Short Film: In the Footsteps of Regina Jonas

Who was the first woman rabbi and why don't we know about her? Most American Jews believe that the ordination of women rabbis is an American phenomenon that arose out of the feminist movement of the 1970s. So it is surprising to discover that the first woman rabbi, Regina Jonas, was ordained in 1935 and served German Jewry in Berlin and then in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, in the shadow of Hitler's murderous regime. The Jewish Women’s Archive produced In the Footsteps of Regina Jonas following a trip undertaken by pioneering women rabbis in 2014 to remember and memorialize Jonas. The short documentary follows these rabbis as they walk the Berlin streets where Jonas walked and explore her archive (rediscovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall). They then travel to Terezin, where Jonas was deported before being sent to the gas chambers in Auschwitz, to honor her memory in a moving ceremony. Inspired by Jonas’s faith and perseverance, and dismayed by how easily her singular achievements were forgotten, the rabbis claim her as their ancestor, pledging to keep her memory alive. Directed by JWA Founding Director Gail Reimer, In the Footsteps of Regina Jonas has won awards on the North American film festival circuit.

Check out our Regina Jonas program resources for a discussion guide to accompany the film.

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

How to cite this page

Jewish Women's Archive. "Short Film: In the Footsteps of Regina Jonas." (Viewed on February 5, 2023) <>.


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