March 16, 2010
German community dedicates new synagogue
More than 70 years after its synagogue was destroyed by Nazi rioters, the German town of Herford dedicated a new Jewish house of worship.
In a ceremony Sunday, local and national Jewish leaders and clergy joined to unveil the new structure, which will serve the 106-member community—90 percent are immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Four rabbis carried a Torah scroll into the sanctuary as Cantor Jacow Zelewitsch chanted “Ma Tovu” and Rabbi Shimon Grossberg of Osnabruck lit the eternal light. The community does not yet have its own rabbi.
Among the guests were Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany; Jurgen Rüttgers, minister president of North Rhine-Westphalia; Rabbi Julian Chaim Soussan of Düsseldorf; Harry Roth, president of the Jewish community; and Rainer Heller, mayor of Detmold.
The new synagogue cost about $2.7 million, a third of which was borne by the German government. Another $137,000 is needed, community member Ruben Heinemann, head of the building fund, told JTA.
Heinemann, 47, said his late father and uncles had spoken often of the old synagogue of Herford, which was burned down in 1938, where they had their bar mitzvahs.
For decades after World War II, the tiny community used an old Jewish school building and the former rabbi’s residence as a synagogue.
“But it only had 28 seats, which became too small,” Heinemann said, adding that he expects the larger synagogue to draw more members to the community from the region.
Ten new synagogues have been built in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia in the past 15 years.
The Jewish population in Germany has quadrupled since 1990 with the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union.
An estimated 200,000 Jews live in Germany today, but only about half are affiliated with Jewish communities. There are 82 active Jewish communities in the country.