Frankfurt Jewish group severs ties with German city’s Chabad over ‘disrespect’ and ‘insults’

Toby Axelrod

BERLIN (JTA) — The umbrella group representing the Jewish community of Frankfurt is distancing itself from the city’s Chabad-Lubavitch chapter following a series of alleged instances of “disrespect” shown against local non-Chabad rabbis.

In an open letter published March 20, the Jewish Community of Frankfurt am Main group wrote that the city’s synagogues will no longer provide rooms for Chabad events. The letter cites “increasingly aggressive behavior” and “insults” from Chabad rabbis aimed at two local rabbis, Avichai Apel and Julian Chaim-Soussan.

Apel was hired as a replacement for Rabbi Menachem Halevi Klein, who retired in 2015 after heading the Orthodox Westend Synagogue for 21 years. The Chabad Frankfurt am Main chapter has been holding its services and housing its yeshiva in the Westend Synagogue.

“[It] appears, unfortunately, that one party [in the conflict] expected to be able to demand new roles within the community upon the retirement of Rabbi Klein,” read an editorial on the website Honestly Concerned, an Israel advocacy organization based in Frankfurt.

Among other things, Chabad leaders are accused of barring Apel and Chaim-Soussan from accessing the bimah on Purim and ignoring Apel at a public menorah lighting last Hanukkah.

The Honestly Concerned editorial also described “the interruption of a Sabbath service, completely inappropriate yelling, a scene that shocked members of the community and led to a deepening of splits in the community.”

Chabad leadership has yet to respond to the letter.

“Jewish and religious life in Frankfurt was possible before Chabad and we are ensuring that it will continue to be possible without the involvement of Chabad,” the Frankfurt group said in its letter.