Foundation Chief Executive Michael Mail recently visited Hamburg to meet with leaders involved in the Poolstrasse Temple Synagogue project, a campaign supported by the Foundation, to save the building and bring it back into use.
In the early 19th century, Hamburg had the biggest Jewish community in Germany. The Neue Israelitische Tempelverein of Hamburg, founded in 1817, was one of the earliest Reform congregations and played an important role in the development of the Reform movement in its theology, liturgy, music, and architecture.
In the early 1840s, its members decided to build a new synagogue which was the very first Reform temple to be constructed in a major German city. It was an imposing building combining forms of neo-classicism with elements of neo-Gothic and Moorish style. Today, the Temple is considered one of the most important architectural traces of the Reform movement of the 19th century in Germany.
In 1931, the Jewish community moved to a new location and the Temple was sold. During World War 2, the building was partially destroyed during air raids on Hamburg. Two parts of the structure are still preserved: the entrance in the west, and the eastern part with the apse. The property was in private ownership after the War and has significantly deteriorated over the years.
In recognition of the significance of the building, the Hamburg city authorities purchased the site in 2020 and, since that time, there has been an ongoing dialogue with the campaign group exploring possible future uses. The Foundation has been contributing to this discussion making its own recommendations as to how a planning process might develop.
Michael met with the campaign chair Prof Dr Miriam Ruerup, and local heritage activist Siri Keil, while also taking the opportunity to visit the Temple building.
Michael Mail and Prof Dr Miriam Ruerup outside the synagogue
Michael commented after the visit, "the Temple synagogue site with its special history and location in Hamburg city centre could become an important social, educational and cultural venue. There is also the possibility of it once again serving as a functioning synagogue which is an exciting prospect. More research needs to be carried out to fully explore the options and come up with a sensible and sustainable solution. A serious and committed group of people are working on the project."
Learn more about the Temple synagogue campaign here