New rabbis for German Jewish community

By Toby Axelrod, September 2, 2010

Two young rabbis were ordained in ceremonies in Leipzig on Sunday, in another sign of the revival of Jewish life in Germany.

Shlomo Afanasev and Moshe Baumel, students of the Rabbinerseminar zu Berlin, received their semichah in ceremonies at the historic synagogue of Leipzig.

They are the second pair of rabbis trained at this Orthodox school, a programme of the US-based Ronald S Lauder Foundation, which is under the supervision of Rabbi Chanoch Ehrentreu of London.

Both new rabbis were born in the former Soviet Union, reflecting the demographics of Germany's Jewish community.

Some 80 per cent of the current Jewish population of about 200,000 emigrated to Germany from FSU countries in the last 20 years.

That influx of Jews "is not only producing the communities who want the rabbis, it is also [now] producing the rabbis themselves", Rabbi Joshua Spinner, director of the yeshivah, said.

In addition to Rabbi Ehrentreu, guests at the ceremony included Meir Hildesheimer of Bar Ilan University in Israel, a descendant of the founder of a Berlin seminary that was shut down by the Nazis in 1938; World Jewish Congress President and philanthropist Ronald S Lauder; and the president of new York's Yeshiva University, Richard Joel.

The Lauder foundation also supports a religious school for Jewish women. There have been several marriages between attendees of the men's yeshivah and the women's seminary, and new kindergartens and elementary schools have developed in the lively district of former east Berlin that houses both institutions.

Last updated: 2:34pm, September 2 2010