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Fraulein Rabbiner Jonas: The Story of the First Woman Rabbi (Arthur Kurzweil Book) Hardcover – October 4, 2004

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Fraulein Rabbiner Jonas: The Story of the First Woman Rabbi (Arthur Kurzweil Book) + Women Who Would Be Rabbis: A History of Women's Ordination 1889-1985
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Jossey-Bass; 1 edition (October 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0787969877
  • ISBN-13: 978-0787969875
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #381,585 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Though Jonas’s 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, Berlin’s first conference of European female rabbis, speculates that the reason for Jonas’s 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 Klapheck’s thoroughly researched account of Jonas’s life and work gives her impressive achievements the attention they deserve. In addition to Klapheck’s brief but fascinating biographical narrative, the book contains the full text of Jonas’s 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 God’s teachings" as a man. While Jonas concedes that not all Halacha supports her argument, she reasons that in modern times a woman’s "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. Jonas’s 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

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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Reader from Washington, DC VINE VOICE on October 14, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I had always thought, as did most American Jews, that Sally Preisand of Reform Judaism was the first woman formally ordained in the early 1970s.

I was astonished to learn, in the 1990s, that the first woman rabbi was actually Regina Jonas, an Orthodox woman who was ordained by Liberal (Reform) Judaism in Nazi Germany in the mid-1930s.

After an extremely dramatic and fascinating life, Rabbi Jonas vanished from history after her death at Auschwitz in 1944. Records of her life and achievements gathered dust in an East German archive, until her files were discovered after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany.

Concealed in those dusty files was a story that would make a good film. Jonas was born and brought up as an Orthodox Jew in a dangerous, poverty-stricken Berlin slum. As a child, she was so determined to become a rabbi that none of her classmates thought of laughing at her.

She struggled resolutely through Berlin's Reform rabbinical seminary, supporting herself by teaching endless Hebrew and religion classes to restless schoolchildren and finally triumphed when she received Reform ordination and a rabbinic pastor job with the Berlin Jewish community in her early thirties.

Her triumph was short-lived. She assumed a back-breaking workload, caring for hundreds of German Jews whose rabbis had been forced to flee abroad or been sent to Nazi prisons. Jonas felt unable to leave Germany because she could not abandon her widowed elderly mother or her desparate congregants.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By David Cohen on October 27, 2009
Format: Hardcover
Is a woman worthy of teaching the laws of Yahweh?
The question has created heated debates in Talmudic circles and among many progressive rabbis.
The answer could be found in this breathtaking book.
Of course, it is written as a thesis, however,a new approach to solve this critical occurence is proposed --indirectly--- without offending traditional minds.
Read it. It is quite unusual.
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