Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Former local rabbi a part of world history


Germany’s largest synagogue, on Rykestrasse in Berlin, reopened in 2007 after a lavish restoration. The synagogue, with a 1,200-person capacity, has been described as one of the jewels of Germany’s Jewish community. And although this event happened six years ago, the interesting thing about it was that the gathering of rabbis bringing the Torah to the synagogue in a ceremony witnessed by political leaders and Holocaust survivors from around the world was led by former Temple Israel Rabbi Chaim Rozwaski.

Restoration of the neo-classical building, which is more than 100 years old, cost more than 45m euros ($60m, 30m). Rabbi Roswaski described the reconstruction as ‘a miracle.’

The synagogue has a stellar history. Johann Hoeniger built the synagogue in 1903-1904. Its first inauguration was on Sept. 4, 1904, on time for the holidays of and around Rosh Hashanah. Joseph Himmel (1872–1943, Theresienstadt) served as president of the gabba’im in the 1910s probably until the 1920s. Orthodox Rabbi Siegfried Alexander (1886–1943, Auschwitz) won the congregants to elect the first woman, Martha Ehrlich (née Eisenhardt; 1896–1942) as gabba’i, equally participating in gabba’i decisions and tasks, however, except—unlike her male colleagues—calling congregants up to read the Torah.

The synagogue did not burn during the November 1938 Pogroms, instead the Nazis ordered a “mere” vandalization and demolition of furnishings, since the synagogue is located inside of a block of residential buildings. However, a fire did ignite, burning torah scrolls and smashed furniture but was soon extinguished before spreading to the actual building. Many windows had been destroyed. Rabbis and other male congregants were arrested and brought to Sachsenhausen (concentration camp).


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