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German-Palestinian lawmaker leads effort to rebuild Berlin synagogue

The Fraenkelufer Synagogue was largely destroyed durıng Kristallnacht

    Gideon Joffe (left) and with Raed Saleh holding a mock-up showing planned reconstruction of Alexander Beer's 1916 structure largely destroyed during Kristallnacht
    Gideon Joffe (left) and with Raed Saleh holding a mock-up showing planned reconstruction of Alexander Beer's 1916 structure largely destroyed during Kristallnacht (Photo: Toby Axelrod)

    A Berlin lawmaker of Palestinian heritage is pushing to rebuild a synagogue that was largely destroyed on Kristallnacht in 1938.

    Raed Saleh, leader of the Social Democratic Party in the state of Berlin, stood alongside local Jewish community leader Gideon Joffe in front of the Fraenkelufer Synagogue site to pledge he would do everything in his power to make the project a reality.

    The building became unusable as a result of damage inflicted during the pogrom of November 9-10, 1938. It was eventually taken down after the Second World War.

    An annex building for the Fraenkulfer youth synagogue was not destroyed and subsequently became the congregation’s main site of worship.

    The new building – which would cost €24 million (£21 million) in state, federal and private monies – would likely be used for events, educational programmes and interfaith projects in this neighbourhood, which has a large Arab population.

    But what makes the project especially unusual is that Mr Saleh, 40, was born in the West Bank.

    He said he wants the project to be a sign of a remembrance, a bulwark against anti-Semitism, and a symbol of belonging.

    “I am convinced,” he said, “that one can only combat hate and prejudice with an open door, and this will be a place of open doors.”

    Mr Joffe too has embraced the project.

    “When I was elected the first time 12 years ago, I would never have thought a Berliner of Palestinian background would help the Jewish community,” he said, adding that the project “allows us to look with hope into the future.”

    Plans are also afoot to renovate a former Jewish orphanage on Auguststrasse, turning it into Germany’s first Jewish trade school. Like Berlin’s other publicly funded Jewish schools, it would be open to non-Jewish pupils.

    Mr Joffe noted that many Jewish young people have moved to Jewish schools because of antisemitic attitutdes, and said he hoped the new facility would open in the next two years.

    Also in the works in Berlin is a Jewish community centre in a western district of the city.

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