- The Washington Times - Thursday, September 14, 2006

DRESDEN, Germany — Germany yesterday ordained its first rabbis since World War II in an event hailed as a milestone in the rebirth of Jewish life in the country where the Holocaust began.

The three men were given their ordination certificates at the ceremony in Dresden’s modern, stone synagogue, which was rebuilt after the fall of the Berlin Wall — the first in the former East Germany.

Daniel Alter, 47, of Germany, was the first of the three to graduate from the Abraham Geiger College.

He was joined by 35-year-old Tomas Kucera, of the Czech Republic and 38-year-old Malcolm Matitiani, of South Africa. All three wore black robes, with white prayer shawls trimmed with tassels draped around their shoulders.

About 250 people, many of them from Jewish communities across Europe and in Israel, attended the ceremony. Afterward, the governor of Saxony hosted the new rabbis and those attending the ceremony for a reception.

They are the first rabbis to be ordained in Germany since the Nazis destroyed the College of Jewish Studies in Berlin in 1942, midway through the war.

Just before the ceremony, Mr. Matitiani said he was “excited and happy” and that there was a twofold significance to being ordained in Germany.

He said it is important for him “because of the scholarship and the symbol of reviving Judaism in Germany.”

“It’s the birthplace of progressive Judaism and it has a long history of Jewish scholarship,” he said.

Germany had a thriving Jewish community of more than 500,000 when the Nazis were voted into power in 1933 and began to implement their anti-Semitic policies, prompting many to emigrate.

About 200,000 German Jews were among the 6 million European Jews killed by the Nazis, leaving only between 10,000 to 15,000 in Germany in the first years after the war.

After decades of little growth, the German Jewish community has more than tripled since reunification in 1990, due in large part to a government program to take in Jews from the former Soviet Union. More than 100,000 Jews now live in 102 established communities throughout the country.

“After the Holocaust, many people could never have imagined that Jewish life in Germany could blossom again,” German President Horst Koehler said before yesterday’s event. “That is why the first ordination of rabbis in Germany is a very special event indeed.”

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