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10 months into leadership crisis, fighting has renewed over German rabbinical schools’ future



BERLIN (JTA) — A plan to get Germany’s non-Orthodox rabbinical schools back on track after nearly a year of tumult has hit a snag: the country’s main Jewish organization says it can’t fund the group that took control of the schools in January.

The Jewish Community of Berlin had announced in a surprise move that it had paid 25,000 euros to buy out the ownership stake of the schools’ founder and rector Rabbi Walter Homolka, who stepped down from almost all positions amid investigations into whether he abused his power.

The Central Council of Jews in Germany, the country’s main Jewish group, had been working on a plan to overhaul the schools and initially expressed skepticism about the Berlin Jewish community’s purchase. But the Central Council’s president, Josef Schuster, said he had been persuaded to work with the new owners after getting assurance that Homolka would have no role at the revamped schools.

Now, the Central Council says its auditors have advised that it cannot legally pass along government funds to the Jewish Community of Berlin. The Central Council announced on Thursday that it would instead create a new foundation to support the Reform Abraham Geiger College and Conservative Zacharias Frankel College, and it could move to reopen the schools with new names. (Both schools are named for prominent 19th-century German rabbis.) The Central Council has supported both schools to the tune of about $530,000 a year.

“The takeover of the rabbinical training centers by the Jewish Community of Berlin was done with the best of intentions,” Schuster said in a statement. “However, it is not possible for the Central Council to support rabbinical training in the present support structure.”

Jewish Community of Berlin President Gideon Joffe attacked the plan as an “abuse of power,” saying that his organization would “not bow to the feudal fantasies of omnipotence harbored by old white men.” Joffe and Schuster have sparred intensely over the future of the two seminaries.

Joffe said the Central Council already had ceased transferring funds to the seminaries, “massively hindering rabbinical education in Germany, which it actually claims to protect.”

In fact, it is usually an entity’s owner — which since January has been Joffe’s group — that would be responsible for securing funding. The three major and longtime funders of the seminaries — the Central Council, the Federal Ministry of the Interior and the Brandenburg Ministry of Science — have all been aligned, declaring together in December their support for an independent liberal rabbinical seminary under a new structure.

The Central Council was in the midst of devising that new structure when Joffe’s group swooped in and purchased a leadership stake in the schools. The council had hired Gerhard Robbers, an expert in religion and law, to develop a new model for the schools, after an initial version of its commissioned investigation reported that Homolka had created a “culture of fear” there. A final report of the investigation by the law firm of Gercke Wollschläger is due out soon.

The council released Robbers’ “roadmap” for the schools on Thursday. He recommended that the Central Council establish a foundation under which two independent seminaries and a cantorial program would operate, under the auspices of the University of Potsdam. A board including the elected president and appointed executive director of the Central Council as well as representatives of both the Progressive and Masorti (Conservative) movements — appointed by themselves — would make fundamental decisions together. In general, the roadmap is designed to ensure stability and quality of education, and to prevent any one person or group from monopolizing the structure, Robbers wrote.

“If bringing in existing institutions is not possible or proves inopportune, institutions could be newly established,” Robbers’ recommendation says. “Through them, existing tasks, staff and students could be taken over. Appropriate names for the institutions should be found in agreement with the stakeholders.”

Schuster said the dramatic changes were warranted by the recent findings against Homolka. The former rector announced this week that he would resign from the leadership of another institution he had created: The Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Scholarship Foundation for talented Jewish students; he has also sought legal relief against the criticism against him, with some recent, albeit partial, success.

The Central Council aims to “offer students and employees a secure perspective, securing teaching in the long term and restoring lost credibility,” Schuster said. “With the present findings on the abuse of power, discrimination and the prevailing culture of fear at rabbinical training institutions, there can be no ‘business as usual.’ A new beginning is necessary.”

The post 10 months into leadership crisis, fighting has renewed over German rabbinical schools’ future appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Phyllis Pollock died at home Sunday September 3, 2023 in Winnipeg, after a courageous lifetime battle with cancer.
Phyllis was a mother of four: Gary (Laura), daughter Randi, Steven (deceased in 2010) (Karen), and Robert. Phyllis also had two grandchildren: Lauren and Quinn.
Born in Fort Frances, Ontario on February 7, 1939, Phyllis was an only child to Ruby and Alex Lerman. After graduating high school, Phyllis moved to Winnipeg where she married and later divorced Danny Pollock, the father of her children. She moved to Beverly Hills in 1971, where she raised her children.
Phyllis had a busy social life and lucrative real estate career that spanned over 50 years, including new home sales with CoastCo. Phyllis was the original sales agent for three buildings in Santa Monica, oceanfront: Sea Colony I, Sea Colony II, and Sea Colony. She was known as the Sea Colony Queen. She worked side by side with her daughter Randi for about 25 years – handling over 600 transactions, including sales and leases within the three phases of Sea Colony alone.
Phyllis had more energy than most people half her age. She loved entertaining, working in the real estate field, meeting new and interesting people everyday no matter where she went, and thrived on making new lifelong friends. Phyllis eventually moved to the Sea Colony in Santa Monica where she lived for many years before moving to Palm Desert, then Winnipeg.
After battling breast cancer four times in approximately 20 years, she developed metastatic Stage 4 lung cancer. Her long-time domestic partner of 27 years, Joseph Wilder, K.C., was the love of her life. They were never far apart. They traveled the world and went on many adventures during their relationship. During her treatment, Phyllis would say how much she missed work and seeing her clients. Joey demonstrated amazing strength, love, care, and compassion for Phyllis as her condition progressed. He was her rock and was by her side 24/7, making sure she had the best possible care. Joey’s son David was always there to support Phyllis and to make her smile. Joey’s other children, Sheri, Kenny, Joshua and wife Davina, were also a part of her life. His kids would Facetime Phyllis and include her during any of their important functions. Phyllis loved Joey’s children as if they were her own.
Thank you to all of her friends and family who were there to support her during these difficult times. Phyllis is now, finally, pain free and in a better place. She was loved dearly and will be greatly missed. Interment took place in Los Angeles.

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Gwen Centre Creative Living Centre celebrates 35th anniversary



By BERNIE BELLAN Over 100 individuals gathered at the Gwen Secter Centre on Tuesday evening, July 18 – under the big top that serves as the venue for the summer series of outdoor concerts that is now in its third year at the centre.
The occasion was the celebration of the Gwen Secter Centre’s 35th anniversary. It was also an opportunity to honour the memory of Sophie Shinewald, who passed away at the age of 106 in 2019, but who, as recently as 2018, was still a regular attendee at the Gwen Secter Centre.
As Gwen Secter Executive Director Becky Chisick noted in her remarks to the audience, Sophie had been volunteering at the Gwen Secter Centre for years – answering the phone among other duties. Becky remarked that Sophie’s son, Ed Shinewald, had the phone number for the Gwen Secter Centre stored in his phone as “Mum’s work.”

Raquel Dancho (left), Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St.Paul, and Nikki Spigelman, President, Gwen Secter Centre

Remarks were also delivered by Raquel Dancho, Member of Parliament for Kildonan-St. Paul, who was the only representative of any level of government in attendance. (How times have changed: I remember well the steadfast support the former Member of the Legislature for St. John’s, Gord Mackintosh, showed the Gwen Secter Centre when it was perilously close to being closed down. And, of course, for years, the area in which the Gwen Secter Centre is situated was represented by the late Saul Cherniack.)
Sophie Shinewald’s granddaughter, Alix (who flew in from Chicago), represented the Shinewald family at the event. (Her brother, Benjamin, who lives in Ottawa, wasn’t able to attend, but he sent a pre-recorded audio message that was played for the audience.)
Musical entertainment for the evening was provided by a group of talented singers, led by Julia Kroft. Following the concert, attendees headed inside to partake of a sumptuous assortment of pastries, all prepared by the Gwen Secter culinary staff. (And, despite my asking whether I could take a doggy bag home, I was turned down.)

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Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station



This is a developing story.

(JTA) — Palestinian gunmen killed four people and wounded four in a terror attack at a gas station near the West Bank settlement of Eli, the Israeli army reported.

An Israeli civilian returning fire at the scene of the attack on Tuesday killed one of the attackers, who emerged from a vehicle, and two others fled.

Kan, Israel’s public broadcaster, said one of those wounded was in serious condition. The gunmen, while in the vehicle, shot at a guard post at the entry to the settlement, and then continued to the gas station which is also the site of a snack bar. A nearby yeshiva went into lockdown.

Israeli Defense Minister Yoav Gallant announced plans to convene a briefing with top security officials within hours of the attack. Kan reported that there were celebrations of the killing in major West Bank cities and in the Gaza Strip, initiated by terrorist groups Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. Hamas said the shooting attack Tuesday was triggered by the Jenin raid.

The shooting comes as tensions intensify in the West Bank. A day earlier, Israeli troops raiding the city of Jenin to arrest accused terrorists killed five people.

The Biden administration spoke out over the weekend against Israel’s plans to build 4,000 new housing units for Jewish settlers in the West Bank. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu also finalized plans to  transfer West Bank building decisions to Bezalel Smotrich, the extremist who is the finance minister. Smotrich has said he wants to limit Palestinian building and expand settlement building.

Kan reported that the dead terrorist was a resident of a village, Urif, close to Huwara, the Palestinian town where terrorists killed two Israeli brothers driving through in February. Settlers retaliated by raiding the village and burning cars and buildings.

The post Palestinian gunmen kill 4 Israelis in West Bank gas station appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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