Synagogue Center Felsberg
The Felsberg Synagogue Center Association has the goal of purchasing and restoring the former Felsberg Synagogue. The financial capacities in order to do so must still be attained.
The Felsberg Synagogue in the Ritter Street (Ritterstraße) of Felsberg, Northern Hesse is located in the center of the town which dates back to the Middle Ages. It is one of three rural Hessian stone synagogues built before World War II, and, of these, it is the architecturally most important one. Until 1938/39 it served the Jewish population of Felsberg as their house of worship. It is currently vacant, with the last occupants having run a pizza restaurant on the premises until the summer of 2013. The plans to use it once more as synagogue for religious purposes as well as a center for exhibitions and vast educational endeavors in a broader sense will make it one of a kind among the 30 synagogues that are active in Germany today.
While keeping an eye on the past four hundred years of Jewish history in Felsberg, a foundation shall be placed for the next hundred years of Jewish life in Northern Hesse. Felsberg is once more proud of its Jewish history, one that should no longer be repressed.
Felsberg Synagogue in 1948 in its original condition, but without the original windows
The project rests on three pillars:
1. Dynamic Documentation and Cultural Center
The Felsberg Synagogue Center will show the 900 year history of Jews in Northern Hessia. Multi-media exhibitions of everyday rural Jewish life over hundreds of years which was mostly experienced as a peaceful co-existence with the neighbors will be presented. Biographies of Jewish families, historical documents, photos, and archeological findings, primarily from the Schwalm-Eder County, will be exhibited. There will be a library, a seminar room for educational training, and a digital media center. Art exhibitions, concerts, plays, seminars, workshops, and guided tours of Felsberg will be offered.
2. Religious Services for the Progressive Jewish Congregation North Hesse
The Felsberg Synagogue Center along with the Emet weSchalom Congregation (the Progressive Jewish Congregation of North Hesse) will use rooms in the synagogue once a week and on Jewish holidays after the Felsberg Synagogue Center Association has purchased and renovated the building. The Emet weShalom Congregation has been conducting Jewish religious services, study hours and holidays for its members and others who are interested in Progressive Judaism since 1995.
The 1st chairperson of the Save the Felsberg Synagogue Association, Christopher Willing, is a member of the Emet weShalom Congregation. Currently the congregation’s religious services are being held in his house.
3. Jewish Tours and Culture
The Felsberg Synagogue Center will offer tours along the historical paths of Judaism in Hesse (including hundreds of former synagogues and cemeteries). Jews as well as non-Jews from all over the world who are interested in Judaism will find the Felsberg Synagogue Center to be a one of a kind resource center.
Rabbi Israel Jacobson (1768-1828), from Kassel, who was the founder of Progressive Judaism
Felsberg lies in the former Kingdom of Westphalia. This is where Progressive Judaism was born and thus is the source from which worldwide Progressive Judaism spread. Nowhere in Germany were there more synagogues than in Hesse.
The former Breitenau concentration camp is located in Guxhagen, 10 kilometers from Felsberg.
A vacant synagogue today
A letter from Elise Bernhardt, Director of the Foundation for Jewish Culture, New York:
“It is of utmost importance to save the Felsberg Synagogue as a place of worship for a progressive Jewish congregation, for a future international cultural center, as well as a documentation center about rural German Jewish life throughout the past centuries.
It is an important, worldwide symbol of a tolerant Germany, a country that exemplifies itself through its active discourse with the past, the present, and the future.”
Director, Foundation for Jewish Culture
New York, July 2013
The Jewish Way of Thinking, Today and in the Past
by Christopher Willing
The Felsberg Synagogue Center Association has the goal of making Judaism come alive. This is true for the following generations as well as people of all religions in Germany and the neighboring European countries. Conferences, workshops, and seminars in regards to all aspects of Judaism such as history, daily life, philosophy, humor, rituals, professions, music, dance, choir, etc., will be offered.
Topics will be prepared with the German National Conference of Rabbis, the Christian congregations, the Schwalm-Eder County Protestant Forum, the Forum for Intercultural Dialog (Muslim), and the Hessian schools, thus providing inspiring further education possibilities for teachers, students, artists, politicians and decision makers.
Our international synagogue partners in the USA, Israel, Poland, Russia, and the Netherlands can exchange experiences with us in Felsberg and together we can develop cultural programs.
For this we need your help.
Save the Felsberg Synagogue Association:
Christopher Willing, 1st chairman
Ingo Sielaff, second chairman
Annette Willing, third chairperson