A Possible First in East Germany U.S. Rabbi Addresses Lutheran Congregants at a Church Service

Rabbi Richard Yellin of Chestnut Hill implored some 600 Lutheran congregants at a Sunday church service in the East German town of Leipzig to make every effort to understand Judaism and the Jewish people.

Yellin, spiritual leader of the Temple Mishkan Tefila, delivered a brief sermon on August II at the St. Thomas Church in what is believed to be the first time a rabbi has spoken at a church service in the German Democratic Republic.

Yellin, who just returned from the visit to Leibzig and other cities in East Germany and Eastern Europe, said Pastor Yohaness Richter of the St. Thomas Church had extended an invitation to Yellin when the pastor was visiting Boston last year.

Joining Yellin on the 14 day trip which included stops at 14 concentration camp sites, was Rabbi Wayne Franklin of Providence, Rhode Island. According to Yellin, there are some 40 Jews in Leipzig and only some 500 in all of East Germany.

Yellin, whose speech was translated by Richter, told the congregants that his appearance before them was “an important step” toward German-Jewish friendship. He warned of a repetition of the Holocaust “unless more understanding takes place, similar to what is happening today.

Yellin and Franklin visited Poland, East Germany, Vienna and Czechoslovakia. The St. Thomas Church is the oldest church in East Germany, according to Yellin.

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