Germany considering funding of Orthodox seminary

Request for funding has been the subject of ongoing talks between Interior ministry and the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

November 2, 2010 14:26
2 minute read.
A Feb. 24, 2010 photo shows Orthodox Jewish men da

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Germany's Interior Ministry says it is considering options on funding an Orthodox rabbinical seminary.

Ministry spokesman Hendrik Lorges told JTA on Monday that the request for funding by the Rabbiner Seminar zu Berlin has been the subject of ongoing talks between his ministry and the Central Council of Jews in Germany. Stephan Kramer, the council's secretary general, confirmed that he had spoken with ministry officials.

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Orthodox Jewish community takes hold in Berlin

The German government supports only the Reform seminary, the Abraham Geiger College, which on Thursday will hold its third ordination ceremony since its founding in 1999. Kramer urged a solution that would channel funds for both seminaries through the nonpartisan Jewish umbrella organization he directs.

"Then you will have a balance," Kramer told JTA.

Geiger receives about $416,000 per year from the Interior Ministry, which also provides $695,000 annually to the College for Jewish Studies at the University of Heidelberg "with the goal of training Orthodox rabbis," Lorges said. Heidelberg, however, does not ordain rabbis.

Rabbi Josh Spinner, director of the Orthodox seminary, as well as the vice president and CEO of the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation, told JTA that he only wants funding equal to what the Reform institution receives. The amount would cover about half the annual budget of the Rabbiner Seminar, which like Geiger also receives funding from the Central Council.

Since its official incorporation in 2009, the Rabbiner Seminar zu Berlin has ordained four rabbis. Three serve German Jewish communities; the fourth is director of Jewish studies at a school in Vienna, Austria.

The Orthodox seminary, which has been frustrated in its bid for government funding, is the successor to the Hildesheimer seminary that was shut down by the Nazis in 1938.

Spinner stressed that both the Reform and Orthodox seminaries "are successors to the two prewar legendary rabbinical seminaries in Berlin that were closed by the Nazis" and "both deserve funding."

The possible change comes after a year of refusal to consider federal funding for the Orthodox seminary, reflected in correspondence over a 12-month period between the ministry and Spinner.

Approximately 50 pulpit rabbis are serving about 100 Jewish communities in Germany.

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