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1st Jewish campus in Berlin after the Holocaust

1st Jewish campus in Berlin after the Holocaust
Rabbi Yehuda Teichtal doesn't get much sleep these days, but says it's well worth it. The community rabbi and head of the Jewish outreach group Chabad in Berlin has been campaigning relentlessly to turn his dream of creating a Jewish campus in Germany into a reality.

For years, he's lobbied the German authorities, raised millions of euros (dollars) in funds and bought a 3,000 square meter (32,000 square feet) plot of land next to Chabad's synagogue in the German capital's Wilmersdorf district. More than just a new facility, Teichtal sees the center as a step toward Chabad's goal of re-establishing a vibrant Jewish community in the former Nazi capital, in part by welcoming and integrating Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union and encouraging interactions with non-Jews. "Everyone in Europe talks about fears and uncertainties, we're talking about going forward," said the 44-year-old orthodox rabbi, looking across the large empty plot where a few containers have been set up as a temporary extension of Chabad's kindergarten. The planned seven-story building will be dedicated to Jewish education, culture and sports, the first of its kind in Germany. If all goes to plan, the ground-breaking is scheduled for September and the entire campus is slated to be finished in late 2019. German authorities approved some of the still-outstanding permissions earlier this month.

"With all the challenges we're facing today, building this campus is a signal: We're here to stay — otherwise we wouldn't build," says Teichtal, who wears a traditional beard, a velvet kippah and a black caftan. Germany has experienced a strong influx of Jews in recent decades and Berlin has the biggest Jewish community in Germany, with about 40,000 members. Those numbers are still a far cry, however, from Germany's flourishing Jewish community of more than 500,000 before the Nazi period, with some 120,000 Jews in Berlin alone.
Agencies

Agencies

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