New York, Los Angeles, Jerusalem, Buenos Aires … and now Potsdam, Germany. No, this is not a Jewish-themed vacation route, although it could be. These are the locales of the five Conservative and Masorti seminaries sup-ported by the Torah Fund Campaign of Women’s League for Conservative Judaism: JTS, Ziegler, Schechter, Seminario, and now the Zacharias Frankel College in Potsdam, a suburb of Berlin.
A few short years ago, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, Dean of the American Jewish University’s Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies, was approached by the University of Potsdam to create a new seminary, dedicated to training rabbis to serve the Jewish communities of Europe. Rabbi Artson invited Rabbi Cheryl Peretz, Associate Dean of the Ziegler School, to be part of shaping this new seminary. It is named the Zacharias Frankel College after the great 19th century founder of historical Judaism, which is the intellectual foundation of Conservative Judaism.
Frankel College will ordain its first rabbi in May 2017, two months before Women’s League’s Convention, which celebrates 100 years of Women’s League and 75 years of Torah Fund. Who would have imagined 100 years ago that a new German seminary would ordain its first rabbi – a woman – a century later? Who would have imagined this was possible 70 years after the Holocaust?
Today we have the opportunity to be part of a great new undertaking, conceived to address the spiritual needs of a growing European Jewry. As Rabbi Artson writes:
Ours is an era in which Jews are asking “Why be Jewish?” with greater urgency than ever before. As a Masorti/Conservative rabbinical school, the Zacharias Frankel College is dedicated to the philosophy, principles and values inspired by Louis Jacobs, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Mordecai Kaplan, David Lieber, and other great modern visionaries. It builds on the thinking of positive historic Judaism and German founding fathers such as Leo Baeck and Zacharias Frankel.
Together with the Leo Baeck Foundation we will ensure that Jewish congregations in Europe will receive the rabbinic leadership necessary to foster a Jewish renaissance. We are joined in this endeavor with Potsdam University’s School of Jewish theology.
Bea Reynolds, of Pacific South West Region has captured the emotional power of this historic moment: “For this to happen in my lifetime is an unbelievable achievement in human relations and an important milestone in German-Jewish history, 70 years after the Shoah.”