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Thursday, November 4, 2010
Germany ordains 1st female rabbi since Holocaust
Germany's Jewish community has ordained its first female rabbi since the Holocaust in an emotional ceremony in Berlin also attended by the country's president celebrating a revival of Jewish life.
The so-called Semikhah marked a key milestone in the renaissance of Jewish life in the capital six decades after the Nazis decimated the once-thriving community, thanks to an influx of immigrants from the former Soviet Union.
Alina Treiger, 31, was born in Ukraine and completed her religious studies in Potsdam outside Berlin.
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Wearing a black robe, she accepted the white prayer shawl alongside two of her male classmates on Thursday.
"Vielen Dank (Thank you)," she whispered twice.
"I was an experiment," she told AFP with a smile ahead of the ceremony, describing the decision by Germany's largely conservative Jewish community to train a woman from eastern Europe to shepherd one of its congregations.
"I unite three cultures in me: the Jewish, the German and that of the former Soviet Union.
"And if I live here in Germany, I will work and hope that I can be of use to the Jewish community."
Treiger's ordination was the first in Germany since Regina Jonas became the world's first female rabbi in 1935 in a ceremony in the city of Offenbach, near Frankfurt.
Jonas, who grew up and was trained in Berlin, was murdered at the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland on October 12, 1944 at the age of 42.
Thursday's ceremony took place under tight security at the Pestalozzi synagogue, built in 1912 and housing a liberal congregation in a quiet corner of western Berlin.
It was attended by German President Christian Wulff and Jewish leaders from around the world.
Germany counted more than 530,000 Jews in 1933, when Hitler came to power.
In 1939, at the start of World War II, only 200,000 remained. Many had emigrated to escape the Nazi killing machine and just a few thousand survived the war.
The Jewish community now counts nearly 110,000 members after Berlin in the 1990s made it easier for Jews from the former Soviet Union to move to Germany and to obtain citizenship.