Speech by Abraham Lehrer

Abraham Lehrer – Vice President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Chair of the Synagogue Community of Cologne, Founding Member of the 321 society – on the occasion of the 1700 Years of Jewish Life in Germany Year of Celebration kickoff event on 21 February 2021 in Cologne

In the year 321, the Cologne city council received an edict from Emperor Constantine that permitted Jews participation in the Curia, affording them citizenship with voting rights. In fact, it obligated their participation as citizens. This certificate, enforced as law, is the first reliable testament for the existence of Jews and Jewish life in Cologne and the region that we refer to as Western Europe today. A seemingly insignificant episode from the reign of a Roman emperor is, to the Jewish community, a cornerstone in the history of the diaspora. Today, in 2021, the edict is celebrating its 1700th anniversary. I stand here in the Cologne synagogue to bring to all of our minds this length of time, to commemorate it, but also to celebrate it. 

Due to the corona pandemic, no guests are physically present at this event. Therefore, I am exceedingly pleased about President Steinmeier’s desire to give an address here and would like to express my thanks both to him and Ms. Büdenbender. 

In addition, the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Mr. Schuster, will hold an address this evening. For years, he has represented Jewish people in Würzburg, Bavaria and in Deutschland and is esteemed by Christians, Muslims, atheists and Jews alike.

The Minister President of NRW, Armin Laschet, and the Mayor of the City of Cologne, Henriette Reker, will also have a chance to speak. They are both faithful friends of the Synagogue Community of Cologne.

To our digital viewers, I am especially pleased by your attendance. By tuning in, you are affirming your interest in Jewish life in our country. To the Jewish community, this is an important testimony to your solidarity. 

Topics during this Year of Celebration include addressing our national culture of remembrance and how it prepares coming generations. It would be wonderful to find modern forms of remembrance for the future. But we will also reveal the positive influence that Jewish people have had on our region and on our country throughout the centuries: in culture, the sciences, and politics – the Judeo-Christian foundation frequently invoked in the past. Thereby we hope to unmask conspiracy theories and delusions of Jewish-controlled global dominance. Across Germany, this year’s some 1000 events will help portray nuanced and flourishing Jewish life today. I strongly urge our online viewing audience to take advantage of these many offers – and again wish you a warm welcome this evening!