Five new rabbis. In Hanover, Judaism in Germany is celebrating the ordination of five clergymen who have been trained in recent years at the orthodox “Hildesheimer’schen” seminar in Berlin. Never since 1945 have more rabbis been assigned to a single celebration in Germany. The reason for this is also the corona pandemic, which has made such celebrations impossible since 2020.
fear of an attack
But the location of the celebration, the solemn official parts of which are spoken and sung in Hebrew, is special. The first synagogue in Germany to be built after the Shoah is in Hanover. Recently, at the beginning of October, this place of worship became known nationwide because of a suspected attack. Then, just during the liturgy of Yom Kippur, the highest Jewish holiday, a window in the synagogue shattered with a bang. fear and panic. The community called the police. The authorities investigated for a long time. Just a few days ago, the public prosecutor’s office and the police said that a pigeon had probably flown against the glass.
After a window was damaged on October 5, investigators spent a long time examining the synagogue in Hanover
According to the chairman of the Jewish community in Hanover, Michael Fürst, in his welcoming remarks, the Federal Criminal Police Office “analyzed this using a DNA sample.” “What a dove,” says Fürst, “that flies into the window on Yom Kippur.” It also sounds like doubt.
This probably explains the persistent fear of many Jews in Germany since Yom Kippur 2019. At that time, two people fell victim to an attack by a right-wing extremist on the synagogue in Halle in the nearby streets. The fear of attacks is fueled by attacks every week.
Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who took part in the celebration as a keynote speaker (cover photo), goes into detail about this. Today in Germany, “Jews are defamed, mocked and physically attacked,” he says. Halle didn’t change anything about that, on the contrary. “The number of anti-Semitic crimes is increasing in Germany.” It was not until mid-November that an unknown person fired shots at the door of the rabbi’s house next to the old synagogue in Essen. A synagogue was also damaged in Berlin over the weekend. The Federal President is “shaken” and calls for vigilance. “We mustn’t look away!”
It is the first rabbinical ordination in Germany that Steinmeier takes part in, his second overall. In September 2014, when he was German foreign minister, he celebrated the ordination of four rabbis in Breslau who had trained at the liberal Geiger College in Berlin. Now in Hanover he congratulates new orthodox rabbis.
Orthodox, not liberal
It is remarkable how much Michael Fürst distances himself in his introductory words from the existing form of the liberal current of Judaism. The region south-east of Hanover is generally considered to be the first area in which a progressive orientation of Judaism developed in the 19th century. Until 1938, the first Reformed synagogue in the world was located in the village of Seesen. And now, surprisingly critically, Fürst says that this “core area” of Jewish life has “nothing to do with the term liberal,” although this is often claimed today. Then as now, it was about “modern Judaism”.
The party: Federal President Steinmeier (front row, fourth from the right), to the right Ronald Lauder and Josef Schuster. With the certificates behind them the newly ordained rabbis
The five who will be ordained as rabbis this Monday represent modern orthodox Judaism, especially European Judaism. One of them, Nehorai Daus, was born and raised in Berlin. The other four, Mendel Itkin, Meir Yisroel Myropolskyy, Shimshon Pushenco and Bryan Baruch Weisz, were born in Ukraine, Moldova or England. Most of them have families.
They all learned in the “Hildesheimer’sche Rabbinerseminar” in the center of Berlin. The orthodox learning center on Brunnenstrasse, founded in 1973 by Rabbi Esriel Hildesheimer, was closed and looted by the National Socialists in 1938. It was only reopened in 2009. She is now internationally respected in Jewish orthodoxy.
The heart of Judaism
In their statements recorded as a video, each of the graduates referred to the importance of this teaching house. “For me, she is the heart of Judaism in Germany,” said Myropolskyy, for example. This ultimately shows the plurality of resurrected Judaism in the land of the Shoah. Since 2006, Reform Judaism has ordained liberal rabbis who were trained in Germany. Orthodox rabbis have been ordained since 2009.
The President of the World Jewish Congress, Ronald Lauder, came to Germany especially for the celebration. After the Shoah, he emphasizes, nobody thought that there would be another chance for Jewish life in Germany. Lauder, who massively supports the reconstruction of Jewish life in Central and Eastern Europe with funds from his own foundation, then pays tribute to the commitment of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer (1949-1963) and Willy Brandt (1969-1974). But Lauder also talks about the attack in Halle. Soon after the fact, he stood in front of the synagogue’s wooden door, which stopped the attacker, and stopped. “The government is now taking care of Jewish life in Germany,” he warns.
The Rector of the Berlin Rabbinical Seminary, Rabbi Moshe Farbstein (l), congratulates Rabbi Shimshon Pushenco
The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Josef Schuster, prepares the new rabbis for their tasks. He describes the material concerns of many older members of Jewish communities who have come to Germany from Eastern Europe in recent years and decades and who are now threatened with poverty because politicians have not agreed on hardship regulations and are using them as a “plaything”. Schuster also takes up the conspiracy narratives of right-wing extremists and right-wing populists. Jews would “again become scapegoats” for them.
The Jewish community in Germany is “agitated” and “uncertain”. The extent of anti-Semitism at the documenta art exhibition also contributed to this. “The congregations are the heart of the Jewish community,” Schuster appealed to the new clergy. “Please take good care of her.”