Regina Jonas: forgetting and remembering the first female rabbi

Sinclair, Stefanie (2013). Regina Jonas: forgetting and remembering the first female rabbi. Religion, 43(4) pp. 541–563.



Regina Jonas (1902–44), who was ordained in Germany in 1935, is now widely recognised as the world’s first female rabbi. However, for almost 50 years after her death at Auschwitz in 1944, she was given very little, if any, public recognition. Based on archival research, interviews and critical engagement with secondary literature, this paper investigates a range of explanations why Jonas was nearly lost to historiography. It also considers the circumstances of the rediscovery of this controversial figure in the early 1990s and explores how she is remembered today. This paper raises important issues in relation to historiography and the connection between processes of remembering, forgetting and identity formation, particularly in relation to the history of the ordination of female rabbis and the history of Jewish communities in Germany.

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