The founding of the Jewish Congregation Adass Yisroel, Berlin (Public Corporation) in June 1869 was the Jewish response to the pressure of social and ideological assimilation which was prevalent in the 19th century. The goal of this newly established congregation was not anti-liberal isolation, but to unite an orthodox lifestyle with an openness for culture, education, and art. Emancipation and the active participation in society were encouraged, whilst maintaining Jewish traditions.
With the opening of religious schools, synagogues and religious facilities, Adass Yisroel developed into an independent community. Rabbi Dr. Esriel Hildesheimer, who was born in Halberstadt and had been actively engaged in the Austro-Hungarian city of Eisenstadt, became the Congregation’s first Rabbi, and in 1873 he founded the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary. In 1880, Adass Yisroel consecrated its own community cemetery in the Berlin-Weissensee area on Falkenberger Chaussee (today Wittlicher Strasse). After originally being located on Gipsstrasse, the community centre and synagogue were moved in 1904 to 31 Artilleriestrasse (today the address is 40 Tucholskystrasse), where they are still to be found. With the growth of the Congregation, a second community centre was established at 11 Siegmundshof in Berlin’s Tiergarten quarter in 1924, with a synagogue, a secondary school and college – the first, and until recently only Jewish secondary school in Berlin. A community hospital, called »Israelitisches Krankenheim der Adass Jisroel«, was opened in 1909, and several synagogues were kept running or supported in the Berlin districts of Prenzlauer Berg, Tiergarten, and Charlottenburg. By this time the Rabbinical Seminary, which was affiliated with the Congregation, had become the most important training school for orthodox rabbis in Germany, and had acquired an international reputation. At the beginning of the 1930s, one sixth of Berlin Jews were affiliated with Adass Yisroel, either as members, or as supporters who used the services offered by the Congregation and participated in community events.
Adass Yisroel suffered the same fate as all other Jewish communities in Germany. After countless previous incidents of persecution and deprivation of rights, the Gestapo ordered the liquidation of Adass Yisroel and its inclusion in the Nazi-founded »Association for Jews in Germany«. In this way, Adass Yisroel was divested of all its legal rights, as well as its historical sites and buildings.
After the genocide of European Jews, the surviving members of Adass Yisroel, many of whom had by this time emigrated, had neither the opportunity nor the emotional strength to immediately rebuild the community in Berlin. In the western part of Berlin, the school buildings and the synagogue in Siegmundshof were illegally sold off, and in 1955 they were razed to the ground. In the eastern part of the city, the beautiful, large synagogue belonging to the Congregation befell the same fate. In 1985, on both sides of the still-divided city, the first efforts were made to rekindle the Congregation. Since summer this year, Adass Yisroel has managed, under difficult circumstances, to restore its cemetery, which had previously lain to waste. This was made possible with the help of state funding and, more significantly, with the physical aid of volunteers from both east and west.
On December 18 1989, the 50th anniversary of the Nazi »Auflösungsverfügung« (decree of divestiture), which had dissolved the Congregation on a legal level, the first East German government after the fall of the Iron Curtain ordered the restoration of its rights to the Jewish Congregation (Adass Yisroel) in Berlin, which had been revoked during the Nazi regime. At last, the reconstruction of the Congregation could begin. At Purim in 1990 (5750), a new synagogue was consecrated in the ancestral community centre. Torah scrolls were brought over from Israel. In July 1991, the kosher restaurant »Beth Café« was opened in the community centre, and in April 1992, just around the corner on Auguststrasse, a store called »Kolbo«, selling kosher groceries and Jewish religious items, was also opened. The rebuilding of the historical synagogue and the restoration of the destroyed mikwe are also planned.
As well as regular synagogue services, the Congregation also offers Hebrew lessons, religious education courses for children and adults, and lectures and public readings about Jewish traditions and culture, both past and present. A library, an archive, and access to the Congregation’s records are also on offer. The children’s club »Mo’adonit«, run in the community centre, has become an attraction for children both big and small. Adass Yisroel is active in social work, particularly in the areas of integration of migrants from the former Soviet Union, care of the elderly, spiritual guidance for the ill, and pastoral care for Jewish detainees in Berlin prisons. The Congregation is also active in the areas of Jewish education and welfare. The main goals of Adass Yisroel are the continuation of orthodox Jewish tradition from generation to generation, the strengthening of Jewish life and affairs in Berlin, and the maintenance of strong ties to Israel.
In October 1997, the original legal status of Adass Yisroel as a pre-constitutionally recognised religious entity (in the form of a public corporation) was confirmed by the highest German administrative court. For this reason, the Jewish Congregation Adass Yisroel, Berlin (Public Corporation) is at present the only Jewish congregation of its kind in Germany, which has held on to its original legal title and identity from its founding in 1869 right through to the present day.
The long standing chairman of Adass Yisroel, Ari Abraham Offenberg (setzal), who led the Congregation from 1985 until 2007 with purpose, determination, and his own distinctive flair, left a flourishing congregation behind him after 22 years in office. His impact as a leader and guide in difficult times, his indefatigable commitment to bridging the gap between the pre-war Congregation and the present day Congregation, and the way that through his authenticity and charisma he personified the original Berliner »Adassianers«, will remain in memory and will always be acknowledged.
הח׳ ר׳ ארי אברהם בן הח׳ ר׳ חיים שלמה אופנברג זצ״ל
ק״ק עדת ישראל ברלין
משנת תשמ״ה ועד שנת תשס״ז
בשם טוב ובשיבה טובה
עלה למרומים ביום שבת ק׳ פר׳ תרומה ~ ו׳ אדר תשס״ז לפ״ק
נטמן ביום ג׳ ט׳ אדר תשס״ז לפ״ק
Ari Abraham Offenberg (setzal)
of the Jewish Congregation Adass Yisroel, Berlin (Public Corporation)
from 1985 until 2007
Passed away on February 24, 2007 / Adar 6, 5767 /
Schabbat Kodesch Par. Teruma
Laid to rest on February 27, 2007 / Adar 9, 5767.