Berlin’s Jewish community has approved the concept of “a multifaith university.”
The brainchild of Cantor Avitall Gerstetter, the educational institute will offer housing and classrooms for students of various faiths in a former home for Jewish children in the city center. The concept calls for special emphasis on the arts, including music, plastic arts and journalism.
More than 100 supporters have contributed to the project, and it has been endorsed by Berlin Jewish community president Lala Susskind. But while the Jewish community board has voted in favor, it remains to be seen whether they will go so far as to lease the dormant property to Gerstetter and her backers. Supporters have estimated that about $12.5 million – from federal, state and private money – is needed to renovate the building.
The former “Ahawa” home for Jewish children covers more than 43,000 square feet. It was built in 1861 by architect Eduard Knoblauch, who also designed the New Synagogue on the next street, Oranienburgerstrasse. In 1942, the Nazis used the rear courtyard as an assembly site for Jews about to be deported. The building was returned to the Jewish community after the unification of the former East Germany and West Germany in 1990.