Berlin shul's money problems

By Toby Axelrod, September 2, 2010
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German authorities have stopped the flow of public funds to the country's only independent Jewish congregation, reportedly due to the failure to submit audited accounts covering 2001-2006.

Adass Yisroel, a traditional congregation in Berlin, is also facing a demand by the Berlin Senate that it repay about 204,000 euros in state subsidies.

Almost every German congregation, of every denomination, belongs to a "united community" structure, which in each city hires and fires rabbis and maintains old-age homes, schools and education programmes.

The Adass Yisroel, by contrast, was recognised as a separate entity in 1997, because it is the sole successor to a congregation founded in 1869. In Berlin, which has around 20,000 Jews, Adass Yisroel claims to have 1,000 members. It has been eligible for up to 650,000 euros in annual subsidies.

The congregation has reportedly refused to allow an auditor appointed by the Berlin Senate to conduct the usual examination of books. Attempts to find an auditor acceptable to communal leaders have failed.

Last week, the congregation's executive secretary, Mario Offenberg, said that Adass Yisroel had always "presented a correct accounting, on time, and has never denied access to an auditor" and claimed that facts were being twisted to undermine the community.

According to the Juedische Allgemeine, Berlin's State Secretary for Cultural Affairs, André Schmitz, said Adass Yisroel could claim its public funding once it met the legal requirement of submitting documents pertaining to expenditures.

The community's legal appeal against the recent decision reportedly was rejected.

Last updated: 2:34pm, September 2 2010