Palestinian-born legislator dreams of rebuilding synagogue in Berlin

Raed Saleh, a Palestinian born in the West Bank, wants to rebuild a synagogue in the German capital. Now the dream of this Berlin politician is a bit closer to reality.

Standing in front of the Fraenkelufer Synagogue on a chilly March morning, the senator and local leader of the Social Democratic Party here announced plans for the reconstruction of a building that was largely destroyed in the Kristallnacht pogrom of 1938.

Saleh’s goal, endorsed by Berlin Jewish Community president Gideon Joffe, is to make a statement against growing antisemitism in the capital city and against discrimination targeting Muslims, too.

“If you say you want to support Jewish life in Germany and Berlin and Europe, and you don’t just want to pay lip service, then you have to carry it out concretely,” said Saleh, 40, who immigrated to Germany with his family when he was 5.

He first proposed the project in November in a column in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. His thinking: “He who builds castles can also rebuild synagogues.”

So Saleh campaigned for and won support from the Berlin Senate. The project is still a vision, but no longer a pipe dream.

It’s an idea that would have stunned Joffe 12 years ago, when he was first elected president of the Jewish community.

“I would never have thought that a Berliner of Palestinian background would help the Jewish community,” Joffe said, standing beside Saleh, who was born in a village near Nablus. “I find it to be a fantastic story that allows us to look with hope into the future.”


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