German shul in barn restored

By Toby Axelrod, February 3, 2011

What would you do if you discovered that a dilapidated barn in a nearby village is actually a 186-year-old shul?

Brigitta Stammer, from Gottingen in Lower Saxony, decided, as many others might, to help restore the building to its original purpose.

But this was no ordinary restoration. In order to complete the rebirth of the half-timbered synagogue, Ms Stammer took part in a project to move it, piece by piece, from its location in Bodenfelde to Gottingen, where she lives. And, what's more, Ms Stammer is not even Jewish.

In recognition of this remarkable undertaking, Ms Stammer has been given the Obermayer German Jewish History Award, which honours efforts to preserve local Jewish history and build contacts with former Jewish citizens and their families.

Ms Stammer - who raised funds and helped oversee the reconstruction of the building - was one of six people given the prize in a Berlin ceremony last week.

"We are recognising people who work quietly in their own communities," said American businessman Arthur Obermayer, who set up the scheme.

People take on such projects "not because of feelings of guilt - most of them are too young to have responsibility for what happened," said Mr Obermayer. "They do it because they feel it is the right thing to do as a German."

Those awarded, who receive a small stipend to continue their work, are nominated by Jews around the world who have roots in Germany.

Ms Stammer said she got involved in the project because she wanted the new Jewish community to have a spiritual home. "It was very strange. I had walked into a house of God, like a church, and it was a shed. At this moment I was convinced that it couldn't be so," she said.

Last updated: 2:26pm, February 3 2011