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Historic Munich Synagogue Gets New Lease on Life

A historic synagogue in Munich will get a shot in the arm thanks to efforts by a local Jewish cultural activist with help from the Germany city.

Rachel Salamander, the daughter of Holocaust survivors, formally announced plans on Tuesday to renovate the Reichenbachstrasse Synagogue, which has fallen into disuse since the Jewish community dedicated the Ohel Jakob synagogue in the center of Munich in 2006.

Architect Christoph Sattler, a founding member of the Association for the Reichenbachstrasse Synagogue, told the Sueddeutsche Zeitung newspaper that he thought $5.2 million would be needed to renovate the synagogue, with another $2.6 million to restore the historic brewery underneath.

Since co-founding the association, Salamander has received about $261,000 in federal landmark preservation funds for the project, according to reports.

Designed by architect Gustav Meyerstein, the synagogue was built in 1931, two years before Hitler came to power and during a time of economic depression and rising anti-Semitism. It was severely damaged by Nazi hooligans in 1938 and turned into a workshop. After the war, in 1947, the synagogue was used again as a Jewish community center and was the spiritual home for most of Munich’s small postwar community.

Speaking to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, Salamander said the synagogue symbolizes “the presence of absence,” and noted that it makes no sense to lament the loss of Jewish life and culture and yet allow the landmark synagogue to slide into decay. Salamander, who was born in 1949 in a displaced persons camp in Deggendorf, attended the synagogue as a child.

Salamander became a literary scholar and founded Germany’s first postwar Jewish bookstores in Munich and Berlin. She is a co-founder of Tarbut, a semiannual Jewish learning conference held at a resort in the Bavarian Alps.

According to Sueddeutsche Zeitung, synagogue supporters along with Sattler include Munich Chief Mayor Christian Ude and Wolfgang Heubisch, Bavaria’s minister of state for science, research and art who also is in charge of preservation of landmarks in the state.

Munich also has a Reform congregation, Beth Shalom.

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