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Message of Greeting

Federal President Horst Köhler 13 September 2006 Photo: Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung (BPA) © Photo: Presse- und Informationsamt der Bundesregierung (BPA)

That for the first time since 1942 rabbis are once again to be ordained in Germany sets me dreaming - dreaming of a day when this volume falls into the hands of a school child who on a closer look wonders why the Federal President should be congratulating a rabbi on the occa­sion of his ordination. After all, the child thinks, that is nothing very special - it is like when a new priest is ordained at our church or a new imam leads the prayers at the mosque my friend goes to. Pondering all this, the child then remembers the unspeakable horror of what was attempted by Germany under the National Socialists: the wholesale destruction of the Jews as well as Jewish culture and religion. After the Holocaust many could never have imagined that Jewish life in Germany would ever thrive again. That is why the first ordination of rabbis to take place in Germany in sixty years is a very special occasion indeed.

Paul Spiegel, the late President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, cherished an ambitious vision of Jewish life in this country which he has handed down to his successors, a vision of the gradual normalization of relations between Jews and non-Jews and a growing ease in their dealings with each other. To create the right climate for this is the task not merely of the Central Council and the Jewish community all over Germany. All of us working together must strive to make this possible - welcoming the new, yet conscious always of the bitter legacy of the past.

The first ordination of rabbis to take place in Germany since 1942 is a milestone along this road. With the arrival of the newcomers from the countries of the former Soviet Union, Jewish life is once again flourishing, acquiring new shapes and colours, a new vitality. For our country that is a great gift for which hardly anyone dared hope and for which we are pro­foundly grateful.

With their ordination a new chapter begins for Daniel Alter, Dr Thomas Kucera and Malcolm Matitiani. The mission that awaits them is highly demanding and one to which they have to be committed heart and mind, body and soul. As they embark on this mission, I sincerely hope it brings them joy and satisfaction and they find in their faith the strength and succour they need to serve their community with the dedication to which they aspire.