In the year since Rabbi Tzvi and Chaya Greenberg arrived in Berlin, they have moved three times: first to a studio, then to a two-bedroom apartment—and now to a three-story building with multiple guest rooms and a dining room that comfortably seats 80.

The couple came to the German capital at the behest of Rabbi Yehuda Teichtel, rabbi of the Jewish community in Berlin, who has been central to the city’s Jewish renaissance since his arrival there in 1996. As one of the few major European cities with a growing Jewish population, Berlin today is home to more than 5,000 Jewish students.

As part of Chabad on Campus International—with 200 centers around the world—the Greenbergs serve the Jewish student population at Humboldt University, Technical University of Berlin, Charité Medical School, the Free University, Touro College and dozens of other institutions of higher learning.

“As Berlin has become a magnet for Jewish students from throughout the world in recent years,” noted Teichtel, ”it’s time to have a regular home for Jewish students in the city”

The Greenbergs' latest accommodations are on the upper level of a building that houses both their Chabad on Campus center and KSpace, a student-directed organization run by Mike Delberg, a law student at Humboldt, and Michael Grois, who studies political science at the University of Potsdam. KSpace will focus on cultural and leisure activities, as well as pro-Israel advocacy programs.

Already Bursting at the Seams

Rabbi Teichtel, Professor Micha Brumlik and vice president of the GermanBundestag Petra Pau were among the speakers who addressed a crowd of 150 government officials, communal activists, students and supporters at the building’s official dedication on Sunday.

Greenberg noted that the crowning achievement to the festivities took place 36 hours before the Oct. 27 ceremony, when more than 100 students gathered to celebrate Shabbat in the all-purpose room on the ground floor of the Chabad on Campus center.

Professor Micha Brumlik
Professor Micha Brumlik

“When we first started looking for a building a few months ago, we were thinking we would need a place that would seat 40 or 50,” said the rabbi. “Since we moved in July, we have seen the crowd steadily grow, and here we are bursting at the seams even before we managed to inaugurate the new center. This is the best problem we could wish for.”

In her talk, Chaya Greenberg compared the students who frequent the Chabad on Campus center to beloved family members. “Whenever another student joins our family,” she said, “we add another picture to our growing family portrait.”

Chaya Greenberg, co-director of Chabad on Campus in Berlin, Germany
Chaya Greenberg, co-director of Chabad on Campus in Berlin, Germany

With the growth of their weekly Friday-night services and meal, the Greenbergs plan to start holding occasional Shabbat-morning services—as soon as they can get a Torah for their synagogue, which doubles as a student lounge in the basement of the new center. While they direct the Chabad on Campus center, many of the cultural and social activities will fall under the auspices of those who run KSpace.

Tucked away on a quiet street in the center of the city, the new building is about a 20-minute ride on the U-Bahn—Berlin’s rapid transit system—from almost everywhere in the city.

Greenberg said moving to Germany was not an easy decision for two American Jews in their 20s. “The Holocaust is still very much a part of the national conscience, and you know that people are watching you very carefully,” he said. “But Berlin is a wonderfully cosmopolitan city with a growing Jewish community that attracts people from all over.”

In fact, it remains one of the few European cities where the Jewish population continues to be on the rise.

The common language at the Jewish Student Center in Berlin, which serves 5,000 Jewish young adults from around the globe, is English. However, Greenberg reported that his German is now fluent enough that he will soon transition one weekly Torah class from English to German for those who find it easier to learn in their native tongue.

Brushing aside all the hoopla over their improved amenities, Greenberg said he derives more satisfaction from seeing students make real changes in their lives as they become more Jewishly aware.

“There are over a dozen people who have begun dating only Jews,” he stated. “They are really taking the initiative.”