Munich's new Ohel Jacob synagogue
Munich's new Ohel Jacob synagogue
Eva-Elisabeth Fischer

MUNICH - Our meeting takes place at Munich’s old Jewish synagogue on Reichenbachstrasse. Rachel Salamander and her Synagogue Reichenbachstrasse charity co-chair, attorney Ron Jakubowicz, are telling us about their plans for the synagogue’s future.

The mission of the charity, which was launched in November 2011, is to save and restore the pre-war synagogue that was turned into a wood and metal workshop after the infamous November 9, 1938 Kristallnacht, “Night of Broken Glass,” when Nazis smashed windows, looted and burned Jewish synagogues, shops and homes.

Both the German state of Bavaria and its capital city Munich, represented personally at the gathering by German Minister of Culture Wolfgang Heubisch and Mayor Christian Ude, not only support these goals but have now budgeted substantial funds to see them realized. The project will receive additional funding from sponsors, and Heubisch presented 200,000 euros from federal heritage conservation funds.

The money from the state of Bavaria will also be drawn from its heritage conservation budget, since the Reichenbachstrasse synagogue is considered a jewel of Neue Sachlichkeit architecture (the modern architecture movement that emerged in the 1920s and 1930s). Architect Christoph Sattler, a founding member of the association, believes that it will take 6 million euros to restore the building following architect Gustav Meyerstein’s original 1930 designs. Ideally, Sattler says, the restored synagogue could be re-opened in the first half of 2015.

The exterior of the synagogue is inconspicuous, and although the inside was never as ornamentally extravagant as was the style in eastern European synagogues at the time it was built, it was colorful -- with turquoise walls providing contrast for yellow marble and a soft beige glass ceiling. The area around the raised platform known as the bimah was painted in Pompeian red.

Out of the "backyard" and into the city center

The fact that the building does not stand out from the row of houses surrounding it, is not only due to its style – a style that lies somewhere between Bauhaus and Art Deco. In 1931, when the synagogue was consecrated, economic depression in Germany had helped fuel virulent anti-Semitism. Later, the synagogue’s bland exterior was also reassuring to the handful of Jews who after the holocaust, understandably eager to keep their heads down, got together in 1947 and with very modest resources reconverted the building back into a place of worship.

Well before Munich’s new Ohel Jacob synagogue was inaugurated in November 2006, Charlotte Knobloch, the long-time president of the Jewish Community in Munich – the Israelitische Kultusgemeinde (IKG) – and president of the Jewish Council in Germany, had started to campaign against the low profile, “backyard existence” of Jews in Munich.

As luck would have it, Munich’s new main synagogue and new Jewish cultural center was able to be financed without having to sell the Reichenbachstrasse synagogue.

During our meeting, Rachel Salamander made compelling arguments for the old synagogue, saying that it was the duty of second-generation holocaust survivors – Jews and non-Jews alike – to bring new life to the synagogue that was in Munich’s Jewish neighborhood.

With the exception of memorial plaques, there are hardly any traces of Jewish life in the city, she said. She called it "the presence of absence.” She added that it makes no sense to lament the loss of Jewish life and culture and yet allow the historic Reichenbachstrasse synagogue to slide into decay.

Like Rachel Salamander, many who came to the synagogue on this grey January morning were overcome by emotion. Along with other women, she located her nameplate in the women’s section, where she attended services until Nov. 9, 2006, when the Ohel Jacob Synagogue was consecrated.

Ellen Presser, head of Munich’s new Youth and Cultural Centre, remembered attending this synagogue as a child. To this day, she said, she could hear the terrible cries of survivors during Yizkor memorial services for the deceased on Yom Kippur.

Rachel Salamander says that in the future, not only Jewish but also inter-confessional religious services will be held at the Reichenbachstrasse synagogue.

The intention, she says, is for the building to become a place of meetings and discussions for all Munich citizens.

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Pro-life and Pro-abortion Rights Protests in Washington

Anne-Sophie Goninet, Jane Herbelin and Bertrand Hauger

👋 Håfa adai!*

Welcome to Thursday, where new Omicron findings arrive from South Africa, abortion rights are at risk at the U.S. Supreme Court and Tyrannosaurus rex has got some new competition. From Germany, we share the story of a landmark pharmacy turned sex toy museum.

[*Chamorro - Guam]


This is our daily newsletter Worldcrunch Today, a rapid tour of the news of the day from the world's best journalism sources, regardless of language or geography.

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• COVID update: South Africa reports a higher rate of reinfections from the Omicron variant than has been registered with the Beta and Delta variants, though researchers await further findings on the effects of the new strain. Meanwhile, the UK approves the use of a monoclonal therapy, known as sotrovimab, to treat those at high risk of developing severe COVID-19 symptoms.The approval comes as the British pharmaceutical company, GSK, separately announced the treatment has shown to “retain activity” against the Omicron variant. Down under, New Zealand’s reopening, slated for tomorrow is being criticized as posing risks to its under-vaccinated indigenous Maori.

• Supreme Court poised to gut abortion rights: The U.S. Supreme Court signaled a willingness to accept a Republican-backed Mississippi law that would bar abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, even in cases of rape or incest. A ruling, expected in June, may see millions of women lose abortion access, 50 years after it was recognized as a constitutional right in the landmark Roe v. Wade case.

• Macri charged in Argentine spying case: Argentina’s former president Mauricio Macri has been charged with ordering the secret services to spy on the family members of 44 sailors who died in a navy submarine sinking in 2017. The charge carries a sentence of three to ten years in prison. Macri, now an opposition leader, says the charges are politically motivated.

• WTA suspends China tournaments over Peng Shuai: The Women's Tennis Association (WTA) announced the immediate suspension of all tournaments in China due to concerns about the well-being of Chinese tennis player Peng Shuai, and the safety of other players. Peng disappeared from public view after accusing a top Chinese official of sexual assault.

• Michigan school shooting suspect to be charged as an adult: The 15-year-old student accused of killing four of his classmates and wounding seven other people in a Michigan High School will face charges of terrorism and first-degree murder. Authorities say the suspect had described wanting to attack the school in cellphone videos and a journal.

• Turkey replaces finance minister amid economic turmoil: Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan appointed a strong supporter of his low-interest rate drive, Nureddin Nebati, as Turkey’s new finance minister.

• A battle axe for a tail: Chilean researchers announced the discovery of a newly identified dinosaur species with a completely unique feature from any other creatures that lived at that time: a flat, weaponized tail resembling a battle axe.


South Korean daily Joong-ang Ilbo reports on the discovery of five Omicron cases in South Korea. The Asian nation has broken its daily record for overall coronavirus infections for a second day in a row with more than 5,200 new cases. The variant cases were linked to arrivals from Nigeria and prompted the government to tighten border controls.



In the northeastern Chinese city of Harbin, a reward of 10,000 yuan ($1,570) will be given to anyone who volunteers to take a COVID-19 test and get a positive result, local authorities announced on Thursday on the social network app WeChat.


Why an iconic pharmacy is turning into a sex toy museum

The "New Pharmacy" was famous throughout the St. Pauli district of Hamburg for its history and its long-serving owner. Now the owner’s daughter is transforming it into a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys, linking it with the past "curing" purpose of the shop, reports Eva Eusterhus in German daily Die Welt.

💊 The story begins in autumn 2018, when 83-year-old Regis Genger stood at the counter of her pharmacy and realized that the time had come for her to retire. At least that is the first thing her daughter Anna Genger tells us when we meet, describing the turning point that has also shaped her life and that of her business partner Bianca Müllner. The two women want to create something new here, something that reflects the pharmacy's history and Hamburg's eclectic St. Pauli quarter (it houses both a red light district and the iconic Reeperbahn entertainment area) as well as their own interests.

🚨 Over the last few months, the pharmacy has been transformed into L'Apotheque, a venture that brings together art and business in St. Pauli's red light district. The back rooms will be used for art exhibitions, while the old pharmacy space will house a museum dedicated to the history of sex toys. Genger and Müllner want to show that desire has always existed and that people have always found inventive ways of maximizing pleasure, even in times when self-gratification was seen as unnatural and immoral, as a cause of deformities.

🏩 Genger and Müllner want the museum to show how the history of desire has changed over time. The art exhibitions, which will also center on the themes of physicality and sexuality, are intended to complement the exhibits. They are planning to put on window displays to give passers-by a taste of what is to come, for example, British artist Bronwen Parker-Rhodes's film Lovers, which offers a portrait of sex workers during lockdown.

➡️


I would never point a gun at anyone and pull a trigger at them. Never.

— U.S. actor Alec Baldwin spoke to ABC News, his first interview since the accident that killed cinematographer Halyna Hutchins on the set of the movie Rust last October. The actor said that although he was holding the gun he didn’t pull the trigger, adding that the bullet “wasn't even supposed to be on the property.”

✍️ Newsletter by Anne-Sophie Goninet and Jane Herbelin

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