Twenty Years of the Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam: Between Success and Uncertainty

August 17, 2019, marks the 20th anniversary of the founding of the Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam. Yesterday, the State Chancellery of Brandenburg reported that 492 anti-Semitic incidents had been registered in the past five years and that the trend was rising. “This underlines the Abraham Geiger College’s position that it is the state’s task to guarantee the safety of rabbinical and cantoral education in Potsdam,” says Rabbi Prof. Walter Homolka, Rector of the Abraham Geiger College.

The Abraham Geiger College was the first rabbinical seminar to be founded in continental Europe after the Shoah. Young people from all over the world come to Potsdam to train as liberal rabbis and cantors. Eight women and twenty-seven men have successfully completed their training in the last two decades.
In 2001, the College became an affiliated institute of the University of Potsdam. The cantor training program was established in 2007, and in 2010 Alina Treiger was the first woman to be ordained as a rabbi in Germany after the Shoah. Founded in 2013, the Institute for Jewish Theology is unique in the German university landscape. Together with the Institute for Jewish Theology, Brandenburg’s rabbinical seminars for Europe are flagship projects of the University of Potsdam. In late summer 2020, the Abraham Geiger College will move to University of Potsdam campus, to the north gate building of the New Palace.

“Professor Homolka and his colleagues have provided decisive inspiration for the consolidation and renewal of Jewish life in Germany. As a university partner of the AGK, we are delighted that we were able to help strengthen modern Jewish diversity in Germany,” said University President Oliver Günther. “And even though we have experienced success thus far, we are aware that there are still many challenges to be overcome.”
The Abraham Geiger College at the University of Potsdam is in the tradition of the Higher Institute for Jewish Studies in Berlin, which was co-founded by Rabbi Abraham Geiger (1810-1874) in 1872 and closed by the National Socialists in 1942. Rooted in the values of liberal Judaism, the College combines Jewish traditions with modern scholarly questions in order to strengthen participation in civil society. It is committed to the dissemination of contemporary Jewish life that deals with the intellectual and ethical questions of our time and provides fresh inspiration.

The Abraham Geiger College currently has eighteen rabbi and eight cantor students. Nine of the total of twenty-six students are women. The students come from Germany, Belgium, Norway, Russia, Ukraine and Belarus, from Israel, Brazil and the USA. The majority of the graduates now work for the Jewish community in Germany; others work in France, Great Britain, Austria and Luxembourg, in Israel, South Africa and in the USA.

Text: AGK / Department for Press and Public Relations
Translation: Dr. Lee Holt
Published online by: Agnes Bressa
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