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Sunday, 9 January, 2000, 18:15 GMT
Jewish immigrants promised help

Paul Spiegel Paul Spiegel in front of a portrait of his predecessor Ignatz Bubis

The new leader of Germany's Jewish community has pledged to help integrate into German society the huge number of Jewish immigrants arriving from the former Soviet Union.

Paul Spiegel, a 62-year-old theatrical agent who survived the Holocaust, was elected president of the Central Council of Jews on Sunday.

He replaces Ignatz Bubis who died in August aged 72.

The people who come here know they are Jews but they don't know what Judaism is
Paul Spiegel
"I begin today not at zero-hour but following on the work of Bubis," Mr Spiegel told a press conference after the nine-member Central Council of Jews in Germany selected him as its president by a vote of six to three.

Mr Spiegel said his main task would be helping the 50,000 Russian and east-European Jews who have come to Germany since the 1989 fall of the Berlin Wall to integrate into German society and the German Jewish community.

The new arrivals are the main reason the German Jewish community has grown to around 80,000.

Cash shortage

That is still a fraction of pre-war community of more than half-a-million Jews, most of whom were slaughtered during the Nazi Holocaust.

Under the communist system they were prevented from practising their religion.

"The people who come here know they are Jews but they don't know what Judaism is," said Mr Spiegel, who was hidden by Catholic farmers in Belgium during the Holocaust.

"Normalisation is not yet accomplished," he added.

Mr Spiegel said 80% of local Jewish organisations were in debt and short of rabbis and teachers. He said he would be asking the German Government for money.

Death camp Germany's Jewish community was slaughtered by the Nazis
German Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder congratulated Mr Spiegel, saying: "You will be making an important contribution to the democratic culture and internal peace in our country."

Germany is not the only country experiencing an influx of Jews.

Figures reported by the Interfax news agency show the number of Jews leaving Russia for Israel more than doubled in 1999.

According to the Moscow office of the Jewish Agency, which brings Jews to Israel, 29,534 Russian citizens emigrated to Israel in 1999 compared with 13,019 in 1998.

Rising anti-Semitism and political instability were cited as the reasons for the rise by the executive vice-president of the Russian Jewish Congress, Alexander Osovtsov.

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See also:
17 Nov 99 |  Africa
Ethiopian Jews struggle in Israel
15 Aug 99 |  Europe
Funeral for German Jewish leader
24 Jan 99 |  Europe
Jewish museum inaugurated
20 Dec 98 |  Europe
German Jewish leader's gravestone blown up
01 Dec 98 |  Europe
German government seeks clean break with Nazi past
08 Nov 98 |  Europe
German Jewish leader says anti-semitism is increasing

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