(photo credit: AP [file])
A new Jewish community and education center opened in Berlin on Sunday, in the latest reflection of the growing strength of Jewish life in Germany and of confidence in its future.
Germany's foreign minister was among the guests of honor at the inauguration of the Szloma Albam House, run by the Chabad Lubavitch organization - which described it as the first Jewish center built in Germany after World War II to be financed largely by private donations.
"With the opening, Chabad Lubavitch is sending a signal that Jews trust in the future of Germany," said the center's executive director, Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal.
Along with a synagogue, the three-story, center boasts facilities that include a library and media center, conference center, seminary, youth lounge, a mikvah, or ritual bath, and a tourist welcome center.
The sleek, contemporary design includes an entrance that features a 100-square-meter (more than 1,000-square-foot) replica of Jerusalem's Western Wall, meant as a symbol rather than for worship.
Teichtal described the opening as a "historic event" and said 10 rabbis would be trained at the center each year.
Germany's largest synagogue, across the capital in the former East Berlin, reopened Friday following renovations to restore its beauty following decades of neglect.
Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier recalled a former German Jewish leader's observation that, after the crimes of the Holocaust, it was "an unexpected miracle that a renaissance of Jewish life in Germany came about."
"The opening is a joy in and for Germany and a reason for gratitude after the insane crimes that are seared into the memory of Germany," Steinmeier said at the ceremony. At the same time, he cautioned that vigilance against anti-Semitism remains necessary.
The Jewish community in Germany is the fastest-growing in the world, according to the World Jewish Congress, mostly because of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Germany's Central Council of Jews says the Jewish community has some 110,000 registered members. Some 560,000 Jews lived in Germany before the Holocaust.
Teichtal has said that one of the new center's main functions is to help Jewish immigrants integrate into German society, with all services and classes to be given in German.
The Brooklyn, New York, native whose grandfather's family was killed in the Holocaust has stressed that the center is meant for everyone, including non-Jews.
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