Westerwelle Reaffirms Commitment to Religious Freedom at Rabbi Ordination in Cologne
Speaking at the first ordination of rabbis in the city of Cologne since the Holocaust, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle reaffirmed the Federal Government’s commitment to supporting and encouraging Jewish life and culture in Germany.
Enlarge image Foreign Minister Westerwelle speaks at the ceremony for the ordination of rabbis in Cologne. (© picture alliance / dpa) Jewish life in Germany traces its roots back to Cologne, Westerwelle pointed out at the ceremony of the Rabbinerseminar zu Berlin, which took place this year in the city that is home to the oldest Jewish community outside of the Mediterranean region. The first trace of Jewish life in what is now Cologne dates back to the year 321. Today in Germany, more than 100,000 people are part of more than 100 Jewish communities across the country.
Addressing the recent legal questions about circumcision in Germany, Foreign Minister Westerwelle said religious freedom and religious traditions are protected in Germany and will remain protected. The government wants to see flourishing Jewish life in Germany and wants Jews to be at home and feel at home in Germany. Jewish families are to be in the middle of German society, not merely a protected minority, Westerwelle said. He reiterated that the state would prosecute anti-Semitic, xenophobic and right-wing extremist crimes to the fullest extent of the law.
Enlarge image World Jewish Council President Ronald S. Lauder, Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle and Central Council of Jews in Germany President Dieter Graumann (from left) at the ordination of rabbis in Cologne on September 13, 2012 (© picture alliance / dpa) The ceremony for the ordination of four rabbis on September 13 was attended by prominent Jewish representatives from around the world, including Ronald S. Lauder, president of the World Jewish Congress; Dr. Dieter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Rabbi Steven Burg, managing director of the Orthodox Union in the United States; Rabbi Dayan Ehrentreu, director of the Rabbinerseminar zu Berlin; Cologne Rabbi Jaron Engelmayer; as well as Aiman A. Mazyek, president of the Central Council of Muslims in Germany; and Cologne Mayor Hans-Werner Bartsch.
The four men who were ordained are Rabbi Jonathan Konits from Baltimore; Rabbi Daniel Fabian from Ramat Gan, Israel; Rabbi Reuven Konnik, born in Ukraine; and Rabbi Naftoly Surovtsev from Belarus. All four have either lived in Germany for decades or grew up there. The Rabbinerseminar zu Berlin (also known as Hildesheimer’s Rabbinical Seminary), founded in 1873, was forced to close in 1938 but reopened in 2009 with the support of the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Ronald S. Lauder Foundation.