Thursday, Nov 4th, 2010 will become an important date in the history of Judaism in Germany. In the Pestalozzi St. synagogue in Berlin, three young people have been ordained as rabbis, amongst them a woman, Alina Treiger. I met Alina some years ago when she was a regular shabbat guest at a friends’ place, a lovely young woman just arrived from the Ukraine and very enthusiastic about becoming a rabbi. She would not have expected at the time that the President of the Federal Republic of Germany would attend the ordination ceremony, thus attracting the attention of every major newspaper in Germany and the European countries… “Wow!” is how Rabbi Daniel Freelander started his speech. Freelander, VP of the Union for Reform Judaism, pointed out the fact that this was the first time ever and anywhere that an officiating Head of State attended a rabbinical ordination! Germany’s President Christian Wulff was greeted by 35 rabbis in the courtyard of the synagogue, while approximately 500 representatives of German Jewry were excited to greet him as the service started. Alina and her fellow rabbis-to-be managed to stay relaxed and calm, supported by their teachers from Abraham Geiger College.
The first ordination of rabbis in Germany after the Shoah was held in 2006 in Dresden. Seventy-five years ago, Rabbi Regina Jonas became the world’s first female rabbi, ordained under Leo Baeck. Jonas was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944. Alina is now the second woman ever ordained as a rabbi in Germany and the first since the Shoah. What a celebration to commemorate the 200th anniversary of Reform Judaism in German! For us German Jews attending the celebration it was so moving to hear how the rabbis from abroad stressed that the event was a renaissance of Reform in Germany and the beginning of a new area of Reform Judaism developing in this country.
After years of hesitancy by Jews from abroad, it was so heart-warming to experience the appreciation and feeling of being embraced here in the German Jewish community. Charlotte Knobloch, the Grand Dame of the German Jewish community, and still head of the Central Council for Jews in Germany attended the ceremony and it was obviously an amazing experience for her. I have just quoted her last week in our blog saying that she considers Germany once again “a homeland for Jews” and that world Jewry expects a leading role from the Jewish community in Germany.
“Wow!” – that was exactly what we felt, myself and members of the Milk & Honey team, when we looked at each other after the ceremony. What a day!
Shabbat shalom from Berlin!