Germany’s Bundeswehr has appointed its first military rabbi in nearly a century, in a move applauded by Jewish leaders across the continent.
After an appointment ceremony in Leipzig on 21 June, Rabbi Mordechai Eliezer Bala will supervise pastoral care for around 300 Jewish soldiers currently serving in the country’s armed forces.
It is a far cry from the 1930s, when Hitler purged the German army of Jews, and comes after 18 months of planning between German Defence Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer and the Central Council of Jews in Germany.
The German Bundestag (parliament) approved the decision to renew the position of military rabbis in the Bundeswehr (German military) last year.
Council President Dr Josef Schuster announced the appointment of Bala, who is a member of the German Rabbinical Committee and winner of the Maharal Matanel prize at the biennial convention of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER). Up to 10 more rabbis will be appointed to the Chief Military Rabbinate.
“Apart from the practical benefit to 300 Jewish soldiers serving in the Bundeswehr, this is a clear statement from Germany,” said CER president Pinchas Goldschmidt. “In this appointment, I see a clear statement sent out to Europe and the whole world, especially in these challenging times; no, in the great thousand, to antisemitism.”
Kramp-Karrenbauer, who submitted the bill to restore military rabbinical activity, said: “This is a historic day for Germany. It is a return to an ancient tradition and a sign of solidarity and recognition towards Jewish soldiers.”
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