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It was only its position in a built-up urban courtyard that saved the Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue from falling victim to the arson of the Nazi pogroms of 1938. The Nazis were worried that the neighbouring houses might also catch fire and for this reason did not set fire to the synagogue. The synagogue is one of the few surviving Jewish holy buildings in Berlin, and it is home to a famous Jewish choir.

The choir of the Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue is one of the oldest in Berlin. The Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue continues the 19th century liberal tradition of Judaism. The cantor-led services are accompanied by organ music and a mixed choir, which is a special feature of this liberal tradition. Music exists for services during the entire Jewish religious calendar year and was composed by Louis Lewandowski in the 19th century, considered groundbreaking at the time.

The choir of the Pestalozzistrasse community consists of eight to ten singers, who sing responses on behalf of the congregation to the prayers led by cantor Isaac Sheffer. This special form of service was common in Germany before the Second World War. Today the Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue in Berlin is the only one still to conduct services in this form. Together with its cantor, Isaac Sheffer, the Synagogal Ensemble Berlin has committed itself to publicising and spreading this unique tradition by holding events and concerts throughout Germany.

The choirmaster is Regina Yantian. She began her training as an organist and choirmaster at the age of 15. She studied Comparative Music and Jewish Studies in Heidelberg, Jerusalem, and Berlin and studied various forms of Jewish music during her course. Since 1998, she has been the full-time organist and choirmaster at the Pestalozzistrasse Synagogue in Charlottenburg. Participating in a Buddhist ceremony and appearing together with choirs from other world religions is a matter very close to the heart for Ms. Yantian and her choir: “This city is home to so many cultures. As a Jewish choir, we are happy that Shinnyo-En is picking up on this diversity and using it for a wonderful gesture of peaceful togetherness,” she stated.

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