German state to help build synagogue


BERLIN (JTA) — The German state of Brandenburg will help build a new synagogue in the former East German city of Potsdam.

Not only is the state donating prime real estate in its capital to the project, the finance ministry also announced Tuesday that state funds of about $300,000 would be used to get the project off the ground this fiscal year, in keeping with a commitment signed in 2005.

Those funds are to be paid back by the Jewish community, which is seeking donations. Next year, funding from other state agencies will kick in, according to reports. Total costs are expected to be about $6 million, and construction is scheduled to be completed by 2012.

With the construction of a synagogue and community center, "a dream will become reality," said Michael Tkach, deputy head of the local Jewish community. "It will provide the basis for a vibrant Jewish cultural life for the Jewish community, and for the city of Potsdam."

According to the community’s Web site, Potsdam’s Jewish community is comprised of at least 1,200 members, most arriving from the former Soviet Union since 1990. The pre-war community dated back to the 18th century,  and the first synagogue was built there in 1767. It was destroyed during allied bombings in 1945.

"Jewish life in Brandenburg should regain a secure foothold," Brandenburg’s Finance Minister Rainer Speer said Tuesday.

Germany has seen a boom in synagogue construction in recent years, in cities and towns across the country. The need is related to the massive emigration of former Soviet Jews, which quadrupled the country’s post-war Jewish population within 15 years to more than 105,000 officially.

In related news, architect Daniel Libeskind is to design a synagogue for congregation Beth Shalom in Munich.

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