Dresden gets rabbi back, 70 years after the Shoah

By Anna Thewalt and Torunn Lied, May 10, 2013
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Rabbi Alexander Nachama

Rabbi Alexander Nachama

Last week was a historical one in Dresden. The Jüdische Gemeinde zu Dresden, the Jewish congregation in the city, finally got its rabbi back — more than 70 years after Rabbi Albert Wolf had to flee Dresden and Germany.

And as if to underscore that this is a moment of renewal, the new rabbi, Alexander Nachama, is just 29 years old.

How does Rabbi Nachama feel about it? “Good. But I don’t actually feel so young in this position,” he said. He was ordained by the non-denominational Aleph Rabbinic Programme in the US and graduated from the Abraham-Geiger-Kolleg Rabbinic Seminar at Potsdam University. “As a child in Berlin, I held pretend worship services and started to lead prayers in the synagogue when I was 14.”

Rabbi Nachama’s installation took place in the Dresden synagogue. The young rabbi is now part of a significant family tradition. His grandfather, Estrongo, who was widely known for his expressive singing, survived Auschwitz and became chief cantor for the Jewish congregation in Berlin after the war. Alexander’s father, Andreas, who was present at his induction, is a rabbi in the German capital.

Young Rabbi Nachama stresses that he stands on his own two feet as a congregation leader in Dresden. Before the Second World War, there were more than 5,000 Jewish inhabitants in the city. By 1945, only a few were left. Rabbi Nachama now aims to engage the younger generation of Jews so that the congregation, which today has 720 members, can keep growing.

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Dr Dieter Graumann, sees Rabbi Nachama’s installation as part of a positive trend: “The growing numbers of both female and male rabbis show how the Jewish congregations in Germany once more blossom. Seventy years after the Shoah, this is close to a wonder, and we welcome it from the bottom of our hearts.”

Last updated: 9:45am, May 10 2013