Holland ordains its first homegrown liberal rabbis

By Toby Axelrod, September 4, 2008

Holland has five new homegrown rabbis, thanks to a new liberal rabbinical institute.

The new rabbis received their ordination in the 1775 Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue in the Hague last week from Rabbi David Lilienthal of the Robert A Levisson Institute, founded in 2004.

All five - Tamarah Benima, Marianne van Praag, Albert Ringer, Navah-Tehila Shmuelit-Livingstone and Kineret Sittig - live in Holland and took part in the five-year, part-time programme while continuing their other careers, which include journalism, computer science and law-firm assistant.

A part-time programme is unusual but was approved by numerous international Reform and Liberal bodies.

Rabbi Lilienthal, ordained at the Leo Baeck College in London in 1971, served as Holland's main liberal rabbi from 1971 until 2004. The Swedish-born son of refugees from Germany and Russia, he told the JC his dream was to encourage people from Holland who wished to pursue rabbinical studies but could not afford to do so abroad, emphasising that the institute was dedicated to providing homegrown rabbis and teachers in Holland.

The institute was named for the late Robert A Levisson, a prominent member of the Liberal Jewish Community in the Netherlands, founder of the post-war Liberal Jewish Community in The Hague and of the Centre for Information and Documentation on Israel, who died in 2001.

There are some 40,000 Jews in Holland, about 4,000 members of Reform congregations.

Last updated: 1:40pm, September 4 2008