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Culture

Mainz synagogue highlights revival of Jewish life in Germany

The opening of a new synagogue in the city of Mainz and the recent ordaining of two rabbis in Leipzig have given a boost to the renaissance of Jewish culture in Germany.

Rabbis during a procession to the new synagogue in Mainz

Rabbis during a procession to the new synagogue in Mainz

The opening of a new synagogue in Mainz at the very site where Nazis destroyed the previous one 70 years ago, is just one sign of Germany's blossoming Jewish community.

The new synagogue was opened on Friday by President Christian Wulff who expressed happiness that "the Jewish community once again will have an architectural and religious center."

A "small miracle"

Wulff spoke of "a small miracle." The "revival of Jewish life in Germany is continuing" thanks to the new synagogue, he said. "That's a blessing for our country, a blessing for Germany."

In another sign that Jewish life is thriving in Germany, two rabbis, who have migrated from the former Soviet Union, were ordained last week at a ceremony in Leipzig.

The rabbis graduated from the Berlin Orthodox seminary and more than 300 German and foreign Jewish leaders attended the ordination.

Visitors to the opening ceremony of the Mainz synagogue

Mainz used to be a center of European Judaism

"Judaism is alive and well in Germany," said World Jewish Congress president Ronald Lauder at the ceremony, whose foundation supports the Berlin seminary.

Growing Jewish community

When Hitler came to power in Germany in 1933, there were more than 530,000 Jews living in the country. By 1939 and the start of World War II, this number had dwindled to 200,000 as many emigrated to escape Nazi violence. Just a few thousand of these survived the war.

Numbers today are back to more than 100,000, as the government made it easier for Jews from the former Soviet Union to move to Germany and obtain citizenship.

In Leipzig, numbers have grown from 30 worshippers in 1989 to nearly 1,300 – mostly immigrants from the former USSR.

The two new orthodox rabbis are among the new arrivals, with one originally from Uzbekistan and one from Lithuania.

Christian Wulff wearing Kippah

At the Mainz synagogue opening, Wulff vowed unity

Synagogue as "a symbol of trust"

Before the Nazis came to power, the western city of Mainz was a center of European Judaism for centuries. The former synagogue in the city was desecrated by the Nazis during the nationwide pogroms of November 1938 known as Krystallnacht.

More than half of the pre-Nazi 2,300 strong Jewish community died in concentration camps, according to the Mainz municipality.

The ten-million-euro ($12.8 million) new synagogue has been designed by the Cologne architect Manuel Herz and President Wulff called it "a symbol of trust in our nation."

Wulff also used the opening ceremony to underline the importance of being tolerant and open-minded.

"Anti-semitism, racism and xenophobia in all its forms represent today one of the great evils of our times," he added.

Author: Catherine Bolsover (dpa/AFP)
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar

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