23 April 2021

Praying in Lent and Easter 2021:
66, New Synagogue, Berlin

The cupola of the Neue Synagoge or New Synagogue dominates the streets in Spandau (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Patrick Comerford

During the Season of Easter this year, I am continuing my theme from Lent, taking some time each morning to reflect in these ways:

1, photographs of a church or place of worship that has been significant in my spiritual life;

2, the day’s Gospel reading;

3, a prayer from the prayer diary of the Anglican mission agency USPG (United Society Partners in the Gospel).

This week, I am offering photographs of synagogues that have welcomed me over the years and offered a place of prayer and reflection. My photographs this morning (23 April 2021) are from the Neue Synagoge or ‘New Synagogue’ on Oranienburger Straße, the main synagogue of the Jewish community in Berlin.

The New Synagogue narrowly escaped being destroyed on the night of Kristallnacht, or the ‘Night of Broken Glass.’ That night, 9/10 November 1938, is seen by many as the unofficial beginning of the Holocaust. But the New Synagogue was saved through the brave intervention of a district police chief, Wilhelm Krützfeld.

When the Neue Synagoge or New Synagogue opened in 1866, it was seen as an architectural masterpiece. The opening was such an important event that the attendance included Count Otto von Bismarck, soon to be the first chancellor of the German Empire.

The name ‘new’ refers to the reformed, modern rites and practices. The building was designed by Eduard Knoblauch and completed after his death by Friedrich August Stüller. It was designed in the Moorish style to resemble the Alhambra in Spain, and could hold 3,200 people.

The heavily damaged New Synagogue was essentially demolished in 1958, except for the front façade and entrance. The Centrum Judaicum Foundation opened there in 1988 and the rebuilt New Synagogue opened in 1995 as a museum, cultural centre and community offices.

The congregation in the New Synagogue today is Berlin’s only Masorti synagogue. Gesa Ederberg became the first female pulpit rabbi in Berlin in 2007 when she became the rabbi of the New Synagogue.

A plaque commemorates the centenary of the New Synagogue and recalls Kristallnacht (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

John 6: 52-59 (NRSVA):

52 The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, ‘How can this man give us his flesh to eat?’ 53 So Jesus said to them, ‘Very truly, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. 54 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life, and I will raise them up on the last day; 55 for my flesh is true food and my blood is true drink. 56 Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood abide in me, and I in them. 57 Just as the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so whoever eats me will live because of me. 58 This is the bread that came down from heaven, not like that which your ancestors ate, and they died. But the one who eats this bread will live for ever.’ 59 He said these things while he was teaching in the synagogue at Capernaum.

The façade of the New Synagogue survived Kristallnacht and World War II (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary:

The Prayer in the USPG Prayer Diary today, Saint George’s Day (23 April 2021), invites us to pray:

Let us give thanks for the life of St George. May we join together in celebration with our brothers and sisters in Georgia, Ethiopia, England who hold him as their patron saint.

Yesterday’s reflection

Continued tomorrow

The site of Berlin’s first synagogue at Heidereutergasse, dedicated in 1714 (Photograph: Patrick Comerford)

Scripture quotations are from the New Revised Standard Version Bible: Anglicised Edition copyright © 1989, 1995, National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide. http://nrsvbibles.org

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