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New Center and Synagogue Reflect Rebirth of Munich Jewish Community

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After decades of relative obscurity, Munich’s Jewish community is slated to gain a highly public presence with the construction of a $28 million community center in the heart of the city.

As if to underscore a longing for openness and prominence, the new project will feature a glass-topped synagogue. The current community headquarters, in the city center, is tucked into a small building with an enclosed courtyard.

The project was designed by the SaarbrÃ…cken architectural firm of Wandel-Hoefer-Lorch, which also designed a new synagogue in the former East German city of Dresden.

In announcing the project this week, Charlotte Knobloch, president of Munich’s 8,000-member Jewish community, said she hopes it will bring the community out of the shadows in which it has lived since the Holocaust, and firmly into an era of good relations with the non-Jewish majority.

Located on Jakobsplatz in Munich’s cultural and political center, the project will include a synagogue, Jewish school, museum and kosher restaurant. It is expected to be completed in 2005.

Munich’s liberal mayor, Christian Ude of the Social Democratic Party, said he hopes the project will help heal the wounds of the past and “secure a future for the Jewish community” in Munich.

Munich is home to Germany’s second largest Jewish community, after Berlin. The country’s Jewish population has tripled in the last 10 years with the influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

As a result, several new synagogues have been built across Germany in cities whose Jewish communities were destroyed by the Holocaust.

The State of Bavaria will contribute about $6 million to the project, and the Jewish community hopes to raise some $5 million from private donations.

The largest portion of the funding, $17 million, was obtained by selling the land on which Munich’s pre-war synagogue stood. The building was torn down on Hitler’s orders in June 1938.

Five months later, in November 1938, hundreds of synagogues in Germany and Austria were destroyed in the Kristallnacht pogrom.

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