Regina Jonas made history as the first woman rabbi after writing a thesis arguing for the halakhic permissibility of women’s ordination. Jonas studied at the Hochschule für die Wissenschaft des Judentums, a seminary in Berlin. The school only offered female students teaching degrees, but Jonas hoped they would make an exception for her. Her 1930 thesis argued that there was no law forbidding women to become rabbis, that there were many biblical and historical examples of women teaching and arbitrating Jewish law, and that while women were not obligated to observe time-bound mitzvot, a woman could choose to take on those obligations. Despite her professors’ praise for her thesis, Jonas was only granted a teaching degree. She became a brilliant and beloved teacher at several girls’ schools in Berlin but continued to study Talmud and lobby for ordination. On December 27, 1935, Rabbi Max Dienemann, executive director of the Conference of Liberal Rabbis, ordained Jonas. She worked as a pastoral counselor at the Jewish Hospital in Berlin and as more and more rabbis were deported, she began preaching at liberal synagogues. Even after her deportation to Theresienstadt she continued to preach, teach, and inspire her fellow inmates until her final deportation to Auschwitz.
How to cite this page
Jewish Women's Archive. "Regina Jonas ." (Viewed on December 10, 2019) <https://qa.jwa.org/people/jonas-regina>.
Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.