History was made last week when the Conference of European
Rabbis (CER) held its Standing Committee meeting in Germany
for the first time. It was attended by twenty- six Chief
Rabbis and Rabbis from eleven countries. Some had come for
the weekend and addressed the Munich community at a number
of specially organized events.
Many issues facing European communities were dealt with and
special reports were given on communities in Romania,
Belarus, Macedonia, Russia, Spain, and Lithuania.
The enormous growth of the community in Germany and the
pressures this has created on the existing structure of the
community were one of the reasons for the meeting to be held
A call was made for the Zentralrat -- the Central Committee
of the German community -- to consider establishing a
central chief rabbinate of its own which will be able to
deal with the increasing number of halachic and religious
issues facing them.
Deep concern was also expressed at the continued Russian
government interference into the affairs of the Jewish
At a civic reception held in the impressive gothic Town
Hall, the Lord Mayor Christian Ude expressed the thanks of
the city of Munich to the rabbis for the "overwhelming
gesture in choosing our city for your religious dialogue,
the place where National Socialism - Nazi party was founded.
This no doubt reflects your understanding of our efforts to
ensure that our new society encourages tolerance and
The Mayor informed the Rabbis of a planned Jewish Synagogue
community center that is to be built in the center of the
city. This plan will also include a Jewish school a
kindergarten and a kosher restaurant. They are also planning
to build a Jewish museum that will feature the history of
the Jewish community of Munich.
"This should not only be for Jews but also for others in
order to enable them to learn about the illustrious
contribution made by the Jews to our city in the past,"
according to the Mayor.
British Chief Rabbi J. Sacks, in responding, stressed the
difficulties that the CER had faced before it felt confident
enough to hold a meeting in Germany. However the path
Germany is now taking in fighting right wing extremist
groups and its attitude to its own past, enabled the CER to
take its decision.
At a crowded press conference, CER president Chief Rabbi J
Sitruk of France pointed out that the growth of minority
communities in a country is a barometer of its democracy and
human rights. One therefore welcomes the "Freedom Factor" in
today's Germany where a Jewish community is being encouraged