Dortmund, Germany
Dortmund, GermanyiStock

On the eve of Yom Hashoah, Holocaust Remembrance Day, the Jewish community of Dortmund, Germany, was informed that the city council had approved the request to open a Jewish Day School.

For the community rabbi, Rabbi Baruch Babaev, who together with his wife serve as emissaries of the Straus-Amiel Rabbinical Emissary Program of Ohr Torah Stone, the opening of the school will serve as the closure of a saga which began in 1942: It was then that the original Jewish school was the last Jewish institution in Dortmund forced closed by the Nazis.

“The fact that the school, was the last symbol of Jewish life in this city, has now been reopened is a clear sign of the return of our people to a community that the Nazis thought they had destroyed forever,” Rabbi Babaev says with pride.

According to the rabbi, the original school was able to remain in operation until the final 70 students were arrested and deported to the ghetto in Riga, Latvia.

Remarkably, the Jewish community has been able to rebuild itself in the wake of the Holocaust and today numbers some 3,000 people, which according to Rabbi Babaev is very similar to the number of Jews living in Dortmund in 1938.

While the community already had a synagogue, mikvah and cultural center, the dream of opening a school was the last to be realized. For several years the community has been working to get permits to open in a building that had been vacant after serving as a cultural center for Muslim refugees.

“With God’s help, this coming year 100 Jewish students will be able to learn in a school that is our own,” the rabbi explains.

At present, the Jewish students learn in the general public schools and may be the subject of anti-Semitic attacks. While the rabbi says that in general the Jewish community gets along extremely well with the local population and he enjoys strong relationships with the local clergy, there is a growing threat from neo-Nazis.

“Nearly 80 years after the last Jewish students was forced out of their classroom, Hebrew texts will once again be taught in Dortmund,” says Rabbi Kenneth Brander, President and Rosh HaYeshiva of the Ohr Torah Stone network under whose auspices the Straus-Amiel program operates.

“We are proud to send our emissaries anywhere they are needed to rebuild, rejuvenate and maintain Jewish life all over the world.”