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100th Anniversary of Birth of Rabbi Leo Baeck Marked by Symposium

The 100th anniversary of the birth of Rabbi Leo Baeck, a founder and leader of liberal Judaism and one of the most distinguished of German-Jewish theologians, philosophers and scholars, who died in 1956, was marked here last night at a symposium sponsored by the Leo Baeck College. The gathering was attended by an audience of prominent rabbis and scholars of Britain and the United States. The West German Ambassador, Karl Guenther Von Haage, was also present.

During the event, a message from West Germany’s President Gustav Heinemann was read to Mrs. Marianne Dreyfus, granddaughter of Rabbi Baeck. The message said in part: “I want to use this occasion to assure you…that my fellow citizens and I think of him with reverence and admiration. Leo Baeck was one of the most significant representatives of Judaism in Germany. At the time of greatest oppression, his dignity and courage made him a symbol of the greatness and strength of Judaism in the world…He was one of the first to reach out his hand for the reconciliation between Jews and Germans.” Britain’s Prime Minister Edward Heath also sent a message to the organizers of the centenary observance.

Rabbi Baeck served as Chief Rabbi of Berlin through the early years of the Nazi era. He was imprisoned at the Theresienstadt concentration camp and survived to spend the last years of his life in London, physically frail but mentally alert and vigorous.

Rabbi Baeck’s famous book, “The Essence of Judaism,” established him as a major spiritual leader and one of the prominent thinkers of the 20th century. The Leo Baeck College which bears his name is an institution for the study of Judaism and the training of rabbis and teachers for Liberal and Progressive synagogues throughout the world. The college was founded in 1956.

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