About the Synagogue that was Restored After it was Burned on KristallnachtAs early as the 19th century, the New Synagogue (Neus Synagoge Berlin) was one of the brightest buildings in the city. Its large gold dome, 50.21 meters high, one can spot from all over the city. On both sides of the dome, you will see two smaller domes that remind Muslim mosques. The synagogue was built between 1866 and 1859, and was initially the largest and most beautiful synagogue in Germany.
During Kristallnacht, between November 9th and 10th, 1938, the Nazis tried to set the building on fire. One policemen standing in the neighborhood managed to prevent the fire, claiming that the building was for preservation. However, the fate of the building haunted him. In 1943, the synagogue was destroyed by Allied bombings. Its reconstruction began only a few decades later, in 1988.
Today the synagogue is not active, but you can find the Centrum Judaicum, which is a Jewish Cultural Center. The museum also has a permanent exhibition that presents the life of the Jews in the city, changing exhibitions that teach about Jewish history and contemporary art, as well as a historical archives. In the main hall you there are 3,200 seats for worshipers who used to come here in the past.
Architecture of the SynagogueIn April 1857, an architectural competition was held in the city of Berlin to design the new synagogue. The architect Eduard Knoblauch was in charge of the competition, but since he was not able to choose any of the plans, he designed the building himself. Two years later in 1859, Knoblauch fell ill, and the building continued by Friedrich August Stüller, a friend of Knoblauch. The construction was complete in 1861, but the interior was delayed and concluded only in 1866. The cost of all the construction amounted to about 750,000 thaler.
The design of the synagogue is a tribute to the architecture of the Iberian Peninsula. On the façade of the building you will see colored stones and terra cotta, and the caption: "Open the gates and bring the righteous, the guard of the faithful" (Yeshayahu 26: 2) The width of the front is 29 meters and the length of the synagogue is 97 meters. This building is one of the first built in Berlin in the modern era using modern construction methods.
The Organ QuarrelThe community leaders of Berlin wanted to install an organ in the new synagogue, a musical instrument that was very closely associated with the church. Jewish leaders forbade the introduction of the instrument, for reasons of "following in the laws of the gentiles." In order to try to resolve the dispute, the committee invited the opinion of well-known rabbis in Germany, and here too the opinions were split into two:
The Orthodox Rabbis did not allow any kind of organ use in the synagogue, neither on Shabbat nor on weekdays.
Reformist Rabbi Abraham Geiger, on the other hand, ridiculed the situation. In 1862 it was determined that playing an organ on the Sabbath by a gentile does not violate or contradict the Halakhah.
TipsIt has recently been reported that the synagogue is temporarily closed. If you intend to enter it, try and find out if it has reopened first.