Thursday, June 4, 2009

First Orthodox Rabbis Ordained in Germany in 70 Years

First Orthodox Rabbis Ordained in Germany in 70 Years

Two Orthodox rabbis have been ordained in Munich in a ceremony that hasn't taken place in Germany since World War II. The event marks a milestone for Jewish life in Germany.

Marking a historic moment for Judaism in Germany, two Orthodox rabbis were ordained at Munich's Ohel Jakob Synagogue on Tuesday -- the first such ceremony in over 70 years.

The two new rabbis -- Hungarian Zsolt Balla and Ukrainian Avraham Radbil -- are the first to complete studies at the new Hildesheimer Rabbinical Seminary in Berlin.

Present at the ordination ceremony were Charlotte Knobloch, president of Germany's Central Council of Jews, and Joseph Sitruk, president of the Conference of European Rabbis, as well as German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble.

Knobloch said the rabbis were the "spiritual pillars" necessary for reviving Jewish life in Germany and that the milestone was a "small miracle" -- one which she couldn't have imagined happening as recently as a few years ago. "The Jewish infrastructure, which is emerging in many places in the country, is now receiving a stable spiritual foundation," Knobloch said.

The rabbis represent the return of Judaism to Germany in more ways than one. Their backgrounds attest to the multicultural nature of Germany's synagogues today -- roughly 200,000 Eastern European immigrants make up the majority of Germany's new Jewish communities. Balla has lived in Germany since 2003 while Radbil moved to Leipzig with his family when he was 12 years old.

Schäuble described the ordination as a "theological event that goes beyond the bounds of Judaism in Germany." He emphasized the importance of reviving Jewish life and culture for Germany as well as the importance of protecting this effort. "The fight against every form of anti-Semitism in Germany is a duty of every German government," he said.

The rabbinical school was originally founded in 1873 by Dr. Esriel Hildesheimer, a German rabbi, but was closed by the Nazis in 1938. It was reopened in 2005 and currently has nine students.

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