German yeshiva to ordain Soviet emigres as rabbis

BERLIN (JTA) — Two rabbinical students reflecting the demographics of Germany’s burgeoning Jewish community are set to be ordained at a German seminary.

In what some are calling more proof of the revival of Jewish life in Germany, Shlomo Afanasev and Moshe Baumel of the Rabbinical Seminary of Berlin will be ordained in ceremonies Monday at the historic synagogue of Leipzig.

They are the second batch of rabbis trained at the school, a program of the U.S.-based Ronald S. Lauder Foundation. The first ordination was held in June 2009 in Munich.

Asanev was born in Tashkent, Uzbekistan, where he studied financial management and accounting. He will be working for the Jewish communities in the state of Brandenburg, Germany.

Baumel’s family immigrated to Germany from Lithuania in 1991. He will be rabbi and director of Jewish studies at the Zwi-Peres-Chajes School of the Jewish Community of Vienna, Austria. In addition to pursuing ordination, Baumel has studied art history and antiquities.

Germany’s Jewish community consists of about 80 percent immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Some 200,000 Jews live in Germany today, about half of whom are affiliated with Jewish communities. Only 20 years ago, the Jewish population was about 30,000.

“The ordination is the apotheosis of all the concerns about whether the Russian immigration to Germany would produce Jewish life,” Rabbi Joshua Spinner, the Rabbinical Seminary’s director, told JTA.

The influx of Jews “is not only producing the communities who want the rabbis, it is also producing the rabbis themselves," said Spinner, 40, who last year was appointed chief executive officer and executive vice president of the Lauder Foundation.

The seminary describes itself as a successor to the institution founded by Rabbi Azriel Hildesheimer in 1873 in Berlin and shut down by the Nazis in 1938.

In addition to local Jewish leaders, guests at the ordination are set to include World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder; Yeshiva University President Richard Joel; and Rabbi Chanoch Ehrentreu of London, supervisor of the seminary.

The seminary is associated with the Conference of European Rabbis and the Orthodox Rabbinical Conference of Germany.

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