Jewish leaders spar over integration efforts in Berlin

Stephan Kramer, sec.-gen. of Central Council of Jews, slams leader of Jewish community, describing him of "no vision and no idea."

stephan kramer 298.88  (photo credit: DPA)
stephan kramer 298.88
(photo credit: DPA)
Two of Germany's highest-profile Jewish leaders have become embroiled in a public war of words over how well the capital's Russian and Eastern European Jews are being integrated. Stephan Kramer, the secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, launched a furious attack on the leader of Berlin's Jewish community, Gideon Joffe, describing him as "inexperienced" and of "no vision and no idea" as to how to unite the city's Russian and indigenous communities.
  • German Jewish leader: Rethink 'failed' Holocaust education About two-thirds of Berlin's 12,000 Jews are from Russia and Eastern Europe. Kramer told The Jerusalem Post that attempts to integrate the new influx of Russian Jews with the indigenous Jewish community were failing because of the "current leadership of Berlin." But Joffe, the chairman of the Berlin Judische Gemeinde (Jewish Community), claimed integration efforts in the city were more successful than in any other city in Germany - and said he would not stoop to respond to Kramer's "low" remarks. Kramer told the Post that more activities were needed to cater to Berlin's heterogeneous Jewish community. "There must be more activities for each of the different groups in the community, special programs for the elderly, families, young mothers with children and, of course, the Jewish youth." Joffe pointed to the Berlin Gemeinde council, which is made up of 10 Jews of German origin and 10 of Russian origin - making it the most evenly-allocated council in Germany. "There are some benchmarks for integration, and one of the benchmarks is the political participation of the new members," Joffe said. "For me, this is the sign that integration here is fair and good. It is much, much better than other cities." Other councils, such as in Munich, have nowhere near as equal a split, he said. Berlin, Kramer said, has "great potential for a prosperous Jewish life and it has a great infrastructure that most communities would dream of. I am only very sorry that the current leadership of Berlin seem not to understand the challenges in front of them. "If this community in Berlin does not succeed in the integration between all of its Jews, both Russian and German, under one roof," Kramer said, "it will be a disastrous signal for many other Jewish communities."