Housed in a magnificent building in the central part of the city, the Talmud Torah Realschule represents the return of Jewish children since the old school was shuttered by Nazi forces in 1939.
Two years ago, Hamburg's Jewish communal apparatus, the Judische Gemeinde, purchased the 200-year-old building, which was occupied by the University of Hamburg since after the war. Today, following a thorough refurbishment, the building is home to the community's offices, a Jewish kindergarten and, on its top two floors, the Jewish day school.
"It was a holiday for the Jews here in Hamburg," Chani Bistritzky, co-director of Chabad-Lubavitch of Hamburg and a teacher in the school, said of the Aug. 28 grand opening. "It is great that we could work together with the Judische Gemeinde and create the possibility for Jewish education here in Hamburg. Today, we learned the Hebrew Alef Bet! It was amazing."
The school's director is Heinz Hibbler.
Bistritzky's husband, Rabbi Shlomo Bistritzky, serves as the school's principal of Jewish education. Beginning with their arrival in 2003, the family offered programs for children, from a Sunday School with 50 kids to holiday programs, a day camp and other hands-on activities.
They quickly realized, however, the need for a full-time Jewish day school. They saw in the official Jewish community, with whom they partnered for Chanukah menorah lightings and their day camp, a partner for the school's development.
"The Jewish community and the general community is very excited," said Bistritzky, pointing to the more than 10 articles published over the past week by Hamburg's media.
"The rabbi and his wife are all about kids," attested Ricky Rivlin-Kautz, whose daughter attends the new school. "They are the only ones working with kids here. It is wonderful what they are doing. I am sure that through them, the school will grow and add more classes to what they currently have."
A Complete Circle
Coincidentally, the principal's grandfather, Rabbi Leibel Bistritzky, learned in the school's building before the war. He got very emotional when talking about the prospect of his great-grandchildren going to school in the same place where he attended classes.
"That was the very building I learned in as a kid from the years 1936-1938," said the grandfather, who now lives in Israel.
In 2006, the elder Bistritzky attended a Hamburg event entitled "The Past Meets the Future" at the invitation of the local government. At the event, Berndt Röder, president of the Hamburg Parliament, described his admiration for the Chabad center and the expansion of the Jewish community in general. Addressing his guest, Röder said, "You departed from the city before the war, you escaped. But I want to tell you that the city has changed, the citizens are different today than in the past.
"We are delighted to have you as the city's guest to see the activities that your grandson is doing," added Röder.
After the official spoke, three of the students of the Chabad-run Hebrew School presented a painting to Bistritzky.
One year later, the man called his great-grandchildren to tell them, "I learned there for two years and never had a chance to graduate from it. I am sure that you will."