Reins of Jewish community in Berlin go to young leader

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FRANKFURT, Germany — For the first time since World War II, Berlin's Jewish community will be led by a member of the

postwar generation.

German Jewish leaders hope that the generational change will revitalize the community.

Berlin's Jewish community is the largest of its kind in Germany, and works at accelerating the integration of Russian Jews.

The community parliament last month elected 46-year-old Andreas Nachama to be its new director. He will replace 76-year-old

Jerzy Kanal, who is retiring.

The more than 10,000 members of Berlin's Jewish community elect a parliament every four years, which in turn elects a five-

member board of directors and a chairman.

The new chairman of the parliament is Hermann Simon, director of the Centrum Judaicum, a Berlin research institute and


Nachama is director of Berlin's Topography of Terror Foundation, which sponsors a permanent exhibition on Gestapo


The historian, who specializes in Jewish cultural affairs, received nationwide attention several years ago for a blockbuster

exhibition he planned and organized in Berlin called "Patterns of Jewish Life."

Ten years ago, Nachama conceived of and organized the "Jewish Cultural Days," which has become a popular annual event in

Berlin presenting films, discussions, music and theater on different aspects of Jewish life.

He is the son of the Berlin Jewish community's longtime cantor, Estrongo Nachama, one of the best-known cantors in Europe.

The new community head says the top priority for the new parliament is to improve the integration of Russian Jews, who now

make up more than half the community.

Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, more than 30,000 Russian Jews have moved to Germany.

In a recent newspaper interview here with the nationally distributed Franfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Nachama said it is

important to attract immigrants into community work to make the established community aware of their needs.

In the recent parliamentary elections, none of the Russian Jewish candidates who moved in the last decade to Berlin was elected.

During the campaign, some of those candidates charged that the previous parliament had displayed little or no interest in

drawing the Russian Jews into the community.

But before he can focus on new tasks, Nachama will have to settle personal rivalries and restore credibility to the Jewish


The previous board of directors had rejected charges of misuse of community funds and questionable dealings in real estate

transactions carried out by members of the parliament and family members.

The publicity in the German press had weakened the power of the board of directors in the public perception, bringing the

community's affairs to a virtual standstill.

The former parliament members involved in the charges did not run for re-election.