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German state to allow Jewish theological study at public university

BERLIN (JTA) – The Brandenburg Parliament will permit theological education at the German state’s universities to allow the study of Jewish theology at Potsdam University.

Geiger College has functioned as a private institute associated with Potsdam University, which is planning to establish six professorships in Jewish theology as an entity within the university system.

Allowing for the study of Jewish theology at public universities, the parliament changed its laws on higher education in a vote on March 20.

Geiger College, named for Rabbi Abraham Geiger, a 19th-century founder of liberal Judaism in Germany, was founded in 1999 and has been training rabbis since 2002. It opened its Jewish Institute of Cantorial Arts in 2007.

On the same day of the vote, Germany’s Reform movement awarded Annette Schavan, the former federal minister of education and research, with the Abraham Geiger Prize for her commitment to promoting Jewish theological study in Germany.

In announcing its decision, the jury said that Schavan was "largely responsible for the fact that after almost 200 years, the study of Jewish theology has finally been established in a German university," the University of Potsdam. "In this way she has promoted the equality of Jewish theology with the Christian and Islamic theologies"

In her remarks, Schavan said her dream was to help establish "Jewish education at the heart of the university" and not only outside.

Rabbi Walter Homolka, rector of the Geiger College, has said he hopes the new department will receive its own building alongside a new synagogue that is planned across from the City Palace.

Schavan recently made headlines in Germany after allegations surfaced that her doctoral thesis — submitted about 30 years ago — included plagiarized sections. The University of Dusseldorf found that she had paraphrased secondary literature without naming the source in more than 60 instances, and revoked her degree last February. She resigned as minister on Feb. 9 but has denied any wrongdoing.

 

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