The last woman rabbi ordained in Germany, Regina Jonas – who is also thought to have been the first worldwide – was murdered in Auschwitz, the Nazi death camp where an estimated one million Jews died.
On Thursday, Alina Treiger, 31, who was born in Ukraine but moved to Berlin in 2001, was ordained alongside two fellow students before an audience that included President Christian Wulff and 30 top rabbis – including some women – from around the world.
However, she will not recognised as a rabbi by orthodox Jews, who reject the ordination of women.
Treiger said at a press conference that she found it somewhat irritating that there was so much hype around her appointment, according to daily Berliner Morgenpost.
“I am annoyed; I haven't actually done anything yet,” she said. “It's only important that a rabbi is good. It's not important whether it's a man or a woman.”
Treiger will now lead the Jewish communities in the cities of Oldenburg and Delmenhorst in Lower Saxony. She said youth work was important to her. Jewish life had to go on in a country that had once resolved to exterminate Jews.
“The Holocaust is for us a case of working through the grief process,” she said.
The Holocaust claimed the life of her predecessor Jonas, who was ordained in 1935 in Offenbach. She was transported to Auschwitz death camp and murdered there in 1944.
Treiger was born in 1979 in then-Soviet Ukraine, where communism prevented religion from playing any public role in life.
But after communism collapsed, Treiger went to Moscow at the age of 18 and studied social work. She then came to Berlin in 2001 and went on to study at the liberal Jewish seminary, the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam. She learned German as well as Hebrew and completed her studies in Israel.