Discovering Hidden Communities: Abraham Geiger College

My name is Isak Aasvestad and I grew up in Norway. Currently, I’m a rabbinical student at the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, Germany, where I’m pursuing my goal of becoming a rabbi in a Progressive Jewish community in Europe. My studies at the Abraham Geiger College are made possible by a scholarship provided by the YES Fund of the Women of Reform Judaism. For this, I’m immensely grateful!

In addition to my academic studies at the School of Jewish Theology at the University of Potsdam, community internships are an essential part of my rabbinical training.

I have the privilege of doing an internship in Jewish communities in Schleswig-Holstein, Germany’s northernmost state which borders Denmark. Jewish life in Schleswig-Holstein was all but extinguished in the Shoah; of the pre-war communities, only one remained after 1945.

Due to the influx of Jewish immigrants to Germany from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s, the situation changed and in the early 2000s, six new communities were founded in Schleswig-Holstein, in the towns of Pinneberg, Bad Segeberg, Kiel, Elsmhorn, and Ahrensburg-Stormarn. The communities are organized in the Regional Council of the Jewish Communities of Schleswig-Holstein which is a member of the Central Council for Jews in Germany, the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany and the World Union for Progressive Judaism.

The Jewish communities in Schleswig-Holstein are small but active. In addition to prayer and religious services, the communities are organizing educational, cultural, and social activities for their members.

The majority of the Jews in Schleswig-Holstein, as in the rest of Germany, are fairly recent immigrants from the countries of the former Soviet Union. Therefore, activities supporting their member’s integration into their adopted homeland, such as German classes, play an important part in the work of the communities.

In most of the communities, the Jewish life takes place in rented rooms, but in 2007, the Jewish community in Bad Segeberg was able to buy a former mill which was renovated and repurposed as a synagogue. In addition to a sanctuary, the synagogue complex in Bad Segeberg houses a community center, a library, a kindergarten, and a mikveh. The Jewish community in Kiel, whose synagogue was destroyed by the Nazis in 1938, has outgrown its rented space and is currently in the process of raising funds to purchase a building that will be repurposed to function as a synagogue and community center.

I’m very grateful for having been given the opportunity to participate in the reestablishment of Jewish life in Schleswig-Holstein as part of my internship. My rabbinical studies and my community internships would not have been possible without the generous support of the Women of Reform Judaism. I would like to invite all our supporters and friends from WRJ to visit us at Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam and in the Jewish communities in Schleswig-Holstein!

Published: 5/24/2018

Categories: Philanthropy & YES Fund