Germany has the fastest growing Jewish community of any country in the world, including Israel
Berlin's Jewish community was on the verge of splitting last night, after a long-running disagreement between its intellectual wing and newcomers from the former Soviet Union.
Albert Meyer, a former chairman of the community, has announced he is setting up a new group because many members of the community are fed up with what he called "pseudo Bolsheviks who want to turn the community into a Russian club".
Mr Meyer, a lawyer, is backed by the historian Julius Schoeps and other intellectuals who accuse the Russians of employing "Stalinist methods" to influence the development of the community and having no interest in the Jewish faith.
Germany's Jewish community has grown in recent years with most newcomers coming from the former Soviet Union after Berlin relaxed its immigration rules for them in a gesture of reconciliation after the Holocaust. The influx has transformed the community, which has increased about tenfold from 1990 when it had about 23,000 members.
Last year three rabbis were ordained in a Dresden synagogue for the first time in Germany since the second world war.
But while many have welcomed the fact that Germany has the fastest growing Jewish community of any country in the world, including Israel, within the community itself the influx has caused a growing rift.
Tensions have risen in recent years between the established and often socially conservative German Jewish community and the Russian immigrants, many of whom are secular. While the German Jews see themselves as Jewish first and German second, many of the Russian immigrants see themselves as Russian.
They often have little knowledge of the workings of the faith, sometimes not knowing what a rabbi is, and many are poorly informed about the Holocaust.
"We are no longer prepared to accept that the current leadership wants to turn the old, deeply traditional Berlin community into a Russian-speaking cultural club," Mr Meyer told the magazine Stern. "We will no longer accept that a clique made of up egotistical, power-oriented people sometimes employ Stalinist methods to drive away and freeze out all the others who stand for the German-Jewish tradition and the role of the community as a religious community."
Soviet Jews flooding Germany