Liberal Jewish Community Seeks Share of Government Funding Provided to Conservative Branch

April 23, 2004

Source: FAZ{B1311FCC-FBFB-11D2-B228-00105A9CAF88}&doc={7A03573E-1D7F-405E-B42E-9AE690232C57}

On April 23, 2004 F.A.Z. reported, "The liberal and conservative branches of the German Jewish community are locked in a dispute over the distribution of funds provided by the German government. Representatives of the liberal Jewish community are protesting against the refusal by the Central Council of Jews to give the liberal branch a share of an annual government subsidy of EUR3 million ($3.6 million). The money is used to support community activities such as rabbinical training, primary schools, social integration, language courses and upkeep of synagogues. The government began to provide the funding in 2003 as part of a landmark agreement with the council. The agreement was designed to provide the Jewish community with a similar status enjoyed by the country's Protestant and Catholic churches, paid by a church tax assessed from members. As part of the agreement, the council was given the responsibility of allocating the funding among community organizations. One of the people involved in the protest is Rabbi Walter Homolka, executive director of Germany's only liberal rabbinical seminary, the Abraham Geiger College based in Postdam. 'All I can say is that a valid part of Judaism is being denied funding,' Homolka said. 'If the central council claims to represent everyone, then it should represent us, too. It's like giving the Pope money for all Christianity, and I don't think the Protestants would like that.' The World Union of Progressive Judaism, an organization that promotes a liberal approach to Jewish observances, represents the country's 15 reform synagogues and approximately 3,000 active community members. Across Germany, there are 83 synagogues and about 100,000 Jews, though fewer than half are considered to be active in the community."