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Cantor loses job after WELT article about Jewish converts

Avitall Gerstetter, cantor of the Berlin New Synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse in Berlin, has been "released" from her post.

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Cantor loses job after WELT article about Jewish converts

Avitall Gerstetter, cantor of the Berlin New Synagogue on Oranienburger Strasse in Berlin, has been "released" from her post. The synagogue management explained this on Tuesday on Facebook. Officially, the background to the "exemption" is not known; the press office of the Jewish community on Oranienburger Strasse could not be reached for comment.

However, another Facebook post, published just minutes before the release post, suggests a motive for Gerstetter's release from her duties. It said: "Due to the current situation, we would like to emphasize that as a synagogue community, all prayers are welcome, regardless of whether they were born Jewish or converted."

A week before Post was published, Gerstetter had submitted a guest article to WELT on the increasing proportion of converts in the Jewish communities in Germany. The allegation against Gerstetter, which can be read from the Facebook post: With her WELT contribution, she alienated converts. Gerstetter himself did not want to comment on the process due to an ongoing process.

In her guest article, Gerstetter first pointed out a simple fact: over the past three decades, the proportion of so-called "Giurim", i.e. people who have converted to Judaism, has increased in some prayer or lay communities that are subordinate to the synagogues increased by up to 80 percent. Thus, in some places only 20 percent of those praying in a synagogue actually grew up in the spirit of the millennia-old Jewish traditions and were not only taught about them as adults. The problematized Gerstetter in her contribution.

"Every Jewish tradition that has grown over many generations seems hardly affordable, especially since rabbis and cantors have often only converted late," she wrote. The imparting of Jewish knowledge is therefore often rather rational and abstract, criticized Gerstetter. The rabbi of the synagogue, where Gerstetter previously worked as cantor, converted to Judaism herself in 1992.

In her contribution, Gerstetter also discussed various reasons for people wanting to convert to Judaism. One of the most controversial reasons was what the historian Barbara Steiner also explains as one of the most important in a book on the conversion of Germans after 1945: the desire to arrive on the “right side” of history after German history and from the group of perpetrators into the group of victims. Gerstetter called this "conversion of indulgences".

Criticism was particularly sparked by Gerstetter's perspective on the motives of former Christians to convert to Judaism and their influence on the development of the Jewish religion.

The topic of “Jewish identity” was widely discussed in public last year. The reason for this was a dispute between the publicists Maxim Biller and Max Czollek. Biller had accused Czollek of concealing the fact that he was merely a “father Jew” – i.e. not having a Jewish mother. But they are prescribed by the Jewish religious law in order to be considered a Jew. Anyone else who wants to be considered a Jew under this law, and thus in the eyes of most community members, must go through the long process of conversion.

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