New head of Berlin community turns his focus on Soviet emigres

"Jews can stand on their heads ; it won't get rid of anti-Semitism," he said. "I see the discussion about Israel as a vent for latent anti-Semitism in this country."

Brenner, who announced his candidacy late in the campaign, ousted incumbent Andreas Nachama, 49, in Jewish community elections earlier this month.

Observers said Nachama lost the election because he had not responded strongly enough to the needs of ex-Soviet constituents.

Though he won a majority of the popular vote in March, thus securing a place on the community council, Nachama did not have enough support to be re-elected to the board, winning only eight of the 21 votes.

The member board, which consists entirely of Eastern European or Russian Jews, voted decisively for Brenner, who has promised to devote himself to new immigrants' needs.

Brenner, 71, said he will work to help Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union learn about Jewish tradition, history and religion.

"If we want our children or grandchildren to stay Jewish, we have to introduce to them to these important values," he said in a radio interview.

The Berlin Jewish community, Germany's largest, has increased from about 6,000 to about 12,000 during the last 10 years with the arrival of new immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

With the influx of tens of thousands of Jews from the former Soviet Union, Germany's Jewish community has grown from 35,000 to at least 90,000 in the last decade, making it the only growing Jewish population in Europe today.

Many of the new immigrants know little about Judaism, however, because all religious practice in the Soviet Union was discouraged under communism.

A shopkeeper's son, Brenner was born in a Polish village near the Ukrainian border.

When he was 11, Brenner, his parents and sister were forced to resettle in Siberia. After World War II the family was sent back to Poland.

His parents and sister immigrated to Israel, but Brenner went to Berlin "for personal reasons," and studied chemistry and physics.

He began his career as a research scientist with Germany's Federal Institute of Health. He then entered the foreign service, working in the Research Ministry, as a diplomat in Moscow and Berlin and lastly as science attache of the German embassy in Israel.

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