The German Jewish community established after World War Two was shaped by refugees from Eastern Europe, so the congregations they established were Orthodox. However, in 1995 independent Liberal Jewish initiatives started in half a dozen German cities. The story of Beth Shalom in Munich illustrates the stages of such a development beginning with the need for a Sunday school for Jewish families and experiments with monthly Shabbat services. The establishment of a congregation was helped by the support of the European Region of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and ongoing input from visiting rabbis. The twenty years since the founding of the congregation have also seen the creation of the Union of Progressive Jews in Germany, the successful political struggle for a share of the state funding for Jewish communities and the establishment of the first Jewish theological faculty in Germany.
Dr Jan Mühlstein is co-founder and chairman of Beth Shalom Munich and former president of the Union for Progressive Jews in Germany.