Germany ordains first female rabbi since Holocaust

Thu Nov 4, 2010 3:38pm EDT
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By Michelle Martin

BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany ordained its first female rabbi since the Holocaust on Thursday, marking a major step in the reintegration of Jews into modern German life.

In the glare of international media, Alina Treiger followed in the footsteps of Regina Jonas, who in 1935 was the first female to be appointed a rabbi in Germany.

Jonas, from Berlin, was murdered by the Nazis in the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland in 1944.

The Ukrainian-born Treiger said she was thrilled to be ordained, at a ceremony at a synagogue in Berlin, with President Christian Wulff and hundreds of people in attendance, two centuries after the birth of Liberal Judaism in Germany.

"It's a really exciting day for me. It's not normal for a woman to be a rabbi and I didn't know it was even possible when I was younger," she told German television ZDF. "I'm just happy to be able to share this day with so many people."

Germany's Jewish community has grown quickly since the collapse of the former Soviet Union, which prompted an influx of Jews to the country, fuelling a need for more rabbis.

Only a handful of Jews remained in Germany after the war, but today the population is believed to be around 200,000. Before Hitler took power in 1933, there were as many as 570,000.

President Wulff said Treiger's historic achievement was a further step toward reconciliation in a country where the Nazis had masterminded the murder of some 6 million European Jews.   Continued...

<p>Rabbi Alina Treiger (2ndL) stands amongst male colleagues during her ordination the Pestalozzi strasse Synagogue in Berlin November 4, 2010. REUTERS/Odd Andersen/Pool</p>