Rabbis ordained in landmark German ceremony

14th September 2006, Comments 0 comments

14 September 2006, DRESDEN, GERMANY - Three Jewish men were ordained as rabbis on Thursday in the first event of its kind to take place in Germany since the end of World War II. "It is a milestone, a very moving signal for Jewish life in Germany," said Education Minister Annette Schavan after the landmark ceremony at Dresden's main synagogue. "After more than 60 years it is akin to a new beginning for (Jewish) community life," the minister said. German politicians and Jews from around the world were among

14 September 2006

DRESDEN, GERMANY - Three Jewish men were ordained as rabbis on Thursday in the first event of its kind to take place in Germany since the end of World War II.

"It is a milestone, a very moving signal for Jewish life in Germany," said Education Minister Annette Schavan after the landmark ceremony at Dresden's main synagogue.

"After more than 60 years it is akin to a new beginning for (Jewish) community life," the minister said.

German politicians and Jews from around the world were among those who witnessed Czech national Thomas Kucera, Daniel Alter from Germany and South African Malcolm Mattitiani take their vows.

The trio are graduates of the Abraham Geiger College, the only rabbinical seminary in Germany, which was established in 1999 to meet the need for more rabbis by the country's growing Jewish population.

Kucera, 35, and Alter, 47, will serve Jewish communities in Germany, but Mattitiani, 35, is returning to his native South Africa to take up a position at a synagogue in Cape Town.

The ordinations were the first in Germany since 1940, two years before the Nazis closed the last Jewish seminary, the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies in Berlin.

Dresden, once a thriving centre of Jewish life, was specially chosen to host the ordination ceremony at its new synagogue, which was inaugurated in 2001.

"It is a day of victory," said Rabbi Saloman Almekias-Siegl, who does pastoral work in Dresden region. "Today, we are turning over a new page in our book."

The rabbi said the Nazis had failed to eradicate the Jews, and today's neo-Nazis and extreme-right political parties had not been able to hold back the renaissance of Jewish life in Germany.

Some of those present in the congregation had been forced to flee the persecution in Nazi Germany and could be seen fighting back their tears during the moving ordination ceremony.

"We remember those who died in the flames of the Shoa, who were murdered in racial delusion - 6 million men, women and children," said Edward van Voolen, a rabbi at the Geiger College.

For Rabbi Allan Howard, who travelled to Dresden from Buffalo in the United States, it was the trip of a lifetime.

"It is the beginning of a new era in liberal German Judaism, a religious revaluation," said the 72-year-old, one of the founding directors of the Geiger College.

Some 600,000 Jews lived in Germany before the war, but the figure declined to around 12,000 after 1945 and today stands at around 110,000.

The Jewish population has grown by more than three times since unification in 1990, largely as a result of a government programme to accept Jews from the states of the former Soviet Union.

But only a quarter of the 102 Jewish communities in the country have their own rabbis. Others have to rely on the services of rabbis that visit from Israel, Britain, or even the United States.

The new rabbis completed a five-year course of study at the Abraham Geiger College, which is part of the University of Potsdam where there is a chair of rabbinical studies and liturgy.

There are currently 12 students from Germany, Russia, and Ukraine attending the college, but the next ordinations are not due to take place until 2008.

DPA

Subject: German news

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