From Publishers Weekly
Though Jonass ordination in 1935 as the first female rabbi was a groundbreaking event in Jewish history, she was virtually forgotten after the years of genocide that followed in her native Germany. Klapheck, a rabbi herself and co-founder of Bet Deborah, Berlins first conference of European female rabbis, speculates that the reason for Jonass surprising post-war obscurity may be two-fold: For German Jews, "to remember Regina Jonas would be to recall a time when hope for the future had been transformed into murderous self-betrayal," she writes. Also, "a woman who steps out of line and succeeds in a male domain" is sometimes seen as an embarrassment. But Klaphecks thoroughly researched account of Jonass life and work gives her impressive achievements the attention they deserve. In addition to Klaphecks brief but fascinating biographical narrative, the book contains the full text of Jonass compelling treatise, "Can Women Serve as Rabbis?" This thesis contains a profusion of examples in Halacha (Jewish religious law) that support her position that a woman is just as "worthy of receiving Gods teachings" as a man. While Jonas concedes that not all Halacha supports her argument, she reasons that in modern times a womans "presence among men, even in a House of God, is no longer sexually stimulating," thus tempering her opponents likely protest that female rabbis would distract male rabbis. Jonass murder in an extermination camp, right until which she continued fulfilling her rabbinic duties and preaching to other prisoners, tragically halted what would surely have been a pioneering and remarkable career. Fortunately, the women she inspired, including Klapheck, continue to carry out her valuable efforts.
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“Rabbi Elisa Klapheck has recovered for us a vital gem in the history of female ordination. An exciting read! To follow Regina Jonas as she negotiated with the patriarchal system is a surprise and delight for the soul.”--Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, author, Wrapped in a Holy Flame: Teachings and Tales of the Hasidic Masters
“A most intriguing story both about Jonas herself and Klapheck finding Jonas; the documents, many of which were reproduced for this volume, are riveting historical artifacts. This volume engenders admiration for a woman who had the inner strength to seek ordination when her social and religious milieu adamantly opposed leadership roles for women. This research pushes the beginnings of Jewish feminism, which is considered by most to have started in the United States in the 1970s, back to Germany in the 1930s.”--Judith Hauptman, E. Billi Ivry Professor of Talmud and Rabbinic Culture and author, Rereading the Rabbis, a Woman's Voice