Program booklet for the dedication of the Great Synagogue, 1884 © Erfurt Municipal and Regional Library
"Thanks for this day, when a great house of worship, built in the splendor of our time, encompasses the congregation! Thanks that we may witness this day of jubilation!"
These were the opening lines of the sermon held by Rabbi Theodor Kroner at the ceremony dedicating the Great Synagogue on September 4, 1884. After a ban of 350 years, Jews had only been permitted to settle in Erfurt again for a few decades. Now the Jewish population was growing rapidly, and the existing synagogue no longer answered to its needs. A large new temple with a capacity for 500 had been erected on Kartäuserring, the present-day Juri-Gagarin-Ring. Mayor Richard Breslau and other important representatives of the town society attended the dedication ceremony. By the Jewish calendar, the event took place on the 14th of Elul, 5644.
The synagogue in Erfurt was one of many Jewish temples built in this period. Its architect Siegfried Kusnitzky, for example, was simultaneously overseeing the construction of the Börneplatz Synagogue in Frankfurt am Main. With its Arabic elements, the Moorish style of the Erfurt Synagogue radiated an aura of self-confidence. Visible far and wide, the dome with a tower on either side, the ornaments, and the colorful brickwork made the temple an imposing edifice. With this synagogue, the Jewish community claimed a prominent place for itself in the town society.
The Hebrew inscription over the main entrance read: “For my house shall be named a house of prayer for all peoples”. This was the congregation’s reply to all who continued to ostracize the Jews and oppose their equality before the law. For the Jewish community, the synagogue was a house of encounter and openness to the world.
© Verlag Klaus-Jürgen Kamprad