After the allegations against the founder and rector of the Potsdam Abraham Geiger College, Rabbi Walter Homolka, the interim management of the training center announced that the allegations would be dealt with consistently. In addition, the only training center for liberal rabbis in Germany is to be restructured.
The interim director of the Abraham Geiger College, the former Berlin Secretary of State for Finance Gabriele Thöne, reported in a press conference on Wednesday about two known allegations of sexual assaults against Homolka and his husband. In addition, she noticed four cases of possible abuse of power that she wanted to investigate. “I have full authority to act,” said Thöne. “I will and must speak to everyone.”
But the previous chancellor of the college, Margarete Brenker, is still in office: she is busy with “the administrative organization of the present”.
The current head of rabbi training, Rabbi Edward van Voolen, was appalled by the allegations against Homolka and his partner. “That in no way corresponds to the ethical principles that are indispensable for a Jewish training center and the training of rabbis and cantors.” At the Abraham Geiger College, 16 prospective rabbis and seven prospective cantors are currently being trained. “Continuing the successful work is in the interests of all students and liberal Jewry worldwide,” said van Voolen.
In the background, however, a power struggle continues to rage over the college and the authority to interpret what is happening. After the President of the Central Council of Jews, Josef Schuster, massively criticized the fact that Homolka was merely letting his offices rest and that the people involved were the same as before, various groups dealing with the college reported on Wednesday with open letters and press releases Word.
In an open letter, students demanded that the “entire management team of the institute” be replaced. However, it is unclear who actually signed the letter: Some signers of the letter reported to the Geiger College, who allegedly did not know that their name was under the letter.
23 of the 41 graduates of the Geiger College so far also published an open letter. They expressed their support. “The Abraham Geiger College has consciously taken on the historical responsibility to ensure that the legacy of Liberal Judaism in Germany has a place in the present and future of the Jewish communities in Europe,” it says.
The “Union Progressive Jews” (UPJ), of which Homolka was chairman, rejected the “prejudices and bizarre allegations” against Homolka in a press release. The UPJ accused world journalist Alan Posener, whose reporting got the debate about Homolka rolling in May, of using anti-Semitic clichés.
Homolka himself also spoke up for the first time in a long time: He explained to the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” that those who exercise responsibility and use power do not already abuse them. There were no lone decision-makers at the college. In his view, there is still no evidence of the allegations of harassment and intimidation.