German Jewry’s top leader to step down


BERLIN (JTA) — Germany’s top Jewish leader plans to step down to make way for a new generation of leaders.  

Charlotte Knobloch, elected head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany in 2006, announced she would not run for re-election in November, according to a statement released Sunday. Previous chairs have died in office.

Knobloch, 77, the longtime leader of the Jewish community in Bavaria and Munich, is likely to be the last council president to have lived through the Holocaust. She was hidden as a child by a non-Jewish family in Bavaria.

Knobloch told the German broadcaster Deutsch-Welle that she wanted to "consciously bring about a generational change in the leadership of the organization."

On Sunday, the council announced it has "full and unlimited trust" in Knobloch and wants her to serve out her term. But she has come in for criticism from insiders and pundits as being too focused on the past.

The acerbic German-Jewish writer Henryk Broder has referred to her as "Tante Charly" and even toyed with the notion of running for office.

While there is speculation that the next chair could be current Vice President Dieter Graumann, some say it is time for a new immigrant to rise through the ranks. Of the estimated 200,000 Jews in Germany today, about 80 percent emigrated from the former Soviet Union since 1990. About half are affiliated with Jewish communities.

Postwar Jewish leaders "have accomplished a lot, and we are grateful and honor them," wrote Russian-born attorney Grigory Lagodinsky, 28, deputy president of Kassel’s Jewish community, in a guest editorial in the Welt Online. "But they are not ready to accept representatives of the immigrant majority as their equals."

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