Jewish Leadership Delegation Thanks German Ambassador to U.S. for New Support of German Jewish Community, Expresses Concern About Funding Inequities
Mark J. Pelavin in Washington, 202-387-2800
Shmuel Bahagon in Berlin, 49-160-9076-0002 (cell)
WASHINGTON, DECEMBER 18, 2002 - Thanking the German government for its recent initiative to increase funding for social services for German Jews, and raising serious concerns about inequities in that funding, a leadership delegation of the largest international Jewish denomination met Tuesday with Wolfgang Ischinger, Ambassador of the Federal Republic of Germany to the United States.
The delegation, from the World Union for Progressive Judaism (the international arm of the Reform Jewish Movement) and the Union of America Hebrew Congregations (the Movement's synagogue arm in North America), conveyed its deep appreciation for the announcement last month that the German federal government will considerably increase its annual budget for support of the German Jewish community to meet the needs of a Jewish population which has tripled in the past decade with the arrival of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
The delegation was led by Rabbi Uri Regev, Executive Director the Jerusalem-based World Union for Progressive Judaism. Rabbi Regev highlighted for Ambassador Ischinger the skewed treatment of the Progressive Jewish Movement - the largest Jewish denomination in pre-war Germany, and internationally today - in many areas. Explaining the urgency of the situation, Rabbi Regev noted that press reports indicate that the contract under which the funding will be provided is currently being finalized.
Shmuel Bahagon, Executive Director the Union for Progressive Judaism in Germany, explained the discrimination that the Progressive Jewish Movement in Germany faces today in its dealings with the Jewish establishment and governmental authorities alike.
Rabbi David Saperstein, Director of the Washington-based Religious Action of Reform Judaism, expressed the concerns of the American Jewish community. He reminded the Ambassador that the vast majority of American Jews belong to one of the liberal Movements in the United States and that there is at once abiding appreciation for the important steps the German government has taken to address the needs of the German Jewish community and significant concern that those steps may only address the needs of one segment of the German Jewish community.
Ambassador Ischinger reported that the government is aware of the issue, and would welcome a constructive resolution by the parties, one that also will take into account the needs of the Progressive Movement in Germany. He indicated that he would bring the issue to the attention of his government, and that he was familiar with the important role the Reform Movement plays in North America. He noted that Germany is gratified by the renewal of Jewish life in Germany, and made clear that Government is committed to support the social work and cultural activities of all segments of the German Jewish community.
The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism is the Washington office of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) , whose over 900 congregations across North America encompass 1.5 million Reform Jews , and the Central Conference of American Rabbis(CCAR) whose membership includes over 1800 Reform rabbis .