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THE WORLDFrom the Associated Press

Germany's largest synagogue reopens

The 104-year-old temple in Berlin is restored after years of neglect. A rabbi hails 'an unfathomable gift.'

September 01, 2007

BERLIN — Germany's largest synagogue, featuring golden mosaic tiles and a star-spangled blue dome, reopened Friday after more than a year of renovations to restore its beauty following decades of neglect.

Rabbi Chaim Rozwaski praised the synagogue's revival as "a miracle" to a crowd that packed the temple, which can hold more than 1,000 people.

"We have come back from death to life," he said at the service kicking off Berlin's annual 10-day Jewish culture festival. "For us to be here in Berlin is an unfathomable gift from God."

The synagogue's $6.85-million renovation is one sign of the rapid growth and revitalization of Jewish life in Germany. Berlin has Germany's biggest Jewish community, with 12,000 registered members and eight synagogues. According to the Central Council of Jews in Germany, an estimated 250,000 Jews live in the country, with about 110,000 of them registered religious community members -- still far fewer than Germany's flourishing Jewish community of 560,000 before the Holocaust.

Cameras clicked as visitors gazed at the magnificent neo-Romanesque inside of the Ryke- strasse Synagogue. The red brick temple, built in 1904, survived Kristallnacht -- the "Night of Broken Glass," when the Nazis attacked synagogues and Jewish businesses on Nov. 9, 1938 -- with only minor damage. It was set on fire, but authorities quickly doused the flames because of its location in an inner courtyard of a densely populated neighborhood.

After abuse by the Nazis, the synagogue was reinaugurated in 1953, but languished in disrepair and neglect under the communist East German government, serving only East Berlin's tiny Jewish community.

As part of the Jewish culture festival, Berlin Jews also will celebrate the opening of a community center run by the Chabad-Lubavitch organization. It too cost $6.85 million.

The Jewish Education Center Chabad, which houses a replica of a section of the Western Wall in Jerusalem, will be inaugurated Sunday with a ceremony followed by a street fair.

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