Sunday, September 17, 2006

First Rabbis Ordained in Germany Since WWII

In a small but symbolic step, three rabbis were ordained in Dresden, Germany, the first time Germany has had a rabbinical ordination in 64 years. The ceremony was considered significant enough that it was broadcast live on television and prompted congratulatory comments from both German President Horst Kohler

a very special occasion indeed
and German Chancellor Angela Merkel.

This is a moment of hope that these first rabbis to be ordained in Germany since 1942 will be followed by many more.
Since the Nazi destruction of the College of Jewish Studies in Berlin in 1942, Germany has had to import rabbis, mostly from Israel and the United States. The 1999 opening of the Abraham Geiger College near Berlin will now help to serve the small, but growing Jewish population of Germany, a community many doubted would ever return to Germany. In the early 1930’s, the Jewish population of Germany was about 500,000. In the 1980’s, it was about 15,000. Today, the Jewish community numbers about 115,000 and is growing, due almost entirely to the influx of Soviet Jews, a result of Germany’s 1990 relaxation of immigration laws.

Casting a shadow over this encouraging development is the recent news that Neo-Nazis seem poised to win a number of Parliamentary seats in the upcoming elections. Germany’s Jewish community still has a long road ahead of them.

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