Behind the dispute is a demand by the Berlin Orthodox Rabbinical Seminary for an increase in state funds to match financing granted to Liberal Jewish Rabbis.
Founded in 1873, the Orthodox seminary survived in the German capital until 1938, when it was shut down by the Nazis. For nearly seven decades, Orthodox rabbis could not qualify in
Since its reestablishment, the seminary has been funded by donations through the Central Council of Jews in
But now the seminary is demanding state budget allocations along the lines of those granted to its Liberal counterparts and has threatened to shut unless the government supplies the money.
The previous interior minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, had publicly praised the seminary, calling it a vital contribution to the renewal of Jewish society in
Haaretz has seen a series of letters exchanged between Maizière and Rabbi Josh Spinner, the seminary's U.S.-born chairman, in which the government firmly refused funding, citing limited budgets, already strained by contributions to the Liberal seminary, as well as the Jewish Studies faculty at
"This dispute reveals the true attitude of the German authorities toward Jews," one of the seminary's rabbis said. "The Germans are prepared to finance Jewish educational institutions as long as the Jews are Liberal, look like them, define themselves as Germans first and Jews second."
Maizière's reference to
"Anyone seeking ordination as a rabbi needs to fly to the
And the rabbis' claims of discrimination my have a basis in law, says Benjamin Ladiges, a
"The state has no right to chose one seminary over another," he told Haaretz. "The Basic Law [
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