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Germany

Berlin Jewish Community Head Quits After German-Russian Row

The leader of Berlin's Jewish community, the largest in Germany, resigned on Wednesday after many months of internal strife.

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Albert Meyer has now stopped putting on a brave face

Albert Meyer announced that he was stepping down after disputes between recent Russian Jewish immigrants and other members of the community culminated in accusations of bad faith against him.

"I have decided to end my mandate immediately," he told the weekly Jüdische Allgemeine Wochenzeitung. Meyer, a lawyer who has held the post since January 2004 and has been seen as a liberal, said that "some people put their own interests and pride above the good of the community."

Experts on Jewish matters said on Wednesday that the struggle had nothing to do with religious ideology but with cultural differences, while the daily Berliner Zeitung spoke of a "German-Russian tragedy" pitting immigrants from the former Soviet Union against other members of the community.

Cultural differences?

Ex-Soviet Jews have in recent years made up the majority of the 12,000 members of the Berlin community. They enjoyed nearly unrestricted residence rights in Germany after the fall of the Iron Curtain as the government sought to atone in some measure for the mass killing of Jews during the Nazi era.

However, complaints have arisen in recent years from German Jewish organizations that some immigrants had doubtful Jewish ancestry and liberal and secular traditions that clashed with those of more orthodox German Jews.

The government last year introduced tougher requirements for Jewish immigrants from the old Soviet bloc, including proof of their ancestry and the ability to speak German.

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