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Regina Jonas

(1902 - 1944)

Ordained by the head of the Liberal Rabbis’ Association of Offenbach, Rabbi Dr. Max Dienemann, in Germany in 1935, Regina Jonas became the first female rabbi.

Born in Berlin, Jonas attended Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums, the Academy for the Science of Judaism, a seminary for liberal rabbis and educators. As a part of her appeal to be ordained, Jonas wrote a thesis entitled, “Can a Woman Be a Rabbi According to Halachic Sources?” which concluded, based on biblical, Talmudic, and rabbinical sources, that yes, women could become rabbis.

After ordination, Jonas worked in a small community of German Jews up until she was ordered by the Nazis into forced labor in a factory, where she continued to teach and preach. On November 6, 1942, after having her property confiscated, Jonas was arrested by the Gestapo and deported to Theresienstadt.

While at the concentration camp, Jonas helped psychologist Viktor Frankl with his crisis intervention service to improve the possibility of surviving by meeting arriving trains at the station to help people cope with shock and disorientation. A hand-written list of 24 of her lectures entitled Lectures of the One and Only Woman Rabbi, Regina Jonas, still exists and can still be found in the archives of Theresienstadt. Five lectures are about the history of Jewish women, five deal with Talmudic topics, two deal with Biblical themes, three with pastoral issues, and nine offer general introductions to Jewish beliefs, ethics, and festivals.

Regina Jonas remained at Theresienstadt for two years until her deportation to Auschwitz. She was murdered there at age 42 on December 12, 1944.

Source: haGalil onLine.

Photo: CC BY-SA 4.0 via Wikimedia Commons.