“Munich has changed today,” said Oberburgermeister Christian Ude on November 9. – “Have you noticed? The city has gotten brighter!”
Ude’s remarks were made at the official opening of the Ohel Jakob Synagogue, which is part of the new Jewish Centre at Sankt-Jakobs-Platz in Munich. The official opening ceremony was attended by approximately 1,200 guests, among them Horst Köhler, President of Germany, Franz Müntefering, Vice-Chancellor, Edmund Stoiber, Minister-President of Bavaria, and Moshe Viatcheslav Kantor, President of the Russian Jewish Congress.
The scrolls of the Torah were paraded from the old synagogue at Reichenbachstrasse to the new building. Around 1,500 policemen provided order and security, and even the street drainage grates at Sankt-Jakobs-Platz were temporarily sealed. However, there were no incidents or right wing extremist insults, except a man with a banner advocating Palestinians’ rights.
The bronze door of the new synagogue, manufactured in Hungary, features the first ten letters of the Jewish alphabet. They symbolize the ten commandments of the Old Testament, revered by Christians and Jews alike. Nonetheless, the opening ceremony was organized to emphasize the political aspect of the moment rather than its religious meaning. City authorities represented by Christian Ude took a gilded key from a red velvet cushion and handed it to Charlotte Knobloch, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and Head of the Jewish Community of Munich. In turn, Knobloch gave the honour of opening the door to Rabbi Steven E. Langnas.
The project for this Jewish Centre, the largest in Europe and consisting of an Administrative Building, a Museum and a Synagogue, was discussed by almost anyone who cares about the architectural face of the Bavarian capital. Before construction began, in the winter of 2001 the Board of Trustees selected the 17 best projects out of almost 370 submissions and exhibited the models for residents and guests of Munich. The chosen project submitted by architects Rena Wandel-Hoefer and Wolfgang Lorch, accommodated almost all requests.
Charlotte Knobloch, who as a child survived the notorious night of pogroms 68 years ago, rejoiced at the fact that Jews have again become an integral part of this country, as was the case for many centuries. The new Jewish Centre in downtown Munich is clear evidence of this.
The new Jewish Centre was opened to the public on November 12.