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State's Loan Plan for Synagogue Advances Jewish Renaissance

One of Germany's 16 states is to lend the Jewish community money to build a synagogue in Potsdam, officials said Tuesday. It is the latest in a rising number of new and restored places of worship.

Jewish rabbis carry Torah scrolls in a solemn procession from the old synagogue to the new one in downtown Munich

The increased numbers of new and rebuilt synagogues have given Jewish culture a boost

The community will be asked to repay the cost from donations after the 5-million-euro ($6.5 million) house of worship is completed at the end of 2012. The state of Brandenburg is to donate a plot of land in the heart of Potsdam, its state capital and former home of the kings of Prussia and the Kaisers.

The loan-funding plan was approved by the Brandenburg government on Tuesday, Jan. 20. The state signed an agreement with the community in 2005, which included a commitment to support the building project.

Making amends for the Holocaust, German authorities have regularly helped Jewish communities rebuild synagogues and schools.

The plan to build the Potsdam synagogue is another sign of the renaissance of Jewish culture in Germany.

Jewish life becoming more visible in Germany

In September 2008, a new synagogue was opened in the western German city of Krefeld, 70 years after the Nazis destroyed the old one, bringing the number of synagogues in the state of North Rhine-Westphalia to 20.

In the nearby city of Essen, the Old Synagogue is also being given an extensive makeover so that it will be ready by 2010 when Essen becomes European Capital of Culture.

More restoration work is taking place on another synagogue destroyed during the Nazi pogrom in Darmstadt, not far from the banking centre of Frankfurt, while the cornerstone for a new synagogue in the city of Mainz was laid in November.

"We should be very happy that Jewish life is becoming visible in our country," said Charlotte Knobloch, president of Germany's Central Council of Jews at the ceremony marking the laying of the stone in Mainz.

Also in November last year, New York-based star architect Daniel Libeskind announced plans to design a synagogue for a liberal Jewish congregation in Munich.

Daniel Libeskind

Architect Libeskind will reveal his plans for Munich this spring

Libeskind, who designed the Jewish Museum in Berlin and is the master plan architect for the World Trade Center redesign in New York, has agreed to build the synagogue for Beth Shalom in the Bavarian capital on the city's Westenrieder Strasse, where Munich's first synagogue was built in 1850. The Polish-born architect is expected to present his design this spring.

Some 600,000 Jews lived in Germany before World War II, but the figure declined to around 12,000 after 1945.

Today, there are more than 110,000 Jews or people of Jewish origin, giving Germany one of the largest Jewish populations of any country in Europe.

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