A college town/industrial city in western Germany, Speyer has a Jewish history that is about a thousand years old. Its Jewish community, one of the primary sites of Jewish settlement during the time of the Holy Roman Empire, experienced pogroms and expulsions, refuge and rebirth.
Last week Speyer Jewry made history again.
With the president of Germany in attendance, the city’s small Jewish community of a few score people inaugurated a new synagogue, replacing a building destroyed on Kristallnacht 73 years ago.
President Christian Wulff called the ceremony a sign of a “new and permanent presence of Jewish life” in the Rhineland city. “A day of confidence and hope,” Wulff said.
Speyer, which had no known Jews since the Holocaust, became — like many cities and towns throughout the country — a site of a reconstituted Jewish community after Communism fell and the country was reunified two decades ago.
The small Jewish community gathered, until recently, in an office building. With a central location, the community has hopes of establishing regular worship services and hosting other activities, Rabbi Zeev Wolf Rubins, who oversees the community, told the Deutsche Well broadcasting service.
The synagogue, built on the site of an abandoned church, was designed by Frankfurt architect Alfred Jacoby.
Next year, Speyer and nearby Mainz and Worms — all onetime centers of Jewish scholarship — plan to apply for UNESCO World Heritage status.
And last week was not the only time this year that the Jewish community of Speyer made history. In August, it was the site of the first Jewish wedding since the Shoah.