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First Orthodox rabbis ordained in Germany in 70 years

For the first time in more than seven decades, two Orthodox rabbis have been ordained in an event heralded both by Jewish leaders and German politicians.

Avraham Radbil, left and Zsolt Balla during their ordination in Munich

Rabbis Avraham Radbil, left and Zsolt Balla during their ordination in Munich

The 25-year-old Ukrainian Avraham Radbil and 28-year-old Hungarian Zsolt Balla were handed their certificates on Tuesday at the new synagogue in Munich. The ceremony was attended by senior German political figures and Jewish leaders.

The two newly-ordained rabbis were trained at a seminary in Berlin, which began courses in 2005. They have positions awaiting them in the cities of Leipzig and Cologne.

A "small miracle"

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Charlotte Knobloch, called the event a “small miracle” that she would not have “believed possible just a few years ago.”

“Jewish life without rabbis is unthinkable,” Knobloch said, adding that the Nazis' brutal reign destroyed the tradition. “But so that survival can be turned into life, spiritual and cultural power is necessary,” she said.

“We begin with the tradition of what was formally the most important school for German Orthodoxy. Because we believe that Judaism has a chance here,” she added.

The Nazis closed the last Jewish seminary, the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies in Berlin, in 1942.

The graduations on Tuesday follow the 2006 ordination of three liberal rabbis in Dresden - before that, most rabbis employed in Germany since the Holocaust had been trained abroad.

The government has funded training in an effort to heal the wounds of the Holocaust.

"Historic moment for Jewish revival"

German Interior Minister Wolfgang Schaueble called the ordinations "a historic moment for the revival of the Jewish community in Germany and all of Europe."

The minister said Germany was grateful that Jews were migrating back to the country.

"The battle against every form of anti-Semitism is a duty of government," he added.

Some 600,000 Jews lived in Germany before the World War II, but the figure declined to around 12,000 after 1945.

Today, there are around 110,000 Jews living in Germany.

Editor: Trinity Hartman

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