German Jewish leader complains to PM about Nativ expansion

The expansion of the Israeli government agency into Germany has met with strong resistance from German Jewish umbrella organizations.

Avigdor Lieberman 248.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
Avigdor Lieberman 248.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
A German Jewish leader traded barbs with Strategic Affairs Minister Avigdor Lieberman's office on Monday over the entrance of Nativ into Germany. The expansion of Nativ, an Israeli government agency charged with Jewish identity education among Jews from the former Soviet Union, into Germany has met with strong resistance from German Jewish umbrella organizations, which have threatened behind closed doors to turn to German Chancellor Angela Merkel to prevent the agency's entrance into the country. Following the conclusions of a special Israeli government committee, Nativ was permitted a very limited expansion - its budget increased by just NIS 8m. with just two emissaries on the ground in Germany. Lieberman has ministerial jurisdiction over the agency. In a meeting between European Jewish Congress leaders and Prime Minister Ehud Olmert in Jerusalem Monday morning, Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, complained that the expansion of Nativ was not coordinated with the German Jewish community. "Lieberman never explained to us why this was even being done," Knobloch told The Jerusalem Post after the meeting. According to sources familiar with the meeting and later confirmed by Knobloch herself, Olmert "promised that he would look into this personally." An estimated 200,000 FSU Jews live in Germany, having moved there following the breakup of the Soviet Union. Only some 100,000 are registered with the Central Council, the Jewish political organization that enjoys official recognition from the German government as representative of German Jewry. However, it has been accused of representing only veteran Germans, who make up a minority - about 10% - of the estimated 220,000 Jews in Germany. Reacting to the complaints against Lieberman and Nativ, a Lieberman spokesman said Monday, "it's sad that someone who is supposed to represent the Jewish community in Germany is attacking decisions of the Israeli government out of considerations that aren't relevant. It raises questions about her motive and judgment." Another Israeli government source said that just two Jewish Agency emissaries in Germany must reach out to some 120,000 known aliya-eligible people in that country, a fact that makes the need for Nativ's help seem obvious. "It's isn't clear what's bothering [the Zentralrat leadership,]" the source insisted. "The German Foreign Ministry doesn't have a problem with Nativ. [Knobloch] is just trying to clobber the Russian Jews [in Germany]."