Past Exhibitions

6th September 2016 – 15th April 2018
Mittenmang & Tolerant –
150th Anniversary of the New Synagogue

Curated by Diana Schulle and Hermann Simon











An Asset to the City

In 1856, the Great Synagogue on Heidereutergasse was expanded by the architect Eduard Knoblauch to meet the needs of Berlin’s rapidly growing Jewish community.

It was soon determined, however, that there were still not enough seats, and Knoblauch was awarded a new commission: to build a ‘New Synagogue’ on nearby Oranienburger Strasse. This building was to reflect the ‘new status, size, importance, and wealth of the Jewish community of Berlin’.

Neue Synagoge_Ausmalung der OstwandThe ground-breaking ceremony took place on the 1,770 square-meter site on 17 May 1859. Two years later, in mid July 1861, the topping-out ceremony was held, and the structural work was completed by 1863. The first lighting tests, choir rehearsals, and practice orations were conducted in March 1866.

The New Synagogue was consecrated on 5 September 1866. With its 92-foot high façade (28.87 meters), the house of worship towered over Oranienburger Strasse. The building’s depth was 308 feet (96.66 meters). The dimensions of the main synagogue space were 143 feet long (44.88 meters) by 126 feet wide (39.54 meters).

Neue Synagoge_Fotografie Aluminiumabzug auf Karton_ca. 1870_verklIt was not only the structure that was new. So were the rites. The reforms to the liturgy included shortening various prayers, many of which were recited in German. There was also bitter controversy surrounding the introduction of an organ, a fixture of Christian services.
The building’s ‘Moorish’ architectural style and its splendid ‘oriental-style’ furnishings impressed most visitors, though anti-Semites considered the building’s exotic splendour to be a provocation.

For numerous Jews, the New Synagogue served as a site of contemplation, reflection, and prayer. It operated for 74 years. The last religious services were held there on 30 March 1940.



Comments are closed.