Central Council of Jews in Germany elects Israeli-born physician to lead

Josef Schuster, 60, replaces Dr. Dieter Graumann at head of communal body.

 Josef Schuster (far right), with German President Christian Wulff (second from left) in 2011 (photo credit: THOMAS GOOD)
Josef Schuster (far right), with German President Christian Wulff (second from left) in 2011
(photo credit: THOMAS GOOD)
The council board of Germany’s main Jewish community organization on Sunday voted Josef Schuster as its president.
Schuster, a 60-year-old physician from the Bavarian city of Würzburg, replaced Dr. Dieter Graumann who completed a four-year term but chose to not run for reelection.
“This was a very difficult decision to make,” Graumann said. “The work at the Central Council has always been very close to my heart and I have always been committed to and passionate about it. But it is also an honorary office that demanded an exceptional amount of energy and time – particularly so in 2014, when I effectively also had to take over the day-to-day management. So after four years I am looking forward to having more time for my family and my private life.”
Graumann was born in Ramat Gan in 1950, and went to Germany as a young boy.
Similarly, Schuster was born in Haifa in 1954. He returned to his family’s region in the State of Bavaria as a two-year-old boy.
Schuster served as vice president of the Central Council of Jews, which has a membership of 101,000 spread across 108 local Jewish communities.
Graumann’s tenure was marked by campaigns to stop Germany from banning circumcision, and sharp criticism of societal and political indifference toward rising hatred of Jews and Israel in the Federal Republic.
In one of his final interviews to the media, Graumann told the mass-circulation Bild that The Left party in Germany needs to clarify its position toward the Jewish state. He said the party has “Israel haters” among its ranks.
His reference in the Bild article appears to be the anti-Israel MPs Inge Höger and Annette Groth, who invited to alleged anti-Semites to speak at a pro-boycott event of Israel in early November.
A statement by Schuster during Operation Protective Edge during the summer raised eyebrows among pro-Israel commentators.
Schuster said there are “good arguments” to criticize Israel and the Palestinians.
He added that by fiercely anti-Israel demonstrations one did not “consciously differentiate” between Judaism and the State of Israel. Henryk M. Broder, a leading German- Jewish journalist, ridiculed Schuster on the website “The Axis of Good” for failing to comprehend the conflation of Jew-hatred with Israel at the protests.
Schuster said on Sunday, “We don’t want to be an umbrella organization that hovers somewhere over its communities. A good umbrella organization must be connected to the rest of the house.”