BONN (Jul. 9)
An ongoing dispute between the mainstream leadership of Berlin Jewry and an Orthodox group that held sway in the city before the Holocaust is now degenerating into a war of words.
At stake is prestige, official recognition and state funding.
The latest flap arose when the Orthodox group, Adass Jisroel, which was re-established in December 1989, charged recently that “no Orthodox Jewish funeral has been possible in Berlin for the past 50 years.”
The established Jewish community responded by accusing Adass Jisroel of insulting its religious leaders with the remark. In a statement released in Berlin, the community made note of the fact that the authority of its rabbi, David Weisz, is recognized by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.
The Jewish community charged, moreover, that Adass Jisroel activists who made that claim had no right to speak for the former community.
Heinz Galinski, longtime leader of Berlin Jewry, contends that Adass Jisroel lacks legitimacy. Mario Offenberg, leader of Adass Jisroel, accuses Galinski of trying to undermine the Orthodox group.
According to Galinski, who is also chairman of Germany’s Jewish community, a majority of Jews in former East Berlin opposed Offenberg’s plans to establish a separate community.
The Adass Jisroel group returned to Berlin in December 1989 when the Communist regime at that time permitted the group to sue for the building that had belonged to its predecessors.
It was also given a generous subsidy by the East Germans. The present Berlin authorities have yet to decide whether to let stand the defunct East Berlin government’s official recognition of Adass Jisroel and, if so, whether the financial support should continue.