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GERMAN BRIEF: MUNICH

Orthodox rabbis move

from London to Munich

Ohel Jakob Synagogue in Munich

May 2023: The Conference of European Rabbis (CER), an influential group of orthodox rabbis, is moving its head office to Munich, 67 years after it was founded in London. Rabbi Pinchas Goldschmidt, the president of the group, explained the decision by saying that Bavaria had become a beacon of hope for Jewish communities in Europe, a place where they can feel welcome, supported and valued. The CER, which represents some 1,000 Orthodox rabbis, will open a ‘Centre for Jewish Life’ in the Bavarian capital, providing training to rabbis and rebbetzins (wives of rabbis) across Europe.

 

CER President Pinchas Goldschmidt, who was chief rabbi of Moscow until the beginning of Russia’s war against Ukraine, said that when he first heard of the idea to move the headquarters to Munich, it struck him as "really meshuga" (Yiddish for "crazy"). He said for him, Munich was first and foremost "the city where the Reichsprogromnacht (Kristallnacht) was planned," referring to 9 November 1938, when, across the German Reich, synagogues were burnt down, Jews saw their property destroyed and stolen and many were killed.

 

Rabbi Goldschmidt hopes that the opening of the centre later this year will be a courageous new beginning for Jews in Germany and across Europe. Munich has after Berlin and Frankfurt the largest number of Jews in Germany.

 

Today, the Jewish community in Germany is the third largest in Europe. In the country, around 95,000 people currently belong to a Jewish community. Before the Nazis came to power in 1933, the Jewish communities in the German Reich had around 560,000 members. After the Shoah, Jewish communities were threatened with extinction; in 1950, only about 15,000 Jews lived in West Germany.

 

The 90-year-old Charlotte Knobloch, the former President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, spoke at the ceremony and mentioned the attack on the synagogue in the eastern German city of Halle on 9 October 2019, on the Yom Kippur holiday. She spoke of the shock and the fear felt by all Jews in Germany in those hours, including those convening in the Munich synagogue for prayer. But she also recalled how Bavaria’s Premier Markus Söder was quick to grant the Munich Jewish community financial help for stronger protection. “Your worries are also our worries”, he said at the time.

 

The Bavarian government has offered Munich’s new Centre for Jewish Life financial assistance. Rabbi Goldschmidt thanked the Premier for the state’s generosity. “We are grateful that 1.5 million euros a year have been earmarked for our important educational and cultural centre.” While the exact location has not yet been determined, it will be in the centre of the city.

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