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American Rabbi Renews Charges of Anti-semitism in East Germany

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Rabbi Isaac Neuman has renewed his charges that anti-Semitism is rampant in East Germany and has taken another swipe at the leadership of the tiny Jewish community there, implying it is passive in face of mounting danger.

Neuman is the retired American rabbi who took over as religious leader in East Berlin eight months ago. He quit earlier this month in the midst of a dispute with Hans Rotstein and Peter Kirchner, the chairmen respectively of the East German and East Berlin Jewish communities.

Interviewed Monday on the state-owned West German television channel, Neuman charged that the official news media and the schools in East Germany were promoting anti-Semitism. “I have reports on what they say in schools,” he said “It’s becoming an anti-Israel, anti-Jewish, anti-Semitic cocktail,”

Neuman made similar charges when he went on the air in West Berlin on May 5. He repeated them Monday, attributing rising anti-Semitism to what he called “false, biased reports about the situation in Israel” by the state-controlled East German news media, which “must have a negative influence on the youth in East Germany.”

He said East German school children repeatedly overturned tombstones in Jewish cemeteries and daubed them with swastikas. He linked such occurrences to one-sided reporting about Israel, which was lacking in background and perspective.

PRAISE FOR AUTHORITIES

Neuman said that during his brief tenure as religious leader of East Germany’s Jewish community, he intervened privately with the authorities and went public with his criticism only after the situation did not improve.

Nevertheless, he praised the East German authorities, who, he said, made no difficulties “during the first five months of my work.”

But he indicated he got no support in his efforts from Jewish community leaders.

Neuman’s feud with the community leaders is no secret. He was accused of neglecting his rabbinic duties and seeking publicity. He charged his mail was opened and his sermons censored.

Neuman charged that the East Berlin community had come to accept neglect of its spiritual and cultural needs and dealt only with administrative matters. The local leadership was accustomed to making its own decisions and therefore could not tolerate a rabbi, he said.

East German officials have been upset by Neuman’s accusations of anti-Semitism. East Germany, in fact, has embarked on a major effort to gain the good will of Jewish communities abroad, including Israel, as a means to improve its relations with the United States.

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