Gemeindehaus der Jüdischen Gemeinde, Halbe Stadt 30
The Jewish community in Frankfurt (Oder) has a history spanning over eight centuries, with the Holocaust representing a significant historical break. During the National Socialist dictatorship between 1933 and 1945, most of the 800 Jewish citizens were forced to leave. Those who didn’t do so in time were persecuted, interred and/or murdered. The tyranny of the National Socialists irrevocably destroyed that what made Frankfurt (Oder) a prosperous, liberal and tolerant international trade city.
As “Contingent Refugees” in Frankfurt
During the GDR period no Jewish community existed in the border town. At the end of the 1990s, the first Jews from the former Soviet Union began to settle in Frankfurt (Oder). Many Jewish emigrants did not move to Israel, but rather to countries where they had closer cultural ties. The German authorities distributed these so-called “contingent refugees” across the different German states depending upon their familiar connections and relatives. Between the summer of 1997 and the end of 1998 nearly 200 Jews from Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia came to Frankfurt (Oder).
Integration of the new local Jewish community
In Frankfurt (Oder) some fundamental difficulties arose. For most of the community members, it was not possible to practice their religion and culture freely in the Soviet Union. Furthermore, the double city of Frankfurt-Słubice lacked the essential infrastructure for a Jewish community: A Synagogue as a house of worship, a Rabbi as community head, and a ritual bath, the so-called Mikveh. The most important aspect of a functioning community however, is its active members. Today, these members give tours and hold workshops on Jewish history, culture, tradition and religion. Furthermore, there is a Russian language community newsletter.
Nevertheless, the activates of this new Jewish community inspire hope for a lasting enrichment of the city. For example, the community center along the street Halbe Stadt was renovated in 2009. In a Sunday school kids can learn Russian, study Jewish traditions and sing, make handicrafts and play together. Those interested are welcome to join the community on Friday evenings during Shabbat, to see how Jews begin the holy day of rest. In addition, the community center has an exhibition open to the public detailing the Jewish history of Frankfurt (Oder) up to the Shoah and about the community today.
Piotr Franz and the Editors