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European Center for Jewish Scholarship Inaugurated at the University of Potsdam

In the presence of German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Minister President of the State of Brandenburg Dietmar Woidke, and Minister of Science, Research, and Culture of the State of Brandenburg Manja Schüle, the European Center for Jewish Scholarship was inaugurated at the University of Potsdam on August 18, 2021. Aaron Sagui, envoy of the Embassy of the State of Israel to the Federal Republic of Germany, was among the roughly 250 guests, as were Dr. Josef Schuster, President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, and Sonja Guentner, President of the European Union of Progressive Jews.
The School of Jewish Theology at the University of Potsdam and the two rabbinical seminaries – the Abraham Geiger College and the Zacharias Frankel College – now have a new home at the European Center for Jewish Scholarship on Potsdam’s Am Neuen Palais campus. After the conversion of the former Orangery and the historic North Gate Building, a modern building for teaching and studying, which includes a synagogue, has been created vis à vis the New Palace in Sanssouci Park. At the beginning of the celebration, the Torah scrolls were placed in the synagogue – the first in Potsdam since the end of World War II.

Prof. Oliver Günther, Ph.D., President of the University of Potsdam, said on the occasion of the solemn inauguration: “Today’s ceremony marks the conclusion of a wonderful development: the establishment of a Jewish Theology program at the University of Potsdam. For the first time in history, rabbis are being trained at a German university, and the first graduates are already in office worldwide. And in the eight years since its founding, the school has also acquired an international reputation for its research. I’m looking forward to our continuing cooperation.”

Brandenburg’s Minister President Dietmar Woidke emphasized: “This ceremony is a pivotal moment for Potsdam, for Brandenburg, and for Germany as a whole. That is because even 76 years after the end of the national socialist terror regime, the opening of Jewish institutions and synagogues on German soil is anything but a matter of course. Brandenburg is proud of the inauguration of the European Center for Jewish Scholarship at the University of Potsdam. It is a powerful sign for self-assured Jewish life in our state. In keeping with the traditional spirit of openness and tolerance in Jewish scholarship, Brandenburg stands firmly with the Jewish community and clearly and emphatically opposes any form of anti-Semitic thinking. The training of rabbis in Potsdam will enrich the lives of the ten Jewish communities here in the state of Brandenburg, but will certainly also radiate far beyond the borders to all of Germany and Europe.”

Deputy  Director of the School of Jewish Theology and founder of the Abraham Geiger College Rabbi Prof. Dr. Walter Homolka is pleased with this next significant step after the institutionalization of Jewish Theology at the University of Potsdam in 2013: “At last, Jewish Theology and rabbinic education have a permanent location in Germany!”

Brandenburg’s Minister of Science, Research, and Culture Manja Schüle underlines the importance of Jewish Theology for the scientific landscape: “Jewish Theology is finally home! 185 years after Abraham Geiger’s call for equality, we are finally putting Christian and Jewish theological scholarship and training on an equal footing at our universities. The new Center for Jewish Scholarship will become a new educational center for future Jewish clergy in Germany and around the world. The carefully restored North Gate Building and Orangery now unite the School of Jewish Theology, the Abraham Geiger College, the Zacharias Frankel College, and a new synagogue for the state capital. This sends an important signal to the world in this, the year marking the 1,700th anniversary of Jewish life in Germany. In Brandenburg, we cultivate interfaith dialog, thereby making an important contribution to mutual understanding and tolerance.”

Speeches and photos:
The speech by the President of the University of Potsdam, Prof. Oliver Günther, Ph.D., is available here:  German / Englisch .

The speech by German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier in German and English  is available here.

Photos are available in the download box below.

Media information: 18-08-2021 / No. 070
Antje Horn-Conrad /Matthias Zimmermann