Germany doubles funding for Jewish community
Germany's Jewish community signed a new treaty with the government Wednesday to double its annual state funding, reflecting its growing size and prominence more than 65 years after the Holocaust.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany said that it would receive 10 million euros ($13 million) from the government each year from 2012, up from five million euros currently.
Council president Dieter Graumann said the funding boost came in response to the new range of responsibilities for a community that has exploded in size in the last two decades, now amounting to more than 220,000.
"The Central Council has developed into a coordination centre that is playing an ever more important role in the Jewish community as well as in German society as a whole," he said.
"The new treaty shows that the German government also has a positive view of our role."
Graumann said the updated treaty, replacing a groundbreaking accord from 2003, was the result of intensive negotiations with Berlin.
Under the original treaty, the government pledged to maintain German Jewish cultural heritage and to help politically and socially integrate the council.
It put the Jewish community on a similar footing as the Lutheran and Catholic churches in Germany, which also receive state funding.
The pact foresaw helping with the upkeep of Jewish cemeteries and synagogues, subsidising religious research centres and earmarking funds to train rabbis and cantors to tend to a rising number of Jewish immigrants.
Graumann said the council was now also focusing on working with young Jews.
"Only a successful integration of youth in Jewish life will guarantee our future," he said, adding that dialogue between religions and public relations had also become increasingly important for the council.
Before the Nazis' rise to power in 1933, Germany had one of Europe's strongest Jewish communities with more than 530,000 members.
In 1939, at the start of World War II, only 200,000 remained as many had emigrated to escape the Nazi killing machine. Just a few thousand survived the Holocaust, which claimed the lives of six million Jews across Europe.
Since 1989, when there were about 30,000 Jews living in Germany, some 220,000 more have arrived from the former Soviet Union after Berlin made it easier for them to obtain citizenship.
In the early 1990s, more Jews were immigrating to Germany than to Israel.
© 2011 AFP