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The Jerusalem Post Internet Edition

...Meanwhile in Germany

Chaim Shapira

The Reform movement arose in Germany. Before the Holocaust, it was the dominant religious expression of German Jewry. Today, however, that same movement is fighting for its rightful place within the Jewish community of Germany, according to Rabbi Uri Regev, director of the World Unon for Progressive Judaism.

The struggle takes on a new urgency, Regev said this week, following the announcement that the German Federal Republic intends to significantly expand from 1 million euro to 3 m. euro its support to the Zentralrat der Juden in Deutschland, the central organization of the Jewish community in Germany. This support would be largely aimed at the social and cultural integration of Russian jewish immigrants to Germany who have caused the community to swell from 30,000 in 1990 to 100,000 today.

However, Regev said, the Zentralrat has in effect shunned the reform movement, as have local Jewish communities which receive subsidies from the German states as a result of the local "church tax."

According to Shmuel Bahagon, director of the Union Progressiver Juden in Deutschland, most of the Russian immigrants have little or no knowlegde of Judaism, but they are all considered members of the official, Orthodox-conrolled, Jewish communitiy, to which they look for moral and material support. The size of the Reform communtiy, on the other hand, is estimated by the number of dues-paying members.

As an example of the problems faced by local congregations, Regev said that the Refrom community in Munich, whith about 150 members, most of them Russian immigrants, had been meeting in a veriety of rented quarters with no support from the local Jewish community or the Zentralrat. Recently Regev said, the group appealed to the synagogue-community center, which is to be build from funds obtained from the sale of the site of the prewar central synaggue of Munich.

The mayor in turn repsonded by sending the Reform group a letter from the local offical Jewish community, saying that the congregation was part of a momvement which had rituals, such as men and women sitting together and ordaining women as rabbis, which had no connection to Jewish tradition. Under these cirumstances, the mayor sid, he could not act in the matter.

The paradox, Regev added, was that the prewar central synagogue, the site of which was being sold, had been a Reform congregation.

Regev said that one of the options which the movement was considering was to claim the rights to the property of Reform communities which had been taken by the Nazis. It was also working on an international level and two weeks ago Regev, Bahagon, and a group of American Reform leaders met with the German ambassador in Washington.

Regev also said that if need be the Reform momvement would turn to the courts and he noted hat in one case,, the High Administrative Court of Germany ruled that the Liberal congregation of Halle had to be considered part of the larger Jewish community. The World Union has also appealed to German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder, he said.

Regev said that he believed that eventually the leaders of the Zentralrat would realize that if they wanted to maintain a unified Jewish community, they wouuld have to accommodate the Reform, but he added that if they did not, the movement was ready to continue the fight.

"We expect an answer that will relieve our minds, but if not, we are ready to mobilize our people around the world", said Regev.

Der jüdische Regenbogen

Jerusalem Post
Friday, January 10, 2003 . 7 shvat 5763 . 5 Dhu Al-Qa'adah 1423

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