You are here

Share Share Share Share Share Share Share
Regina Jonas

Photo by Gail Reimer

In the footsteps of Regina Jonas

Regina Jonas Remembered

The first woman rabbi, ordained in Germany in 1935, Regina Jonas served the Jewish community of Berlin and continued to help guide the Jewish community after her deportation to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. But after her death in Auschwitz, her story was lost for decades. In 2014, for the 70th anniversary of her death, a group of women rabbis and scholars traveled to Germany and retraced Rabbi Jonas’s journey, reading her sermons, discussing her impact, and placing a memorial plaque in a moving ceremony to honor her memory. Here, you can read excerpts of Jonas’s writing, learn more about her life, and discover the voices of the women who vowed never to let Rabbi Regina Jonas be forgotten again.

Regina Jonas Kiosk, Berlin, Germany, Cropped

Short Film: In the Footsteps of Regina Jonas

Who was the first woman rabbi and why don’t we know about her? Watch the documentary short film about the journey of women rabbis to discover their foremother, 70 years after her death.

Regina Jonas, circa 1939, Cropped

Regina Jonas: Teaching and Sermon ideas

by Lisa Batya Feld

To honor the yartzeit of Regina Jonas, we encourage you to incorporate her story into your sermons and teachings for Shabbat Bereishit and the holidays. Here are some ideas to get you started.

Regina Jonas, circa 1939, Cropped

Commemorating Rabbi Regina Jonas

by Lisa Batya Feld

October of 2014 marked the 70th anniversary of the death of Regina Jonas, the first woman ever ordained as a rabbi. But after her death in Auschwitz, Jonas was forgotten, unmentioned, and it was only after the fall of the Berlin Wall that her papers—and her story—came to light again.

Rabbi Sandy Sasso at Prague Jewish Cemetery, Cropped

Building a Memory

by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

We stared at a photograph of Regina Jonas, the sole image that remained. In the formal portrait, she wore a rabbinic robe and her young face was dignified and serious. I yearned for photographs of her teaching, laughing, and loving, images of a full life. But there were none.

Regina Jonas Plaque

Honoring the Real First Woman Rabbi

by Rabbi Amy Eilberg

Rabbi Regina Jonas’s story had been written out of history twice—once because the Nazis robbed her of life and again because the post-war Jewish community was unready to celebrate her story.

Volker Beck

German Leaders Speak Out Against Anti-Semitism

by Gail Reimer

Just days before leading German newspapers called for an end to hatred against Jews, our group heard from two German dignitaries who were deeply concerned about the new wave of anti-Semitism infusing protests against Israel’s operations in Gaza. Both MP Volker Beck and Sybilla Bendig of the Foreign Office were clearly shocked by slogans and chants they didn’t think possible in postwar Germany.

Rabbah Sara Hurwitz, Cropped

Connecting Across the Divide

by Gail Reimer

The pioneering American women rabbis who were the first to be ordained by their denominations joined with their counterparts in Europe in a public forum to talk about their journeys to the rabbinate and experiences as rabbis. Or that was the plan.

Rabbis Amy Eilberg, Sandy Sasso, and Sally Priesand, 2014

Visiting the Regina Jonas Archive at the Centrum Judaicum

by Gail Reimer

As we began our trip, some participants focused on Regina Jonas—honoring her, standing on her shoulders. Others spoke more generally about women, noting their interest in the "place of women in different worlds," or "a passion for women." And they came to the day with varied emotions—anticipation, anxiety, optimism, seeking “internal reconciliation” and hoping to “find themselves” here.

Tallit

The "Lost" Story of Regina Jonas

by Karla Goldman

A major theme of our shared JWA/AJA journey is the recovery of the lost narrative of Regina Jonas. We are here in the company of America’s pioneering women rabbis to bring Fraulein Rabbiner Jonas back into the story we tell of them and those who followed.

Flag Map of Germany

Confronting Germany

by Rabbi Amy Eilberg

I have never been to Germany before, and this is no accident. But over the decades, I had come to be in relationship with young Germans who were profoundly remorseful about the Holocaust. I was ready to explore a new personal relationship with the German people, and to travel there when the right opportunity presented itself. This trip is that opportunity.

Rabbi Lucy H.F. Dinner and Rabbi Denise Eger

A Prayer for Safe Travel

by Rabbi Lucy H.F. Dinner

Each of the dead, those who were murdered in the Holocaust decades ago and those who died at the hands of terror on the Malaysian plane, leaves a life unfinished. Each of them had a passion, each of them had a vision, aspirations, accomplishments.

Rabbi Sandy Sasso

"We Who Are Her Successors": Honoring Rabbi Regina Jonas

by Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso

Our knowledge about Rabbi Regina Jonas has been limited. I had heard that she was ordained in Berlin, her thesis was on whether women could be rabbis, and that she had died during the Holocaust. I was intrigued, but there was not much more information to fill in the blank spaces. This trip has opened up a wealth of material about her life, her vision and her contributions.

Historic Berlin

Before the Plane Trip, A Personal Journey

by Judith Kates

For many years, I resisted going to Germany or Eastern Europe, but when I learned about this trip to Berlin and Prague, I spoke without thinking: “I’d really like to go on that journey.”

Regina Jonas, circa 1939, Cropped

Remembering Rabbi Regina Jonas

by Rabbi Sally J. Priesand

I decided I wanted to be a rabbi when I was sixteen years old. At that time, I had never heard of Regina Jonas. I was well into my rabbinic training before one of my professors mentioned her to me. He knew her personally, having attended the same academic institution in Germany. I discovered, however, that very little had been written about her and that basically her story had been lost, as was the case for so many other women in the Jewish community whose stories were hidden away.

Regina Jonas Kiosk, Berlin, Germany, Cropped

Walking in the Footsteps of Regina Jonas

by Gail Reimer

Walking out the door of my hotel room on the first day of my first trip to Berlin, (a trip I had determinedly avoided for many years), I was on guard and immediately caught off guard. As I entered the Hackescher Market just steps from the hotel, I found myself face to face with a large size portrait of Regina Jonas on a kiosk that also detailed her story. What was Rabbiner Jonas doing here? Why here? Why now?

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Regina Jonas Remembered." (Viewed on August 31, 2016) <http://jwa.org/rabbis/regina-jonas-remembered>.

Donate

Help us elevate the voices of Jewish women.

donate now

Sign Up for JWA eNews

 

Discover Education Programs

Join our growing community of educators.

view programs