The Central Council of Jews in Germany has commissioned the Cologne law firm Gercke Wollschläger to investigate allegations of sexual harassment and abuse of power at the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam. In addition, the experts would also work in the Leo Baeck Foundation, the Zacharias Frankel College, the Ernst Ludwig Ehrlich Studienwerk, the Union of Progressive Jews and the General Rabbi Conference, as the Central Council announced on Thursday in Berlin . The institutions mentioned had expressly agreed to the investigation.
The law firm Gercke Wollschläger is also known for an expert opinion on cases of abuse in the Archdiocese of Cologne, commissioned by Cardinal Rainer Maria Woelki. The Central Council explained that she would interview those responsible and employees as well as potential victims or other affected persons.
In order to ensure a thorough and independent investigation, the discussions and their evaluation would take several months. The results of the investigation can be expected around the turn of the year 2022/2023. The evaluation should also contain recommendations for action to eliminate identified deficits and to prevent future deficits in connection with sexualized harassment and violence and other abuse of power.
The allegations of sexual harassment of students are directed at a former lecturer at the college and the criticism of how it was handled is directed at the previous rector, Rabbi Walter Homolka. Since media reports about the scandal, he has not exercised his offices in the Jewish community and at the University of Potsdam until the facts have been clarified. According to the University of Potsdam, a commission of inquiry into the case was set up a few weeks ago.
In the morning, the college had announced that the former Berlin Secretary of State for Finance, Gabriele Thöne (64), had been appointed as director on an interim basis. Above all, the lawyer should work up the allegations against the training center and “put their restructuring into practice”. The new management team around Rabbi Edward van Voolen and Chancellor Anne-Margarete Brenker want to reform the college. The appointment of Thönes is the first step.