Orthodox Jew praying Roonstrasse Synagogue in Cologne 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Ina Fassbender)
BERLIN – A meeting of the elected leadership of the conflict- ridden Berlin
Jewish community –Germany’s largest with 10,500 members – spilled over into
physical attacks on Thursday due to disputes over the 2013 budget.
session turned “brutal,” said one observer at the community’s representative
meeting to The Jerusalem Post.
The daily Berlin Der Tagesspiegel
on Friday that “some members were choked” when community members, including
supporters of the head of the community, Dr. Gideon Joffe, attacked opposition
members during a break in the meeting.
Criminal complaints were filed and
the police appeared at the representative meeting.
A YouTube video filmed
by a participant shows the fight unfolding, in which tables are pushed back and
members attacked. The Post
was able to view the video on Friday but the footage
was no longer available on Saturday.
Tagesspiegel reported profanity-
laced language at the altercation with one member saying, “F*** you, you
The representative meeting consisted of 21 officials and
members and is responsible for the budget of the Berlin Jewish
The conflict had centered around finances for the second
financial quarter of 2013 and growing tensions between Joffe’s group and
opponents of his leadership.
The Berlin Senate had recently pulled the
plug on its payments to the community in the second quarter of 2013 to clarify
financial questions it had with the group. As a result, the salaries of over 300
workers in the Jewish community could not be secured.
At the Thursday
meeting, Joffe said the Berlin Senate had imposed a 5.7m. Euro cap on the
community’s budget and that the sealing limit violated the contract between the
Berlin state government and the community.
However, Carola Melchert-
Arlt, a former member of Joffe’s group, contradicted the leader.
participated in the negotiations with the Berlin Senate and said the dispute
revolved around the budget for 2013 and that Joffe did not provide a correct
table of organization.
Joffe then called on the members at the meeting to
vote to lend community property in exchange for credit to pay for budget
deficits, including the salaries of workers ranging from day care to social
services, but he declined to name the piece of property and the financial amount
involved in the transaction. The situation escalated when Joffe’s group pushed
for a “stop the debate” motion and his majority members eventually approved the
use of the property to raise funds, Tagesspiegel wrote.
members in opposition to Joffe’s leadership led to the start of a campaign to
collect signatures calling for a new election.
Joffe, who was born in Tel
Aviv in 1972, was elected chairman of the community in 2012 for a four-year
term. He had previously served as chairman of the community between 2005 and
Opponents began to set up a website called “Community Watch” and
blogged on their criticisms of Joffe’s group.
The main German Jewish
newspaper, Jüdische Allgemeine, reported last week that three key opposition
leaders – Micha Guttmann, Michael Joachim and Tuvia Schlesinger – said the
community’s relationship to the Berlin Senate is shattered and the workers of
the community face an “uncertain immediate future.”
The opponents of
Joffe – and their Initiative New Elections 2013 – have collected 1,500
signatures for a new vote. It is unclear when the group plans to formally file
for a new vote.