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First Reform synagogue since WWII dedicated in Germany

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Jewish Telegraphic Agency
February 22, 2011

BERLIN — Germany’s first newly built Reform synagogue since World War II was dedicated during ceremonies in the city of Hameln.

The building was constructed on the site of the former synagogue, which Nazi hooligans destroyed on the night of Nov. 9, 1938, in the Kristallnacht pogrom against Jews, their property and institutions.

A Torah scroll for the new synagogue was dedicated on Feb. 4 in New York, at the American headquarters of the World Union For Progressive Judaism.

Founded in 1997, the Hameln congregation of some 200 members is led by Rabbi Irit Shillor.

Congregation president Rachel Dohme said the new building, which is shaped like an ellipse, “gives us the feeling of being together and still progressing and developing. It is just one step of many, along the way to create a vibrant Jewish life in Hameln.”

As is the case in congregations across Germany, most members are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Thanks to the influx of former Soviet Jews, Germany’s Jewish population has grown from about 30,000 in 1989 to about 240,000 today. More than half that number are not affiliated.

Three other Reform synagogues were dedicated in Germany in recent years, but all in pre-existing buildings, said Jan Mühlstein, who heads the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. There are currently 23 congregations in Germany that belong to the Progressive Union, and several other non-traditional congregations that are not members of the Union, he said.

“It is another sign of the continuity of liberal Judaism in Germany today, particularly in the state of Lower Saxony, where Reform Judaism had its start 200 years ago,” he added.