With all of the painful history involved, the relationship between the German government and the country’s 12,000 Jews is never simple.
Right now, the German Jewish community is up in arms over the government’s apparent discrimination against Orthodox Jews. Germany currently subsidizes the training of Liberal rabbis — the European incarnation of Reform Judaism — and funds university-level Jewish studies, but it is now refusing to offer the same support to a seminary that trains Orthodox rabbis.
Interior Minister Thomas de Maziere has blamed budget constraints for refusing to fund the seminary, which opened its doors in 2005, graduated its first rabbis in 2009 and is the first to train Orthodox rabbis in Germany since 1938.
But the Orthodox community and the Central Council of Jews in Germany are crying foul, charging that the German government is only interested in subsidizing Jewish life as long as it means that life is lived by more assimilated, less identifiable Jews.
Stephan Kramer, the secretary-general of the Central Council of Jews in Germany told a British newspaper that “They like Liberal Jews because they are seen as easygoing, not reminding them all the time about anti-Semitism and the Shoah.”
An Orthodox rabbi at the seminary added angrily in an interview with Haaretz: “This dispute reveals the true attitude of the German authorities toward Jews . The Germans are prepared to finance Jewish educational institutions as long as the Jews are Liberal, look like them, define themselves as Germans first and Jews second.”