Why are Jews fighting among themselves in Belgrade and what's the fans' role? These are the answers
The situation is tense ahead of the next Synagogue service to be held on Friday
The conflict between Jews in front of the Synagogue was certainly not the news we expected to hear. A smaller community, that has a difficult, painful past, is at least expected to be united and to solve its problems with dignity.
But, let's not be hypocritical, what is happening throughout society has also happened in the Jewish community in Serbia. Power struggle, accusations of misuse of money, and violence. And that's not the news that can surprise us.
Let's start from the beginning. Two days ago, the police arrested two people, supporters of Danilo Medic, who heads one of the Jewish community factions, because they tried to cut chains on the synagogue in downtown Belgrade. In front of the synagogue were a large number of police officers and some 30 supporters of the faction led by Danilo Medic, who withdrew after a while, urging Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic to inform himself about the case.
The Jewish community in Belgrade, led by Medic, claims that Rabbi Isak Asiel and a group of football supporters known as "Alkatraz" burst into the synagogue, breaking objects, while those gathered in front of the synagogue called for Asiel to come out and resign as a rabbi.
Faction led by Medic: "They've handed our temple to football supporters"
A day later they sent the following statement to the media:
"Around 9 pm, an inconceivable bandit incident unprecedented in the history of our community occurred. On Shabbat, after the last evening service, Isak Asiel opened the synagogue's gates with a remote control and let in a group of about twenty masked (football) supporters who violently stormed the temple. The doors to the kosher kitchen, kindergarten and other official premises in the synagogue were broken.
At this point, according to testimonies from the scene, the hooligans - members of the supporter group and the far right - threw out the JOB security and were in the temple together with Asiel, and closed the gates with chains with his help.
With this criminal act, Asiel delivered our synagogue into the hands of strangers and abusers who are currently on the premises of the synagogue with him," said a part of the Jewish community led by Danilo Medic.
They also accused Rabbi Isak Asiel of allegedly "cooperating with the extreme right", that is, of signing an agreement with Bosko Obradovic, the leader of the Dveri Movement. They also say that at the service for Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashana, Miroljub Petrovic and Misa Vacic, the leader of the Serbian right wing, were in the synagogue.
We tried to contact this faction by email yesterday, but also using ae phone number listed below the statement. However, no one picked up the phone.
We fared similarly when we called the other side, Rabbi Isak Asiel. He briefly informed us that he was unable to speak due to stress and referred us to Sasa Jinker, the newly elected President of the Jewish Community of Belgrade (JOB).
Asiel-led faction: "They were spending money for unintended purposes and lost trust"
Medic was elected president of the Jewish Community of Belgrade in October 2017, and then, according to Jinker, he was dismissed in December 2018. Subsequently, Jinker was elected to his post.
"Danilo Medic was recalled at the assembly held in December 2018 with 231 votes. By the way, he was elected by the Assembly in October 2017 with 187 votes, while I was elected with significantly more - 334 votes. We can't talk about two factions of the Jewish community, because the Medic-led part is very small and can't even be called a faction," Jinker said.
He stated that Medic was recalled on suspicion of behaving non-transparently and spending their money, and that community members didn't know where that money went. It is worth noting here that the disputes started when the community started to receive 950,000 euros a year under the Restitution Law.
The conflict has not waned since March, when Medic was recalled by the Assembly. It all culminated in attempts by both factions to occupy the Synagogue.
"Medic and his leaders on Friday changed the locks and passed an act that the rabbi would no longer serve starting on Monday. And then we, that is, the larger Jewish Community of Belgrade (JOB), on Sunday decided that no one was allowed to enter the Synagogue in order to calm the situation until the next service, which is on Friday. They tried to get in by force and it's good that we have informed the police about everything, who prevented major incidents," Jinker states.
Asked if it was true that the Synagogue was "defended" by supporters of Partizan's Alkatraz group, Jinker replies that there were only the youth of the Jewish community.
"From the Facebook profile of one member came the news that fans had allegedly raided the Synagogue. He says his profile was hacked and he reported it to the police," Jinker replies.
Ministry of Justice: They should fix relations within the communty themselves
Additional confusion is created by the fact that the Ministry of Justice still has not registered Jinker as the new president of the JOB.
This ministry told our portal that they will continue the process of registering the change of the representative of the Jewish Community of Belgrade when the final decision of a competent court is rendered.
"The Ministry of Justice points out that it has been notified by the Higher Court in Belgrade that a lawsuit has been filed with that court by the Jewish Community of Belgrade for the annulment of the decisions of the Extraordinary Assembly of the Jewish Community of Belgrade of December 2, 2018 and March 17, 2019, which refer to the change of the representative of the Jewish Community of Belgrade. Based on his information, the Ministry, in accordance with the Law on General Administrative Procedure, adopted a decision in mid-June to suspend the process of registering the change of the representative of the Jewish Community of Belgrade," they said in a reply sent to Telegraf.rs.
They also add that the Ministry of Justice and the Directorate for Relations with Churches and Religious Communities have no jurisdiction within the Constitution and law to regulate relationships within churches and religious communities.
"That is exclusively a matter of their internal competence and organization, that is, their autonomy in accordance with the Constitution and laws," concluded the Ministry of Justice.
Video: Clash at the Synagogue in Belgrade