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New Munich Synagogue Symbolizes Hope

Built of travertine stone topped by a glass cube aimed at giving worshippers a view of the heavens, the synagogue cost about $72 million. Funding came from the city of Munich, the state of Bavaria, Munich's Jewish community as well as private donations.

The dedication ceremony, during which the scrolls were placed in the Holy Ark, was accompanied by clarinetist Giora Feidmann and the Jerusalem Great Synagogue Choir.

Looking out over the crowd of bright blue yarmulkes, Rabbi Israel Lau, a Holocaust survivor from Israel who helped carry the scrolls from the old synagogue, praised the building.

"If only we had such a synagogue in Jerusalem," Lau said.

He also recalled the dark years in Germany when Jews were forced to keep their religion secret.

"We had, for many years, to hide the Torahs, not to show them," Lau said. "Today is a demonstration of Jewish survival, of Jewish immortality. You don't have to hide, you can be proud."

Since the German government relaxed immigration laws for Jews following reunification in 1990, thousands have come here, mostly from the former Soviet Union. According to the World Jewish Congress, Germany now has the world's fastest-growing Jewish community, conservatively estimated at more than 100,000.

The Munich community, which was reduced to several dozen by the time the U.S. Army arrived in 1945, has grown to the second-largest in Germany, after Berlin.

For Knobloch, who returned to Munich after the war and fought for years for a new house of worship for her community, the day was a dream come true.

"From today onward, Nov. 9 will not only be a symbol of the past, but a hopeful expression of peaceful togetherness for the future," she said. "We Jews are again part of this country."

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© 2006 The Associated Press