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Three rabbis are ordained in Berlin
Image: picture alliance/dpa/B. von Jutrczenka

Berlin ordains first Orthodox rabbis since Holocaust

October 9, 2018

For the first time since World War II, three Orthodox rabbis have been anointed in Berlin. The Nazis shut down the city's Jewish seminary in 1938, and more than seven decades would pass before it was reopened.


Three graduates of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary were inducted into office in a historic ceremony in the German capital on Tuesday.

They are the first rabbis to be ordained in Berlin since the Nazis began their murderous campaign against Jews in the 1930s.

Among the dignitaries marking the occasion in the Beth Zion Synagogue were German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas and Berlin Mayor Michael Müller.

"The fact that Berlin — the place where deportations and extermination was planned and decided — is once again home to the largest Jewish community in Germany, is ... an undeserved gift," Maas told the audience. "We must preserve this gift with all our strength."

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Anti-Semitism in Berlin

Fears of rising anti-Semitism

Maas warned against a rise in anti-Semitism in Germany, stressing that Hitler salutes and hate speech — witnessed at recent far-right protests in the eastern city of Chemnitz — were simply unacceptable.

"Together we must defend our freedom and our open society," he said. "Our responsibility to protect Jewish life never ends." 

The president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, who was also present, urged the non-Jewish majority to speak out against anti-Jewish sentiment, which he said was spreading at an "alarming speed" across the country.

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 'A safe place for Jews'

Foreign Minister Maas wished the three seminary graduates Alexander Kahanovsky, Shraga Yaakov Ponomarov and Shlomo Sajatz luck in their posts. "In their communities, they will help to ensure that Germany continues to be a safe place for Jews," he said.

Three Jewish cantors — preachers in the synagogue — were also ordained in Tuesday's ceremony.

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The Berlin Rabbinical Seminary was founded in 1873 to train rabbis in the Jewish Orthodox tradition. The Nazis closed the institution in 1938, and it was only reopened in 2009.

 nm/rt (dpa, epd, Reuters)

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