Berlin's Jews Feud Amid Financial Chaos and Internal Strife

Fistfights and Power Struggles Divide Growing Community

All’s Not Well: Berlin’s Jewish community is thriving and it’s more diverse and accepted than ever. So why is the main community group imploding amid power struggles and fiscal strife?
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All’s Not Well: Berlin’s Jewish community is thriving and it’s more diverse and accepted than ever. So why is the main community group imploding amid power struggles and fiscal strife?

By Donald Snyder

Published June 05, 2013.
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The future of Germany’s largest organized Jewish community is in question following a cutoff in its government support and a high-profile brawl that put its dysfunction on public display.

The Berlin municipal government has terminated its subsidy to the city’s Juedische Gemeinde, or Jewish community, citing the community’s failure to properly document its budget needs. The city’s annual subsidy to the community, which has 10,000 registered members, is more than $7.3 million.

The city government requested a list of the community’s estimated 300 employees and their salaries as part of the budget calculation. But when its request was not fulfilled, the city suspended payment.

“The city has had to draw a line, and I’m sure that all around there is regret that it has come to this,” said Rabbi Josh Spinner, executive vice president and CEO in Berlin of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.

Gideon Joffe
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Gideon Joffe

City spokesman Gunter Kolodziej told the Forward: “We know about the high value of Jewish life in the capital. The city is in talks with the Jewish community in order to quickly and constructively solve the current financial questions.”

Some members of the Jewish community question why the community leadership has not given Berlin what it wants.

“This community is almost totally dependent on the money of the state, and you don’t spoil your relationship with your biggest donor,” said Sergey Lagodinsky, a lawyer and part of the community’s 21-member representative assembly.

But the leader of the Juedische Gemeinde rejected the city’s claims.

“They have all they need,” chairman Gideon Joffe told the Forward when asked about the community’s failure to deliver the requested information to the Berlin government.


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