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Germany

Germany's Jewish Community Begins Search for New President

As mourning continues for the late president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Paul Spiegel, debate about who is best suited to fully integrate Germany's 90,000 Jewish migrants from Eastern Europe has begun.

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Who is the most suitable person to lead Germany's Jewish community?

Most people involved with the search for a successor understand Spiegel was the last council head who consciously lived through the horrors of the Holocaust. Whoever will follow in his footsteps is bound to bring with him different views on how to further develop post-war Jewish life in Germany. But that's where the common ground ends.

For some prominent members of Germany's Jewish community, the outcome of elections for the post of Jewish council president, to be held in November, is a foregone conclusion.

Salomon Korn, der neu gewählte stellvertretende Vorsitzende des Zentralrats der Juden in Deutschland

Korn decided not to run for the president position in 1999

They believe Paul Spiegel's successor can be no other than Salomon Korn (photo), a 62-year-old Jewish architect from Frankfurt and one of Spiegel's closest friends. As the council's vice-president, Korn has played an important role in the expansion of Jewish communities across Germany.

Too early to make a decisio n

But it's still much too early to draw any conclusions, according to leading Jewish figure Micha Brumlik. He said he feels it is inappropriate to focus on a specific name so shortly after Spiegel's death last Sunday and would rather concentrate on the abilities the next president should have.

"I think we should have somebody at the helm of the council who was born after the Second World War," he said. "We need someone who has thoroughly analyzed Germany's post-war efforts to come to terms with its history, and its endeavors to build up a new relationship with us Jews."

Though the German Jewish community's time of remembrance is not over, integration is the newest challenge that needs to be tackled, Brumlick added.

Bo n di n g Germa n y 's Jewish commu n ities

Paul Spiegel ist tot

Was Paul Spiegel the last head to come from Germany's old Jewish community?

While it has been possible to unite some liberal Jewish currents under the umbrella of the central council, the integration of the tens of thousands of eastern European Jewish migrants is still in its infancy and the council's next president will need to sort out the ongoing rivalry between Jewish migrants and the native German community, according to Julius Schöps of the Felix Mendelsohn Center in Potsdam.

"If we look further ahead, we'll see that there can be no more representatives of the old Jewish community in Germany following in Paul Spiegel's footsteps," he said. "We might eventually see someone from the former Soviet Union taking over as head of the central council. That would mean a different style of policy."

The council will have to take into account that some 80 percent of members of Germany's regional Jewish communities are migrants from the former republics of the Soviet Union, Schöps added.

Debate will co n ti n ue i n comi n g mo n ths

Holocaust Gedenktag Auschwitz

The next council president is unlikely to have consciously experienced the Holocaust

German Jewish lecturer and author Guy Stern said he believes there will be many more controversial debates about the integration process are far from over.

"There are many obstacles to a reintegration of immigrant Jews," he said, saying the Jewish groups from the former Soviet Union range from having orthodox to cynical views of religion. "Right now it is a question of how the future of Jews in Germany will ultimately turn out."

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