Address by Foreign Minister Heiko Maas at the groundbreaking ceremony for the Pears Jewish Campus in Berlin

10.06.2018 - Speech

Rabbi Teichtal,
Vice President Pau,
Senator Lederer,
Mr Saleh,
Mr Frydling,
Mr Botmann,
Members of the German Bundestag,
Klaus Wowereit,
Ladies and gentlemen,

It is always a particular challenge to speak after Rabbi Teichtal.
Rabbi, I would like to thank you most sincerely for your devotion to Jewish life in Germany over the course of so many years – a devotion that is reflected by all of your words and all of your speeches. You are a great asset to our country. Thank you so much for your work.

Ladies and gentlemen,

“Those who build houses stay” is a quote that you are doubtlessly familiar with. Today’s Federal President Frank Walter Steinmeier borrowed this phrase when he inaugurated your community’s educational centre together with you, Rabbi Teichtal, 11 years ago.

Allow me to add the following today: “Those who build a campus build the future.” The Jewish Campus is a potent symbol and a permanent affirmation of the future of Jewish life in Germany, as well as an enrichment of Berlin’s educational landscape that inspires hope.

Eighty years after the pogroms of 1938, when Jewish educational institutions were set ablaze, this Campus will close a painful gap. After the unimaginable betrayal of all civilised values that was the Shoah, this is a truly “wonderful” gift for us Germans as it emanates from the wonder of forgiveness.

We must therefore never forget that it is far from something to be taken for granted that we are able to celebrate the diversity of Jewish life in Germany with this groundbreaking ceremony for the Jewish Campus.

We owe this to people such as yourself, Rabbi Teichtal and the members of the Chabad Lubavitch community in Germany and abroad, who through their tireless commitment to revitalising Jewish life express confidence both in our democracy and in the openness of our German society.

We want to live up to this confidence. It follows from this that Germany is committed to Israel’s existence and security.

And it is a personal responsibility for me to ensure that we take a decisive stand against all forms of anti Semitism and racism and that we promote respect for human rights – not only here in Germany, but also around the world. This applies both to those who have always lived here and to those who have come to us.
Our responsibility to protect Jewish life and Jewish faith never ends.

In times such as these, we need places where people can meet. Places where diversity of opinion and exchange are in the foreground – a bit like in the Jewish saying “Two Jews, three opinions.” Places where people not only talk about each other, but also, first and foremost, to each other – and where they can learn from each other. Places where people of very different religions can meet, practice sports together and celebrate together.
The Jewish Campus in Berlin will be one such place – we are profoundly grateful for this.

Ladies and gentlemen,

A great Jewish son of our country, Heinrich Heine, once said that “money is round and can roll away, but education is forever.”

This is not entirely true in the age of Bitcoins and cashless payments – although in the case of Bitcoins the money is gone faster than coins can roll – but I’m delighted nevertheless that many donors, especially the Pears Foundation, have embraced this idea. We are extremely grateful to all of you.

The Federal Government is also pleased to have contributed to the success of the project.
Before I give the floor to Klaus Lederer, permit me to tell you another Jewish lore that inspired me to make you a small gift.

This story is about the rich Persian king Artaban, who gave a precious pearl to a wise Rabbi as a present. The king asked the Rabbi to return the favour with a gift of his own, whereupon, the Rabbi sent him a mezuzah, a blessing inscribed on a parchment that is affixed to the doorpost of Jewish houses in a case. The king was quite outraged. “Why have you given me something that is worth nothing?”, he told the Rabbi. The wise Rabbi replied: “Our gifts cannot be compared. I need to guard your present with my life whereas my present will always guard your life.”

Rabbi Teichtal,

I didn’t bring you an expensive pearl today, but I did bring you a case for a mezuzah. As you can see, I share your confidence that doorposts will soon stand here to which mezuzot can be affixed.
May they always protect the Jewish Campus in Berlin and the people as they come in and go out.

Many thanks, and shalom!


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