Commemorating Rabbi Regina Jonas

Regina Jonas in a photograph presumed to have been taken after 1939. Her stamp on the back of the photograph bears the compulsory name of "Sara," which all Jewish women had to bear after 1939 and reads "Rabbi Regina Sara Jonas."
Courtesy of Stiftung "Neue Synagoge Berlin - Centrum Judaicum," Berlin

This October marks the 70th anniversary of the death of Regina Jonas, the first woman ever ordained as a rabbi. Born in Berlin in 1902, Jonas began talking to friends about her desire to become a rabbi when she was still a teen, and later studied under Eduard Banath, who oversaw ordination for the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, a liberal, nondenominational seminary in Berlin. But when Banath died in 1930, Jonas struggled to find another rabbi willing to ordain her. She argued brilliantly for the possibility of women becoming rabbis and eventually won over Rabbi Max Dienemann, executive director of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis, in 1935. Over the next few years, Jonas preached at the Neue Synagogue and lectured to WIZO (the Women’s International Zionist Organization) and local sisterhoods in Berlin, gradually becoming accepted as a spiritual leader for the Jewish community. Even after her deportation to Terezin, she continued to preach and to offer spiritual comfort to her fellow prisoners.

But after her death in Auschwitz, Jonas was forgotten, unmentioned even by the theologian Leo Baeck and psychologist Viktor Frankl, who had known and worked with her. It was only after the fall of the Berlin Wall that her papers—and her story—came to light again.

Inspired by a trip to Berlin and Prague in the footsteps of Regina Jonas in July, co-sponsored by the Jewish Women’s Archive and the American Jewish Archives, rabbis and leaders from across the denominations have partnered to commemorate Jonas’s death and honor her work on Shabbat Bereishit. For those eager to participate in remembering her, we have assembled resources on Jonas, from biographies, articles, and documentaries to samples of her writing and ideas for sermons linking Jonas’s story to Shabbat Bereishit and the High Holidays. We’re eager to hear how different communities choose to remember Jonas, and will be using the hashtag #reginaremembered to share ideas. May her memory be a blessing.

 

Excerpts from the writings of Regina Jonas

Ideas for incorporating the story of Regina Jonas into your sermons

JWA's collection of blog posts by travelers on the Berlin/Prague trip 

 

Remembering Regina Jonas around the web:

Al Jazeera
The Jewish Daily Forward
Rabbi Laura Geller
JTA
Rabbi Amy Eilberg, The Times of Israel 

 

 

Topics: Holocaust, Rabbis
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How to cite this page

Feld, Lisa Batya. "Commemorating Rabbi Regina Jonas ." 29 September 2014. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on August 22, 2019) <https://qa.jwa.org/blog/berlin-prague-2014/commemorating-regina-jonas>.

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