Thursday, September 14, 2006

First Rabbis Ordained in Germany Since Holocaust

September 14th, 2006 posted by kendall at 5:14 pm

Germany took another long stride out of the shadows of its history today as three men became the first rabbis ordained in this country since the Holocaust.

In a ceremony that blended hope for the future with a somber homage to the past, the three — a German, a Czech, and a South African — stood before a senior rabbi in Dresden’s starkly modern synagogue as he told them they had been singled out, just as in scripture Moses had chosen Joshua. “All of Germany celebrates with us today, and all of Europe as well,” said Rabbi Walter Jacob, the president of a rabbinical seminary in Potsdam, near Berlin, where the three men studied.

“Today, we have made a new beginning,” Rabbi Jacob said, noting that when the Nazis carried out their systematic slaughter of the Jews, it seemed to snuff out forever the future of the Jewish people here.

Now, Germany has a modest but growing Jewish population, thanks to an influx of Russian Jewish immigrants since the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. There are more than 100,000 Jews living here, compared with 30,000 at the time of German reunification, and 500,000 before World War II.

But Germany has a dire shortage of rabbis, not having ordained any since the Nazi regime shut down the rabbinical seminary in Berlin in 1942. Only 30 rabbis are active here, all from abroad.

Two of newly ordained rabbis — Daniel Alter and Tomas Kucera — plan to work in Jewish communities in Germany, while the third — Malcolm Matitiani — will return home to South Africa. All are Progressive Jews, the equivalent of the Reform movement in American Judaism.

“I’m just a committed Jew who loves God and wants to give back a little of what I’ve been given,” said Rabbi Alter, 47, who will serve a population in the northern city of Oldenburg that is heavily Russian.

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