Social Clubs
Gay & Lesbian

The Jewish Community (Jüdische Gemeinde Berlin)

The Jewish Community organization maintains five synagogues, most of them renovated buildings dating from before the 1930s. Adass Yisroel has one as well, making a total of six synagogues in the city (the New Synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse no longer functions as a place of worship). In contrast there were, before the Nazi government, over 80 community and private synagogues in the city. Visiting the synagogues other than during services is a little problematic. Not only will they be closed, but most of them are inaccessible and even hidden from view in inner courtyards. The exterior of the Fraenkelufer Synagogue can be viewed from the street, and you can get a peek at the Rykestrasse Synagogue through a wrought iron gate leading to its courtyard location. You'll have to pray to see the others.

Pestalozzistrasse 14-15, 10625 Berlin - Charlottenburg | Tel: 313 8411, Fax: no fax | U7 Wilmersdorfer Str | Fri night services: winter 6pm, summer 7pm. Sat morning 9:30am
This is one of the most popular places of Jewish worship in the city, and probably the best place to go to get a "feel" for a representative Liberal Berlin service. There is an organ and a mixed choir but seating is separate. If you're lucky, you'll be able to hear the Community's long-standing and very popular head cantor, Estrongo Nachama. The Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue was built in 1911-12 on the initiative of Betty Sophie Jacobsohn, a businesswoman who donated the property on which it stands. It functioned as a private synagogue for several years until it was taken over by the Community in 1919. It was the most important and popular orthodox synagogue in western Berlin. Like many Berlin synagogues, it is tucked away discreetly in a courtyard behind an inconspicuous entrance, an old habit that the smaller, private congregations found especially difficult to break. It is built in a Romanesque style, though with the red brick facade and massive form typical of German medieval architecture. The synagogue was set on fire during the Kristallnacht pogrom, but the blaze was put out by the fire department, which feared that the neighboring buildings would be burned. The interior of the synagogue was only slightly damaged. After the Nazi defeat, services resumed here in late summer 1945, with participants sitting on borrowed garden chairs. The building quickly became the center for the remnants of the community (those returning from the camps as well as those who lived underground during the last years of war) who gathered here to ask about relatives and exchange news. In 1947 the synagogue was renovated.

Joachimstaler Strasse
Joachimstaler Strasse 13, 10719 Berlin - Charlottenburg | Tel: 884 2030, Fax: no fax | U9, U15 Kurfürstendamm | Fri night services after sundown. Sat morning services 9:30am. Weekday shacharit services 8am Sun & 7:20am Mon-Fri. Mincha/Maariv services about 30 minutes before nightfall
This shul offers rigorous Orthodox services in the city and is the only synagogue offering weekday services. Though the room, which dates from 1902, was built as a B'nai B'rith auditorium, it nevertheless manages an inspiring, synagogal look. Massive chandeliers hang from the high ceiling, large tinted windows allow in hushed light, and ornate, rococo stucco plays over the walls. Services were held here on high holy days as early as the ´30s and on a weekly basis after the Kristallnacht pogram in 1938, when most of the city's synagogues were destroyed or damaged. At that time, Leo Baeck officiated here. Today, Rabbi Ehrenberg, the Community's orthodox rabbi, serves here.

Fraenkelufer 10-16, 10999 Berlin - Kreuzberg | Tel: 614 5131, Fax: no fax | U1, U8 Kottbusser Tor | Fri night services, 7pm. Sat morning services, 9:30am
Seventy-five years ago, if you attended services here, you would have entered an imposing, capacious synagogue, beautifully decorated with neo-classical motifs and seating 2,000. That synagogue, dedicated in 1916, was burned out during the Kristallnacht pogrom and later destroyed by Allied bombing. Today, when one refers to the Fraenkelufer Synagogue, it is only to a surviving side wing that once housed the weekday and youth shul. The narrow room, which holds a couple of hundred worshippers at most, is simply outfitted with a minimum of frills and a small wooden ark and bimah. Its high white walls and spare neo-classical columns make it look something like a New England colonial church. The original synagogue, completed in 1916, was designed by Alexander Beer, who served as in-house architect for the Jewish Community. Beer died in 1944 in Theresienstadt. This structure was the last of three large synagogues built in the second decade of the century to serve the city's rapidly growing Jewish community (the other two were synagogues on Fasanenstrasse and Levetzowstrasse, both now gone). Though the room is plain, the worshippers who congregate here for Conservative services are a spirited group and there is a refreshing warmth that is sometimes lacking in some of the other Berlin synagogues.

Herbartstrasse 26, 14057 Berlin - Charlottenburg | Tel: 321 2056, Fax: no fax | S45, S46 Witzleben | Fri night services in winter 5:30pm, summer 6pm. Sat morning services 9:30am
The Leo Baeck Synagogue, a small shul with 135 seats, is Berlin's only post-war synagogue, erected in 1981 to serve the residents of the Jeanette Wolff Senior Citizens' Home and the Leo Baeck Old Age Home. It was designed by Hans Wolff Grohmann in a plain and subdued modern style, but it incorporates columns and religious objects from a prayer hall in the pre-war old age home in Iranische Strasse. The services are conservative.

Rykestrasse 53, 10405 Berlin - Prenzlauer Berg | Tel: 448 5298, Fax: no fax | U2 Senefelder Platz | Fri night services in winter 6pm, summer 7pm. Sat morning services 9:30am
This cavernous synagogue is today the largest extant synagogue in Germany, and therein lies a problem: it is too big. One feels slightly lost in the huge and sparsely filled hall. The handful of worshippers who gather here on Shabbat, in fact, use a small side chapel, and the main synagogue is used only for festivals. Nevertheless, it is a beautiful synagogue that retains much of the original interior. Because of the synagogue's location in a courtyard surrounded by housing, it survived Kristallnacht relatively unscathed, and by luck it was not struck by war-time bombing. The ark and bimah are tremendous, ornate affairs of marble and columns and balustrades. Framing the structure is a brightly painted arc of floral designs. The deep balcony, swathed in stone and supported by low Romanesque pedestals, runs along the flanks of the building. The synagogue was built in 1903-04 by Johann Höniger (who also designed the no-longer-existent Adass Yisroel synagogue on Tucholskystrasse) to serve a Reform congregation. The Romanesque detailing and red-brick facade were typical of the churches of the time, and are indicative of the identification the Jews of Berlin felt with the dominant culture. Like churches, the synagogue contained an organ and a choir loft, a point of distinction for the reform movement. Men and women originally sat together for services, a practice no longer followed. In 1940, the building was taken over by the German army and turned into a munitions magazine. The aisles were used as horse stables. In 1953, it was restored and was for many years the only synagogue for the tiny East Berlin Jewish community. Further renovations took place in 1987. It now hosts conservative services.

Oranienburger Strasse
Oranienburger Strasse 29, 10117 Berlin - Mitte | Tel: 28 40 12 50, Fax: no fax | U6 Oranienburger Tor; S1, S2 Oranienburger Str | Services Fri 7pm, Sat 9.30am
The renovated New Synagogue is now primarily occupied by a museum and offices, but one room of the nineteenth-century landmark has been set aside as a prayer room. In the plain room equipped with a small, simple ark and folding chairs, the Community's only Reform-style services are held. These services, with mixed seating and women on the bimah, have only recently been introduced, a response by the Community board to grassroots demands for an informal, egalitarian service. It's pleasing that services are once again held in the New Synagogue and fitting that they are, as when the New Synagogue was built, reform-style.

top of page © 1999-2011 Berlin Information Groupanything missing or wrong?