East Germany's tiny Jewish community again has a rabbi after a vacancy of 22 years.
On the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Rabbi Isaac Neumann was installed in the newly renovated synagogue in East Berlin in the presence of the government secretary for religious affairs, Klaus Gysi, and Protestant and Roman Catholic representatives.
For Rabbi Neumann, it was a return to central Europe. The 64-year-old Jewish clergyman emigrated to the United States from his native Poland in 1950. He most recently served in Champaign, Ill.
In his words of greeting to Rabbi Neumann, Peter Kirchner, president of the 190-member East Berlin congregation, stressed the need for the long-neglected education of young Jews in the German Democratic Republic.
In the 22 years since the death of Martin Riesenburger, the last rabbi in East Berlin, Kirchner himself had prepared the occasional youth who came of age for his bar mitzvah rite.
East Germany has an estimated 3,000 persons of Jewish descent among its population of almost 17 million, but only 400 are members of the eight synagogues in the country, a decline of 250 since the beginning of the 1980s.
Only the synagogue in East Berlin holds regular services.
The 85-year-old synagogue, in a crowded working class district, escaped the flames of "crystalnight" that destroyed Jews' homes and businesses in 1938 because of its location within a block of apartment houses. A fire would have taken the whole neighborhood.
An emotional moment in the service came as Heinz Galinski, president of the 5,000-member West Berlin Jewish community, the largest in the two Germanys, greeted the congregation.
"For me it is a moving experience to take part in this service. I was last in this synagogue 40 years ago," Galinski said.