Christian priests have long served an important role in Germany's armed forces, providing soldiers with counseling and guidance. The head of the Jewish community says it's about time the Bundeswehr also hired rabbis.
The head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany on Thursday proposed introducing military rabbis to cater to the spiritual needs of Jewish soldiers serving in the armed forces.
"Seventy years after the end of World War II, it's time to again establish a Jewish military chaplaincy in the Bundeswehr and to build on an old tradition," council president Josef Schuster wrote in a column in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung newspaper.
He said the change would be fitting given the important role Catholic and Protestant priests already have in the ethical education of soldiers.
Need for rabbis, imams
For decades after the war, it was unthinkable for many Jews to enlist in the German army because of the role the Nazi-run military played in the Holocaust, Schuster wrote.
But things have now changed, he added: "Young Jews, of course, consider Germany to be their home."
There are currently around 300 Jewish soldiers serving in the Bundeswehr. Introducing military rabbis based on a treaty with the state, Schuster said, would enrich the "ethical and lifelong education" of all soldiers.
In January, the Social Democrats — the junior partners in Chancellor Angela Merkel's governing coalition — voiced their support for the provision of Jewish and Muslim counsel in the German army.
nm/rt (KNA, epd, dpa)