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German church rededicated as synagogue

A former church and a commercial building in Germany were transformed into synagogues.

A former Lutheran church in the city of Bielefeld was formally dedicated Sunday as a synagogue for the city’s growing Jewish community. It reportedly is the first time a church in Germany has ever been refitted for such a purpose.

The synagogue was the second dedicated in recent weeks in the former West German state of North Rhine-Westphalia. A synagogue and community center in Krefeld was unveiled Sept. 14.

In addition, the first private Jewish grammar school in the former West German state of Baden-Wurttemberg was opened recently in the city of Stuttgart. The day school has 25 pupils.

The trend of new construction reflects the growth in Germany’s Jewish population due to the influx of Jews from the former Soviet Union since 1990. In Bielefeld, the Jewish community has jumped in recent years from 40 to 300. The town’s original synagogue was destroyed by fire in 1938.

Krefeld’s synagogue has room for about 300 congregants. It cost about $18 million to reconstruct the former commercial building.

Each new synagogue “represents what we lost and what we want to rebuild,” Charlotte Knobloch, the head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said during ceremonies at Krefeld.

The new building includes a stained-glass window rescued from the original structure.

In related news, the Jewish community in Halle, in the former East German state of Saxony-Anhalt, rededicated its 300-year-old Torah scroll after its restoration in Ukraine. And in Potsdam, outside Berlin, a new synagogue will be built for a community that has grown to 800 from practically nothing before the fall of the Berlin Wall.

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