Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Jewish Community of Speyer to Rebuild Synagogues and Reclaim Past 

Recently, Jewish residents of Speyer, Germany – a city that has had a Jewish presence since the 12th century - announced that it would be building a brand new synagogue.
The city of Speyer, Germany was a center of Jewish life for a millennium – from the Middle Ages until 1938 - before its Jewish residents were murdered in the Holocaust.  The community was home to several notable Jewish scholars from the group known as the Tosafists who commented on the Talmud and other Jewish texts.  Over the last decade, Jews have been returning to the area and been reclaiming their past.
The new synagogue, which was designed by Alfred Jacoby, an architect in Frankfurt – another city with considerable Jewish history – said the site where the synagogue will be built is actually the site of an abandoned church, which initially caused some problems for the community since Kohanim - the descendants of priests who served in the Temple – would not have been able to step foot in the synagogue and they are forbidden from having contact with corpses. 
Regardless, the new synagogue will be called Beth Shalom and will cost approximately 3 million Euros, part of which will be funded by the city itself.
According to Jewish community chairman Juliana Korovai, the attempt to erect a synagogue has been an effort that has not succeeded, mainly because of a dispute between the elderly, less religious members and the younger members – mostly newcomers - who are generally more religious over the synagogue's policies.  Younger members would like the Synagogue to have daily services and be run in accordance with traditional Jewish rules.  However, the elderly members as well as the Jewish Community of Rhineland Palatinate want the synagogue to be open to all, even non-Jews.
Since 2010, the city of Speyer, together with Mainz and Worms, have been rebuilding Jewish sites such as synagogues, the ritual bath known as a Mikvah and Yeshivot – schools where the Jewish texts such as the Torah and Talmud are studied in depth.  Many of these buildings are to be listed as UNESCO heritage sites but also are to be restored to its original function.  The Mikvah itself was found to be perfect condition.  The city of Cologne, another city in Germany with considerable Jewish history, has rebuilt its Jewish sites and turned them into a museum.

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