Mainz is home to one of the oldest Jewish communities in Europe. During the Middle Ages, it was a centre of Jewish learning and religious life. The Main Synagogue designed by the architect Willy Graf from Stuttgart and erected in 1912 at the crossroads of Hindenburgstrasse and Josefsstrasse was looted and set on fire during the Kristallnacht pogroms of the night of 9 November 1938.
Today, the Jewish community of Mainz counts around 1000 members, and it is growing quite rapidly, mainly due to immigration from Eastern European countries. As its premises became too small to cater for the growing number of worshipers, an initiative was set up to build a new community centre on the site of the destroyed Main Synagogue. The plans were drawn up by Manuel Herz, an architect from Cologne. The project quickly gained the support of the city and its authorities.
"Kedushah" means holiness in Hebrew and is the sanctification of God's name during the Amidah prayer. The five letters of the Hebrew word were taken as the key elements for the design of the New Synagogue in Mainz. Its architecture and the façade of green glazed ceramic elements are highly unconventional both in style and materials. Manuel Herz however managed to reflect the history of the community from the Middle Ages to the 21st century without ever making a direct reference to prosecution, pogroms and the Holocaust, as his design is primarily inspired by traditional texts and the Torah.
Fragments of pillars of the Main Synagogue built in 1912 remind visitors to the New Synagogue of the fate of its predecessor.
Inauguration of the New Synagogue of Mainz in 2010
The New Synagogue was inaugurated on Friday, 3 September 2010. The invitations were sent out jointly by the chairperson of the Jewish community Stella Schindler-Siegreich, Prime Minister Kurt Beck and the Lord Mayor of Mainz Jens Beutel.
Among the guests were many Jews who at some stage lived in Mainz, witnesses of the Holocaust and members of today's local Jewish community. Also present were the then President of Germany Christian Wulff and the Ambassador of the State of Israel to Germany Yoram Ben Ze'ev. At the open day held a little later, the people of Mainz had the opportunity to visit the New Synagogue and they turned up in their hundreds. The formal inauguration ceremony began with the placing of the Mezuzah at the main entrance of the new building by Rabbi Julian-Chaim Soussan, and the installation of the Torah scrolls in the synagogue.
After the welcome address by Stella Schindler-Siegreich, there were speeches by Christian Wulff, the Kurt Beck, Jens Beutel, the chairperson of the Central Council of Jews in Germany Charlotte Knobloch and Dr. Fritz Weinschenk who was born in 1920 in Mainz and flew all the way from New York to attend the ceremony. Ninety-eight years after the inauguration of the Main Synagogue of Mainz on 3 September 1912, and roughly 70 years after its destruction under the Nazi regime, the capital of Rhineland-Palatinate has again a splendid synagogue reflecting the vibrant Jewish community that calls the city its home. Following some controversy regarding the name of the street at which the New Synagogue is located, Hindenburgstrasse was renamed to Synagogenplatz.