The Arbeitskreis Landsynagoge Roth (The Society for the Rural Synagogue in Roth): History and Objectives
In Germany, an Arbeitskreis (lit. “work circle” - best translated as “society”) is an organization created for the purpose of carrying out a specific project. An Arbeitskreis is defined by its goals, that is, by what it is meant to accomplish. The Arbeitskreis Landsynagoge Roth was founded on January 27th, 1996, on the anniversary of the freeing of Auschwitz. The project had its beginnings at the end of the 1980’s, when a group of individuals began intensive work for the preservation of the synagogue in Roth. They began researching the history of the synagogue and the Jewish community there, and they initiated first contacts with survivors in the USA.
The Charter of the Arbeitskreis defines the purpose of the group. This purpose includes preserving the synagogue as a memorial site, and at the same time administering the site as a place of learning and for cultural activities. The intention is that the synagogue be a space to remember and to reflect on past events – on the fate of the Jewish Community in and around Roth. At the same time the building should be a living forum where young and old can learn about all different aspects of Jewish culture then and now. Although the charter also indicates the intent to set up a museum on the site, a museum as such has not been created, partly because the needs of a museum would conflict with the requirements for preserving the site as a memorial. The charter specifically mentions cooperative work with groups sharing similar goals.
After the ceremonial opening of the renovated synagogue on March 10th, 1998, the Arbeitskreis signed a license agreement with the District of Marburg-Biedenkopf. The group works to achieve its goals within the context of this agreement: The owner of the synagogue allows the Arbeitskreis to use the synagogue for its activities, and the Arbeitskreis takes on the function of coordinating the work of people interested in working in the building – particularly schoolchildren and historical, religious, and/or cultural institutions and clubs, as well as people working individually in these areas.
The license agreement states that activities in the synagogue should strengthen interest in local history and contribute to spreading knowledge about the Jewish religion and Jewish history. By creating a place to reflect on the crimes against humanity in the recent history of Germany, these activities should promote tolerance between people of different backgrounds.
The Arbeitskreis currently has about 40 members. Membership dues are 20 euro per year for individuals, 30 euro for couples.
Members of the managing board:
Dr. Annegret Wenz-Haubfleisch, chairperson
Annemarie Schlag, 1st deputy chairperson
Laurence Bryant, 2nd deputy chairperson
Friedel Schultheis, secretary
Werner Schlag, treasurer