The Liberal Jewish Community of Munich, Beth Shalom (House of Peace), has become a home for Jews who wish to lead their religious lives in the progressive Jewish tradition. We maintain our own community center and synagogue, holding family-oriented, egalitarian services in Hebrew, German, and sometimes English.
Beth Shalom provides state-accredited religious instruction for children and young adults alike and offers a variety of courses for adults. These impart the spirit and letter of liberal Judaism while maintaining respect for all other branches of our faith and those of other religions or ethnic groups. We hold monthly dinner get-togethers with our Rabbi, Dr. Tom Kucera. News and information about community activities and developments are regularly published in a community newsletter. Beth Shalom also maintains a Jewish cemetery on the grounds of Munich’s Waldfriedhof cemetery. Our Chief Rabbi is Dr. Walter Jacob of Pittsburgh, (originally from Augsburg, Germany).
Beth Shalom developed from a group of primarily American Jewish families who began holding religion classes for their children and liberal Jewish services in 1990. The community was officially founded in March 1995 as a non-profit association. Beth Shalom is a member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, the largest Jewish religious organization in the world, representing about 1.5 million Jews in nearly 40 countries. We are also a member of the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany and are associated with the Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (RSGB).
The community’s honorary members include the religious philosopher Shalom Ben-Chorin z”l, Jerusalem, the former president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, z”l, New York, both of whom were born in Munich, as well as the organist and composer Dr. Herman Berlinski, z”l, born in Leipzig, who was Beth Shalom’s musical advisor up until his death in 2001.
All Jews may become members of Beth Shalom. In accordance with Jewish tradition, we regard anyone with a Jewish mother or anyone who has converted before a rabbinic court (bet din) to be a Jew. Conversions of individuals within our community are supervised by the European Bet Din of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in London, whose panel also includes liberal rabbis from Germany.
We encourage interested persons with a Jewish father, but not a Jewish mother, to become supporting members. Supporting members may acquire full membership after a period of learning and completion of the conversion process (giur) in front of a Bet Din. Beth Shalom offers supporting membership primarily to non-Jewish family members and to those individuals who are preparing for conversion. Supporting members have neither active or passive voting rights at community meetings.
We encourage supporting members to participate in all community activities, including worship services. We respect their wishes to pray alongside us without giving up their own religious identity. This is why they are not called to the Torah or entrusted with other religious responsibilities reserved for Jews.
Children with one non-Jewish parent may attend religious instruction if both parents consent. Before becoming a bar or bat mitzvah, however, children with a non-Jewish mother must complete the conversion process, including circumcision for boys and mikvah (or ritual bath) for both boys and girls. The non-Jewish parent must also manifest a commitment to raising the child as a Jew.
Liberal Judaism developed in Germany at the beginning of the 19th century. Until the Shoah, liberal Jews were the majority of the population in the so-called “Einheitsgemeinden,” the German administrative construction in which Jews of different religious orientations are counted as belonging to the same community. Since its inception, the liberal movement has emphasized the equality of all people as well as the duty to work for social justice, concepts which emanate from the Torah and Prophets. In Liberal Jewish religious life, ethical values take precedence over ritual commandments. Nonetheless we consider the latter to be vital for preserving the family, the community, and the Jewish people.
The Torah is the basis of our beliefs. Whereas orthodox Jews believe that God revealed each and every word of the Torah to Moses at Mount Sinai, who then gave it to the Jewish people in spoken form, we believe in divine inspiration and that Judaism has always been molded by circumstances in the times and places Jews have lived. Judaism has continued to develop during the four thousand years of its existence. We thus believe in inspired revelation.