THE WORLD AROUND US
 
Jewish Roots in Cologne, Germany - The Roonstrasse Synagogue (In Hebrew)      
Today’s The World Around Us will be presented in Hebrew and German, with subtitles in Arabic, Aulacese (Vietnamese), Chinese, English, French, German, Hebrew, Indonesian, Japanese, Korean, Malay, Persian, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish and Thai.

Welcome to today’s The World Around Us. In this episode, we’ll visit the Roonstrasse Synagogue in Cologne, Germany. Synagogues are the focal point of Jewish life. The building or place of meeting can be used for worship and religious instruction.

Like a typical synagogue, the Roonstrasse Synagogue contains a Torah ark, where the scrolls of the Law are kept. Burning before the ark is the “eternal light,” used as a reminder of the western lamp of the menorah of the holy Temple in Jerusalem.

Other elements include two candelabra, pews, and a bimah, which is a large, raised, reader’s platform where the Torah scroll is placed to be read. The knowledgeable guide explains how the synagogue resembles the Temple in Jerusalem.

The synagogue in its structure corresponds to the ground plan, symbolically to the ground plan of the Temple. In the temple there was the women’s courtyard. It was behind the men’s courtyard. So the women’s courtyard would be the gallery. The men’s courtyard here would be the men’s synagogue.

The steps that lead up to the reading desk; there were 15 steps in the temple according to the 15 Pilgrimage Psalms, from Psalm 120 to 134. There were 15 steps that lead to the sanctuary. The sanctuary here is symbolized through both of the candelabra. There were 10 of it in the temple, 10 seven-armed candelabra.

The great reading desk would be the sacrificial altar, on which the fire was not allowed to die. The Holy of Holies and sanctuary were separated by a curtain. And within the Holy of Holies was the Ark of the Covenant with the Commandment tablets. Yes. The eternal light is there to remind us that our service is a sacrificial service.

The ark, reminiscent of the Ark of the Covenant containing the tablets of the Ten Commandments, is often positioned to direct people to face towards Jerusalem. Often closed with an ornate curtain, it is the holiest spot in a synagogue, and equivalent to the Holy of Holies, the inner sanctuary of the Temple in Jerusalem. Today, this place is where the synagogue keeps the Torah scrolls.

We have 18 scrolls in it. And in each scroll there is the same text. The number 18 in Hebrew is written with letters, because each letter has a numerical value. One has to add each figure of the character to obtain a certain number. Yeah. Like this. The number 18 is comprised of the letter Chet, that is the 8 letter and the letter Yod, that is the 10 letter, and Chet Yod means in Hebrew, Chai, means Life.

So here you see pictures of the Torah scrolls, like they are standing in the cabinet, yes. For every Torah scroll there is a wooden niche, in order for it to stand firm and to prevent it from tipping over. Like they are on display here. Up there they stand in the Torah cabinet, the Torah scrolls. The Torah scroll here is rolled out, in order to be able to see how the writing is and that the people get an impression of it.

Then here we have the pointer (“hand”). The hand is used by the reader, on the one hand for him that he has not to touch the Torah by hand and on the other hand he shows himself word for word where he is while reading, for that he does not slip between the lines, or he should as far as possible read from the Torah without making mistakes.

On Sabbath at the service, the Torah scroll will be taken out of the cabinet, will be carried around the room in a procession and then will be rolled out here on the reading desk.

The reading of the Torah is completed by a segment from the Prophets which refers to the part of the Torah. And if that is completed, then the Torah scroll will be rolled up again, will be donned. So the Torah cover, everything that belongs to it, will be put back to the Torah scroll. Again, it will be carried through the room in the procession and will be put back to the cabinet.

We’ll continue our visit to the Roonstrasse synagogue in Cologne, Germany, when we return. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television.

Welcome back to The World Around Us on Supreme Master Television. Let’s continue our visit to the Roonstrasse Synagogue in Cologne, Germany. The Roonstrasse Synagogue was first built in 1899. Its original appearance can be seen through post cards such as these from the turn of the 20th century.

The synagogue had to be rebuilt a few decades later. In 1956, it was decided that the Roonstrasse Synagogue would be reconstructed with a community center. In 1958, with support from the chancellor and former mayor of Cologne, Germany, Konrad Adenauer, and financial aid from the state, the rebuilding of the synagogue and its associated cultural center started.

The inauguration of the newly rebuilt synagogue took place on September 20, 1959. Many important personalities of political, religious, and cultural life were invited to the commemorative event.

The architect, who carried out the reconstruction in 1958 with the skeleton of the still existing synagogue was able to reconstruct the front of the building according to what it looked like in 1899. And you have seen the result outside. Yes. The room for the service, which reaches from the cloakroom to the dome, was then used differently.

They built in an intermediate ceiling, so that today one has gained more space for the community center, for school classes, for a kindergarten, for mundane events, which will be held in the community hall. One has gained this through it.

Meanwhile, since 2004, the Jewish community in Cologne has opened a community center, a welfare center, in which there is a kindergarten, a primary school, a home for senior citizens and the administration. So here this synagogue in the Roonstrasse practically is only the spiritual center where services are being held, where children also have their religious education and where associations have their premises within this building.

Currently, Rabbi Yaron Engelmayer is the leader of this synagogue and rabbi of the Jewish community of Cologne. The synagogue consists of a community center, a small memorial room on Cologne Jewry where historical items are displayed, and a kosher restaurant. Many visitors come here to join the congregation for service.

The service starts at half past nine, and around half past ten or eleven the reading of the Torah starts and it takes about one hour. The service is being held in Hebrew language. So the prayer texts, they are 2,500 years old. The one who leads the prayers is standing down there at the reading desk and reads the prayers

The synagogue here is being led in an orthodox way, even if the members of the community or the participants of the service are not orthodox. We also have a liberal community. That means, there the service is not completely held in Hebrew, but with translation, there they also sing more. So it is another way to celebrate God’s service. And the women, they are actively involved in the service.

The Roonstrasse Synagogue is among the most famous synagogues around the world, especially because His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI visited here on August 19, 2005. It was the second ever visit to any synagogue by a head of the Catholic Church.

Now shortly to the visit of the Pope. In 2005 the Pope was here during the World Youth Day. It took place then in Cologne. Actually, Pope John Paul II was invited, but he passed away in spring 2005, and his successor, Benedict XVI had accepted the invitation and came to visit the synagogue as pope. And here, there are some pictures from that event.

On the day of Pope Benedict XVI’s visit, Rabbi Netanel Teitelbaum and three Jewish community leaders welcomed their holy guest with reverence. On this landmark occasion, His Holiness was praised widely as a “Pontiff,” meaning “a builder of bridges” towards Judaism, and as a role model for Christians.

The present for the host that the pope had brought with him is this folio here. It is the translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, the Septuaginta, that is the specific term. And that is a codex from the Vatican library, and it would not stand here if it would be the original.

And today it would be 801 years old, this book. From that, it is actually very, very precious, what he has presented. And for the community, it was a very, very solemn act. There were only invited guests. This synagogue, in this case, small, not much sitting space. There were only invited guests at the pope’s visit.

In this Jewish synagogue, Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Catholic Church, reaffirmed the shared roots and rich spiritual heritage that Jews and Christians share. His Holiness encouraged that they seek dialogue and solidarity. In considering the Jewish roots of Christianity, he stated that “whoever meets Jesus Christ meets Judaism.”

The pope also said, “Together we must remember God and his wise plan for the world which he created. As we read in the Book of Wisdom, He is the Lover of life.” The pope then concluded with the words of Psalm 29, which express both a wish and a prayer: “May the Lord give strength to His people, may He bless His people with peace.”

The Roonstrasse Synangoue will continue to shine as a peaceful and graceful place of worship and community life, reminding us of the Divine spirit within all.

Thank you for being with us on today’s The World Around Us. Please stay tuned to Supreme Master Television for Words of Wisdom, up next after Noteworthy News. May your life be blessed with virtue and kindness.

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