from 10 a.m. to 8
p.m., with admission set at about $4.
The museum also features a book and gift shop and a kosher
For more information, visit the Jewish Museum's Web site at www.jmberlin.de,
or contact the German National Tourist Office at (212) 661-7200 or
online at www.visits-to-germany.com.