Germany’s Central Council of Jews has selected its next leader. Josef Schuster, an Israeli-born doctor living in Wurzburg and the group’s vice president for the past four years, was voted president of the umbrella organization, which is tasked with overseeing the country’s various Jewish groups. The Central Council’s outgoing leader, Dieter Graumann, announced in October he’d be stepping down, citing the amount of time the position—a voluntary post, not a full-time job—demanded. Schuster, who’s served as president of the Jewish community of Wurzburg and Lower Franconia for more than a decade, ran unopposed.
Graumann, 64, was the organization’s eighth president—and, notably, the first born after the Holocaust. Schuster, who is 60, is the son of two Holocaust survivors who met in a Displaced Persons camp after liberation. His parents, who fled to Israel after the Holocaust, moved back to Germany when Schuster was two years old.
It’s a tough time to be leading the German Jewish community. The commitment required by the position, to which Graumann alluded, has grown considerably as anti-Semitism mounts across Europe in old and new forms. This summer’s Israeli operation in Gaza brought to the fore what appeared to be already existing tensions, and Germany wasn’t immune from the frenzy. In Berlin in July, an anti-Israel protest quickly devolved into plain old anti-Semitism as demonstrators shouted, ‘Jew, Jew, cowardly pig, come on out and fight.’
Schuster certainly has his work cut out for him.
Stephanie Butnick is deputy editor of Tablet Magazine and a host of the Unorthodox podcast.