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How the Torah of Hameln is Building Its Own Synagogue

Dewezet, November 28, 2002

HAMELN: Happiness spreads among the 200-member-strong Jewish Community of Hameln for tomorrow’s Chanukka celebration.  Jews all over the world will celebrate the reinauguration of the second temple in Jerusalem (165 B.C.).  Plans for the rebuilding of the synagogue on Buerenstrasse have progressed further.

In front of the memorial at Buerenstrasse, the leader of the congregation, Rachel Dohme (second from left), explains plans for the rebuilding of the synagogue to donor Dr. Maria Grote-Schmidt, Aron Kaplan (left) and Matwey Dvortsis. Illustrated on the bronze plate is the synagogue that was destroyed in 1938 by the National Socialists. Photo: tw

“A committee led by Mr. Werner Stapp, a retired headmaster; Deacon Hans-Georg Spannenberger; Hameln’s former mayor Christa Bruns; and JGH President Rachel Dohme are preparing a timetable, a financing plan, and the creation of a foundation,” Rachel Dohme explained. The constitution of the Liberal Synagogue Foundation of Hameln will insure that the synagogue will be used exclusively by organizations and members of the Union of Progressive Jews from Germany, Austria and Switzerland as well as the World Union of Progressive Jews for the purpose of traditional Jewish celebrations, symposia, and exhibitions. In addition, the synagogue will be open for prayers to the citizens of Hameln regardless of faith.

It will still take a long time until the first Progressive synagogue is built in post-war Germany. Rachel Dohme explained that “the planned community center will cost at least 1 million Euros.” Most of the money will be collected through an initiative called “The Torah is Building the Synagogue.” Neil Yerman, a sofer (Torah scribe) and husband of Rabbi Jo David, executive director of the New York–based Jewish Appleseed Foundation, will be writing a new Torah for the Hameln congregation. He plans to offer members of the communities he visits in the U.S. the opportunity to write a part of Hameln’s Torah. His program will allow American Jews to dedicate a letter, word, or sentence to a personal event in their lives in exchange for a contribution to Hameln’s building fund. Rachel Dohme indicated that “There have been similar projects to this one and they have been very successful.”

The Hameln congregation was thrilled to receive a contribution of 1,000 Euros from local gynecologist Dr. Maria Grote-Schmidt. Dr. Grote-Schmidt said, “Jewish life enriches German culture and our religious landscape.” She hopes other medical professionals will follow her lead. In the Buerenstrasse the Jewish Community has a special opportunity — especially because the land they bought from the city in 1991 is one of the few lots of land where a synagogue had stood that has not been built upon. The congregation is especially moved to learn that a prayer book owned by Mr. Mosche Kaiser, a Hameln Jew who fled the Holocaust, will be presented to the congregation at the inauguration service. The Christian-Jewish Solidarity Society, who has the book in its safekeeping, will make the presentation.

The synagogue that was built in the Buerenstrasse in 1879 was burnt down by the Nazis during Kristallnacht on the 9th of November in 1938. Ten Jewish men were forced from their homes and imprisoned in the Buchenwald concentration camp.