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Regina Jonas – The First Woman Rabbi

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Rabbi Prof Dr Elisa Klapheck
Wiener Holocaust Library

Can women hold rabbinical office? This was one of the questions discussed at the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies, Berlin, in the 1920s and 1930s. And no one was better suited to provide an answer to this than Regina Jonas, a student at the Higher Institute who became the first female rabbi in the world in 1935. Prior to her ordination, Jonas answered the question about women’s access to the rabbinate in a halachic treatise that she submitted in 1930 as her final halachic project. Her biographer, Rabbi Prof Dr Elisa Klapheck, will share insights into a life that inspired a new kind of women’s participation in Jewish religious practice. This lecture explores the work of a determined woman who was passionate about Judaism and who was also beloved by the people whom she served in Nazi Germany and after her deportation to Theresienstadt camp in 1942. Regina Jonas was murdered in Auschwitz in 1944; her work still resonates today.

Rabbi Prof Dr Elisa Klapheck is a Liberal rabbi in the Jewish community of Frankfurt am Main and a professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Paderborn. Her research engages with women and Judaism, early Jewish feminists like Margarete Susman, Regina Jonas, and Bertha Pappenheim, and religious practice in a political context.


This event is co-organised by the Wiener Holocaust Library.