In German town of 30 Jews, restored Art Deco synagogue will house interfaith efforts | JTA
(JTA) – For years after World War II, the magnificent Goerlitz synagogue in Germany housed a family with goats and pigs. The roof of the Art Deco building was collapsing; the government almost demolished the whole structure.
But this week, that same synagogue – the only one in the state of Saxony to survive the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938 – was converted into a place of worship and space for interfaith gatherings after some 30 years of renovation and restoration. .
The synagogue of the Görlitz Cultural Forum – which will soon house both Jewish religious services and interfaith cultural events – was revealed in a ceremony broadcast on Monday in an event that had been repeatedly postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. Norwegian Jewish singer Bente Kahan performed, and local and national politicians, rabbis and other dignitaries made remarks.
Completed in stages over the years, the restoration was “done with love,” although it did not fully restore the synagogue, said Alex Jacobowitz, cantor and president of the city’s Jewish community. For example, the tablets of the sanctuary with the Ten Commandments have not been restored, nor the stars of David outside the building, nor the words of the Exodus that once adorned the entrance: “And let them do from me a sanctuary, that I can dwell among them.
But the small Jewish community – less than 30 members – and its supporters raised some 70,000 euros (roughly $ 83,000) to cover the cost of replacing a giant Jewish star that once stood on the building’s dome, visible at for miles around in the town of some 55,000 near the Polish border.
Architects William Lossow and Hans Max Kuhne designed the synagogue, which could accommodate the entire community of around 600 Jews when it first opened in March 1911. The town of Goerlitz had many Jewish institutions at the time. Jacobowitz told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. He recently published a book on the synagogue.
During the Crystal Night pogrom in November 1938, the Nazis burned down the building, but local firefighters extinguished the flames. A few years later, many Jews in the community were deported and killed during the Holocaust.
After the war, the building – located in the former East Germany – fell into disrepair. For a while, it was used to store theater props, and it was also home to a local family and their farm animals. The city bought the synagogue from the remaining Jewish community in Dresden in 1963, then officially bought it back at the Conference on Jewish Material Claims against Germany in 1990 after the country’s unification.
A group of local citizens defended its restoration. Ultimately, the costs of some 12.6 million euros (about $ 15 million) were borne by the federal and state governments, as well as private foundations and individuals. The first thing to repair was the roof, in 1990.
As a finishing touch, the new star is expected to be placed on the dome later this year, Jacobowitz said.
“After many decades, the Jewish community in Görlitz finally has a place for prayer and break again,” the German Orthodox Rabbinical Conference said in a statement on Monday. “We hope that the Görlitz synagogue will be a place of exchange and meeting for all citizens on this side and on the other side of the Neisse river, in order to learn much more from each other and from each other. and breaking down prejudices. . “
In a gesture summing up years of interfaith effort, the son of a Protestant pastor who worked in the town donated his own Steinway piano to the space, saying he would “now find a new home” in the town. where he grew up.
Speakers at Monday’s event included the mayor of Goerlitz, Octavian Ursu; the Prime Minister of Saxony, Michael Kretschmer; and Rabbi Akiva Weingarten from Dresden.
“I have always found it important that the synagogue continues to show its scars,” Jacobowitz told the Jewish Telegraph Agency, “to show that the history of the Jews of Goerlitz will not be destroyed by political exigency.
The post In a German town of 30 Jews, a restored Art Deco synagogue will house interfaith efforts that first appeared on the Jewish Telegraphic Agency.