Still that did not satisfy her. Regina Jonas
wanted to become a rabbi. She wrote a thesis that would have been an
ordination requirement. Her topic was: "Can a Woman Be a Rabbi According
to Halachic Sources?" Her conclusion, based on biblical, Talmudic, and
rabbinical sources, was: Yes.. And thus, she should have been ordained.
The Talmud professor responsible for ordinations refused to ordain her.
Regina applied to Rabbi Leo Baeck, spiritual leader of German Jewry, who
had taught her at the seminary. He also refused, maybe because her
ordination would have caused massive intra-Jewish communal problems with
the Orthodox rabbinate in Germany.
On December 27, 1935 Regina Jonas was ordained by the liberal Rabbi Max
Dienemann in Offenbach who was the head of the Liberal Rabbis’
Association. Being ordained was one thing, but finding a pulpit was
another. Regina Jonas found work as a chaplain in various Jewish social
Because of Nazi persecution many rabbis emigrated and so many small
communities were without rabbinical support. How ironic: Nazi persecution
made it possible for her to be a rabbi and to preach in a synagogue, but
not for a long period. She was soon ordered - like all Jews - into forced
labor in a factory. Despite this, she continued her rabbinical work, i.e.
she continued to teach and to preach.
On November 3, 1942, Regina Jonas had to fill out a declaration form.
That declaration form listed her property — including her books. Two days
later, all her property was confiscated "for the benefit of the German
Reich." The next day, Gestapo arrested her. It was November 6, 1942. She
was deported to Theresienstadt. Even there her rabbinate did not end.
Viktor Frankl, the well-known psychologist, asked her for help. He wanted
to built up a crisis intervention service to improve the possibility of
surviving. . Her particular job was to meet the trains at the station.
There she helped people cope with shock and disorientation.
A hand-written list of 24 of her lectures entitled "Lectures of the One
and Only Woman Rabbi, Regina Jonas," still exists and can still be found
in the archives of Theresienstadt. Five lectures are about the history of
Jewish women,. five deal with Talmudic topics, two deal with Biblical
themes,. three with pastoral issues, and nine offer general introductions
to Jewish beliefs, ethics, and the festivals.
Regina Jonas worked tirelessly in Theresienstadt for two years.
Finally, she was deported to Auschwitz. We even know on which day she was
murdered. It was December 12, 1944. She was 42 years old .
In 1972 the reform and reconstructionist movement in the USA began to
ordain women rabbis. In 1995 Bea Wyler, who had studied at the JTS in New
York, became the first woman rabbi in post war Germany at the Jewish
community of Oldenburg.