February 22, 2011
First newly built Reform synagogue since WWII dedicated in Germany
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 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 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 with many congregations across Germany, most members are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Due 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 Muhlstein, who heads the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Twenty-three congregations in Germany belong to the Progressive Union, while several other non-traditional congregations 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.