Press release Abraham Geiger College

Recommendations in report by University of Potsdam’s Investigation Committee endorse planned restructuring

Potsdam, 26 October 2022 Work is well advanced on drawing up a strategy for restructuring Abraham Geiger College, an affiliate institute of the University of Potsdam which trains rabbis and cantors. The University’s Investigation Committee today presented its report, which confirms that the College is on the right path.

Gabriele Thöne took the post of Interim Director of Abraham Geiger College in May 2022 with the intention of working with her team to critically engage with the accusations made against the training institute and especially of implementing the restructuring plan. “During the stock-taking phase I also looked into the matter of the abuse of power in connection with non-admission to ordination. Given the legal basis, the conclusion had to be drawn that the relegations were within the bounds of applicable procedural rules and are reasonable.” The College also had this matter subjected to an external investigation.

As regards the aims of the restructuring, Gabriele Thöne said: “It would be our preference to convert Abraham Geiger College into an independent training foundation.” This would, she said, have the chief legal consequence that key decisions would be taken and supported and their implementation monitored by bodies whose members are transparently selected.

“We thus feel that the investigation report published today by the University of Potsdam is an important validation of our strategy,” Thöne also said. The Investigation Committee’s report makes a number of recommendations, including concerning the relationship between Abraham Geiger College and the School of Jewish Theology at the University of Potsdam. The focus is on promoting transparency as regards the structures, processes and concrete work of all bodies as well as regarding financing. “We plan to set up a compliance architecture that effectively prevents a concentration of power and the abuse of power that may result from it.”

“Without wanting to play down the incidents at the College, such patterns of behaviour can no doubt be variously observed in academic environments. We also want to step up our cooperation with the University of Potsdam on resolving these issues. The link between rabbinical training and studying for a degree in Jewish Theology in Potsdam is of great national and international importance. That link not only needs to be maintained but also strengthened for coming generations.”

The Central Council of Jews in Germany also sounded a positive note: On the occasion of the ordination of rabbis at Zacharias Frankel College on 23 October 2022, Abraham Lehrer, Vice-President of the Central Council, emphasised that it will continue to support rabbinical and cantor training by all denominations.

Abraham Geiger College was established in Potsdam in 1999. It is an affiliate institute of the University of Potsdam. The College, which trains rabbis and cantors, is the first liberal rabbinical seminary to be stablished in Continental Europe since the Shoah. It is named after Abraham Geiger, an important exponent of Liberal Judaism in Germany.

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