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German Religious Leaders Flay Protestant Conversion Efforts

Leaders from both the Jewish and Protestant communities here have excoriated the efforts of ministers in southwestern Germany to convert Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

“These people came as Jews and when we lose them it is a quantitative and qualitative loss to our community,” said Gerrad Breibart, a member of the administrative council of Germany’s Jewish community and vice chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany.

Breibart did not have an exact number of how many Jews from the former Soviet Union have been converted to Protestant Christianity, but said the push for conversions had been occurring for about two years.

In a statement issued Tuesday, the Central Council and Protestant representatives condemned the financial exploitation of Jewish immigrants.

Former Soviet Jews have been enticed to convert with promises of financial help, Breibart said.

The statement came after Breibart and Joel Berger, a rabbi in the southwestern region, met Sunday with Senior Protestant leaders.

The church also agreed that when Jewish families come into contact with Protestant ministers, they will be referred to the nearest Jewish community.

Church leaders support the Jewish community’s concerns and oppose these missionary efforts, Breibart said.

“But some churches see their mission as conversion,” Breibart said in an interview. He added that the problem was most severe near Stuttgart, in the southwestern German state of Baden-Wurttemberg.

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