Amsterdam Reform congregation dedicates new building

BERLIN (JTA) — Amsterdam’s Reform congregation dedicated its new synagogue building in time for Rosh Hashanah.

The home for the Liberal Jewish Congregation was inaugurated Aug. 29 in ceremonies led by Rabbi Menno ten Brink and attended by local Jewish and political leaders, as well as by the Dutch royal family. Construction took about two years and cost some $16 million. 

The congregation of some 850 member families outgrew its postwar synagogue, which was built by Holocaust survivors from Holland and Germany. About $1.4 million for the synagogue project came from the state, which distributes funds that were stolen from Dutch Jews deported during World War II.

Designed by architect Bjarne Mastenbroek, the new building, situated on a small island in the city of canals, contains two sanctuaries, classrooms and a youth room, a center for interfaith dialogue, and offices for the Union for Progressive Judaism in the Netherlands. Amsterdam’s is the largest of Holland’s nine Progressive congregations.

A unique feature of the synagogue is its wall of windows resembling a menorah.

Amsterdam’s Jewish population includes descendants of Conversos and Sephardim who fled the Spanish Inquisition in the late 15th century and eastern European Ashkenazim who fled pogroms in the 17th century. The 20th century brought German Jews fleeing Nazi persecution. Coming from the birthplace of Reform Judaism, they brought new life to Amsterdam’s then-small Reform congregation.

Unlike its American counterpart, the Reform movement in Europe generally does not accept Jews of patrilineal descent as full members.

 

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