STATEMENT IN SUPPORT OF THE REFORM JEWISH TEMPLE IN HAMBURG, Germany – submitted to Mayor

International Appeal

This statement of support was submitted to the Mayor of Hamburg, Peter Tschentscher, in October 2020. Almost 300 people from 16 different countries signed the petition. Among them numerous Rabbis, members of Jewish communities, Museum directors, architects, art historians and many locals and neighbors. Many of the signatories sent moving personal statements in addition to their signature. If you also want to support this statement, please do so via email to: hamburg-tempel@gmx.de (including: Name, Location, Institutional affiliation and (if any) connection to the Temple)

The New Israelite Temple Association in Hamburg, founded in 1817, was one of the world’s first Reform Jewish congregations. The founders intended to preserve and expand Jewish religious observance by offering liturgical practices that were compatible with the modern sensibilities of a new generation. The reforms included the publication of a vernacular prayer book and the introduction of sermons delivered in German rather than Hebrew. For its first 20 years, the Congregation held services in a rented building. The cornerstone for a new synagogue was laid in the Poolstraße in 1842 and religious services were inaugurated on September 5, 1844. The Temple was used continuously until 1932, when the congregation moved to a new and larger building on Oberstraße. The Poolstraße synagogue was heavily damaged by Allied bombing in 1943/44, but two remnants, the front and the rear parts, still stand as reminders of the origins of the historic movement of Reform Judaism.

Today, the last remnant of the world’s first Reform Temple building, in private ownership, is threatened by plans to sell the lot. Proposals for development have the potential to destroy this historic monument, which is central to the spiritual lives of millions of Reform Jews around the world. The ultimate form in which this structure can best be preserved has yet to be determined. It is essential that the authorities of the City of Hamburg take all necessary steps to prevent further damage to this structure while a long-term preservation plan is developed. The plan should assure public access to the site and honor and protect this eloquent relic of Jewish and Hamburg heritage, which the City of Hamburg should finally embrace as its own.

WE THEREFORE URGE the City of Hamburg to act now to preserve and make permanently accessible the remains of the New Israelite Temple in Poolstraße, as well as the original Temple site. Public access must be protected, so the site may stand as a permanent monument to this historic institution in world religious history.

ACT NOW! Please indicate your support of this statement via email to: hamburg-tempel@gmx.de (including: Name, Location, Institutional affiliation and (if any) connection to the Temple)

For more information see here: www.hamburg-tempel-poolstrasse.de +++Please circulate this appeal! +++++ Please excuse crossposting ++++++

New publication about Hamburg Temple

The Hamburg heritage foundation Stiftung Denkmalpflege (https://denkmalstiftung.de/) published a booklet on the history and current situation of the Temple Ruins in Hamburg.

You can watch three presentations of the booklets’ chapters on Youtube (the authors Andreas Brämer, Ulrich Knufinke and Miriam Rürup).

The booklet „Der Israelitische Tempel in Hamburg“ was published as volume no. 7 of the series „Archiv aus Stein“ in cooperation with the Institute for the History of the German Jews. ISBN 978-3-936406-63-4.

“Temple Lighting” with Michael Batz

In December 2019 two events with the light artist Michael Batz took place. On the 1st Advent as well as on the lightning of the 1st Hanukkah candle (on the 4th Advent), more than 100 people came to the first and second “temple lighting”. Originally it was planned to let the temple ruins themselves glow with a light installation by Michael Batz. Since the temple ruins in the back yard were not accessible as it is private property, both events took place as an artistic action on the street. With photographs and stories about the history of this unique place. The event was repeated again in February 2020 in the school adjacent to the back yard.

International Support

This ruin is probably one of the most important architectural remains of the Jewish reform movement, which started in the 19th century in Germany and Hamburg. In the meantime, the state of the world’s first reform synagogue building is also attracting international attention. The Foundation Jewish Heritage in London, sister congregations of the Liberal Jewish Community in Great Britain and the USA and the World Union of Progressive Judaism are particularly concerned.

The Foundation for Jewish Heritage, London, has included the object in its “Top 19 Watchlist” of the most threatened Jewish relics in Europe (the list includes a total of 3,318 objects). There is clearly a danger that it will continue to deteriorate through neglect and thus disappear from contemporary perception. The site is to be sold and even if it is listed as a historical monument, it is unclear what will happen to it.

Save the Temple Ruins in the Poolstraße!

In Hamburg’s Neustadt district, hidden in a backyard, is a miserably neglected ruin. It is the remnant of a bomb damage from 1943 and the remains of a 175-year-old, historically valuable and extraordinary synagogue, which has been rotting ever since. This is an outrage. Read on…

Miriam Rürup, in: Hamburger Morgenpost, 27.11.2019

2017: 200th anniversary of the New Israelite Temple Society

On the occasion of the 200th anniversary of the New Israelite Temple Society in Hamburg in 2017, the Institute for the History of German Jews (IGdJ) and the Abraham Geiger Kolleg (AGK) at the University of Potsdam shed light on the development of religious pluralization in Judaism up to the present day, with a focus on progressive facets of Judaism. A conference was held in December 2017 under the direction of Rabbi and Chairman of the Union of Progressive Jews, Prof. Dr. Dr. Walter Homolka, and the Deputy Director of the IGdJ, PD Dr. Andreas Brämer. A commemoration was also held in Poolstraße.