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Gideon Joffe, Chairman of the Jewish Community of Berlin

Photo: Christophe Gateau / dpa

The Central Council of Jews has deprived the Berlin community of its voting rights for a year.

The background is a conflict between the municipality and the central council that has been simmering for years.

In Berlin, people reacted with outrage and accused the Central Council of jeopardizing the unity of the Jewish community.

There is no way out in sight for the time being.

The reason for the suspension is a dispute over the election of the municipal parliament in 2023. Shortly before the election, the leadership of the municipality around chairman Gideon Joffe changed the electoral regulations and introduced an age limit of 70 years for candidacies.

Community members had sued the Central Council before the independent court and had the election stopped.

However, the community board ignored this because it believed the court had no jurisdiction.

The election took place in September as planned.

The court unsuccessfully imposed fines and finally recommended the temporary withdrawal of voting rights a few days ago.

This was followed by the Presidium of the Central Council, as it explained in a press release.

A representative of the Berlin community, who had just been elected to the presidium, was not allowed to vote because of her own concern.

Joffe calls the Central Council's decision "irresponsible and destructive"

Community leader Gideon Joffe criticized the decision.

"The Central Council is acting irresponsibly and destructively," he told the dpa news agency.

"We will defend ourselves against this tooth and nail, including legally." He warned of a split in the Central Council.

“How many more years should we as a community allow ourselves to be bullied by the Central Council?”

The Berlin opposition alliance Tikkun, which is very critical of Joffe and the board, welcomed the decision.

"This is by no means a conflict between the Central Council and the Jewish community in Berlin - on the contrary," explained Tikkun.

Joffe and his supporters systematically undermined the municipality's democratic structures and electoral system.

"Anyone who tramples on our free, democratic basic order and weakens the Jewish community must no longer be tolerated and must resign from their positions immediately," explained Tikkun.

There was also a dispute about rabbinical training at the Abraham Geiger College

The debate over electoral regulations is not the only conflict between the central council and the community; there is also disagreement over rabbinical training.

After turbulence at the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam, the community took over the sponsorship of the liberal rabbinical school at the beginning of 2023.

The Central Council rejected this.

On Monday he announced that a new foundation would be responsible for the Potsdamer Kolleg.

Joffe said the community remains willing to talk.

"But it was the Central Council that unilaterally terminated the conversation months ago."