Europe’s first school of Jewish theology opened in Germany this week, heralding in a “milestone” in the history of Jewish study.
The school is part of the University of Potsdam, which is located near Berlin.
“The opening of the School of Jewish Theology marks a historical milestone in the training of liberal and conservative rabbis and is unique both in Germany and Europe,” said Potsdam president Oliver Günther.
The German government will subsidize the school, a groundbreaking move in an area that has historically only supported Catholic and Protestant colleges, though an Islamic program was recently introduced.
The government will pay a reported $2.7 million annually to fund the school.
“The light of history now shines on Potsdam, because it is the first time that confessional studies of Judaism at a state university are possible at an academic level,” said Johann Hafner, dean of the Faculty of Arts at Potsdam.
The university released its own statement describing what sort of education attendees to the program might expect: “In addition to the basic knowledge about Judaism, the bachelor’s program — unique in Europe — teaches basic academic competences. Moreover, it provides insight into Jewish religious practice.”
The college officially opened Monday and was celebrated with an opening ceremony yesterday, attended by German and Israeli dignitaries, including Israel’s ambassador in Berlin, Yakov Hadas-Handelsmann.
“Almost 70 years after the end of the Holocaust, we are witnessing a rebirth of Jewish life in Germany,” Handelsmann said. “Not only because the number of Jews here is growing, but also because Jews and Judaism are increasingly in the focus of Germans’ research interests.”
Nearly 50 students from Germany, Israel, Hungary and the US are currently enrolled to take part in the college’s freshman semester.