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Bewegung für progressives Judentum
1020 Wien, Robertgasse 2, Tel: 967-1329

New Synagogue Opens in Vienna

In February 2004 the first Progressive Jewish Synagogue in the history of Vienna opened its gates at Robertgasse 2, in the traditionally Jewish Second District.

You may wonder what's so special about that, after  all there quite number of synagogues in Vienna, but this is a progressive community which differs from the orthodox tradition on number of important points: It is open to modern ideas and practices complete equality for men and women; men and women sit and pray together and there is even a women Rabbi, Irit Shillor who is Israeli but has lived in England for over 20 years. Prayers are in Hebrew, German and English using modern prayer books. Visitors from other religions are welcome, and great importance is attached to interfaith dialogue.

Back in 1990 a small but dedicated group of Jews decided to form the city's first progressive community, aimed at bringing New Light into Jewish life of the city, hence the name Or Chadasch (Hebrew for "new light"). Or Chadasch is a member of the World Union for Progressive Judaism (the largest religious Jewish movement in the world) and celebrates all Jewish festivals, as well as organizing study groups, cultural activities, excursions and editing a Jewish magazine.

The community has survived many difficulties and now a turning-point has come with the new premises in the Robertgasse, which apart from the beautiful prayer room also have a study room, office and small kitchen. Although much has been achieved there is still much to be done, as the financial means available are not sufficient to cover the cost of equipping the synagogue and paying a full-time Rabbi, which will be a necessary pre-requisite to fill the new building with life. At the moment the Rabbi is only in Vienna for one week every month.

Great efforts are being made to raise money, and one of the most exciting was a charity concert in the Ronacher Theater on 15 March 2004 at which a number of top artists including Neil Shicoff donated their time to offer a program called "Entartete Musik" (music banned by the Nazis) covering a wide spectrum of Jewish music. It was a wonderful evening, and for a good cause!

If you would like to know more about Or Chadasch, the new synagogue or the concert please contact Giuliana Schnitzler, Or Chadasch Public Relations Officer at (Giuliana is an American Austrian, she grew up in America and is the great grand daughter of the famous Austrian writer Arthur Schnitzler).