Sunday, September 02, 2007

First private Jewish school opens in Germany


The first privately funded Jewish educational centre in Germany since World War II opened in Berlin yesterday in another new sign of a Jewish renaissance in the country.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier joined the Ambassadors of the United States, Britain and Russia and some 30 rabbis from around the world at the launch of the five-million-euro ($6.8m) Rohr Chabad Centre.

The complex on a quiet side street in west Berlin includes a rabbinical school or yeshiva, a synagogue, a library, a youth recreation centre, a kosher restaurant, a tourist information centre and a lecture hall.

"If we want to remember the six million Jews, it is not enough to hold memorial ceremonies," said the director of the centre, Yehuda Teichtal, referring to the victims of the Holocaust.

"We have to keep building together-Jewish education, raising children in the Jewish tradition, Jewish consciousness and Jewish identity. We are here, we are proud and we say here today, Jewish life will grow in Germany."

Steinmeier said Germany was grateful for the trust Jews were now vesting in the country six decades after the Holocaust. "The memory of the victims of this catastrophe is burned in the memory of our country," he said.

"Soon the laughter of children and teenagers will be heard here. "I hope that generations of Jewish families will find a spiritual and communal home here."

But Steinmeier said he was troubled by a rise in far-right crimes against immigrants and Jewish institutions, citing a mob attack on Indians in the eastern town of Muegeln two weeks ago that made national headlines. "Racism and anti-Semitism are unacceptable, particularly in Germany," he said to applause.

A street fair and an open-air concert featuring renowned Hassidic singer Avraham Fried followed the ceremony. The inauguration came two days after Germany's biggest synagogue, a century-old institution in east Berlin, reopened in the presence of dozens of Holocaust survivors after a major renovation. The community centre, which like nearly all Jewish institutions in Germany will have round-the-clock police protection, is run by the Orthodox Chabad-Lubavitch movement-a branch of Hassidism.

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