Berlin’s Jewish Culture Days festival canceled citing subsidy

BERLIN (JTA) — For the first time in 29 years, Berlin’s Jewish community will not hold its popular Jewish Culture Days festival, the community’s board of directors announced. According to the Jewish community board’s official statement, issued Monday, the board decided not to ask for an annual state subsidy of 255,000 Euros, or $282,000, to cover the ten-day festival, out of sympathy for the “difficult financial situation of the state of Berlin.” But representatives of the Berlin State Senate, which assigns the funding and had promoted this year’s festival on its website, said they were surprised and sorry to hear the news. “We regret the Jewish community’s decision very much,” a spokesperson told the daily Tagesspiegel. “The Senate has always been happy to support the festival and would have done it this year, too.” Last year, some 35,000 people attended the festival, about 70 percent of them non-Jews, according to Martin Kranz, the event organizer hired by successive administrations of the Jewish community to run the festival since 2004. Kranz told JTA that his four-year contract ran out after last year’s festival, and that he did not hear from Jewish community president Gideon Joffe or his board about future plans. According to some reports, the community leadership was unhappy with Kranz, and had someone else in mind for the position. “Nothing negative was said, nothing at all was said,” Kranz told JTA. Last December he announced that he was “no longer available.” Now, Kranz, who is not Jewish, is organizing a new, multicultural festival “with a Jewish core” in the city of Erfurt, in former East Germany. His “Achava,” or Brotherhood, festival opens August 27, the first festival of its kind in Erfurt. Some members of Berlin’s Jewish community are discussing possible alternatives – like a pop-up Jewish cultural festival, or a joint effort between several independent groups. Meanwhile, the Jewish council’s culture committee is organizing an emergency meeting to discuss the board’s decision. Sergey Lagodinsky, a council member critical of the current leadership, told the Tagesspiegel that the festival is a “cultural highlight for the Jewish community and the city. If it dies, this is further proof that the Jewish community is becoming irrelevant.” The Jewish board’s stated sympathy for the state’s financial situation follows several years of contentious relations. In May 2013, the Senate culture department refused to pay its subsidy to the Jewish community after Joffe failed to submit the required list of employees and their salaries. A court later ruled that the Senate had to release the funds. The Jewish cultural festival was launched in 1987 as part of celebrations marking the 750th anniversary of Berlin’s founding. It has since become a popular event through which non-Jews learn about Jewish culture and Jewish life in Germany.   Powered By | Full Text RSS Feed