Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Breaking News

First Woman Rabbi Recalled at Terezin Camp

A memorial plaque to Regina Jonas, the first female rabbi, was unveiled at the former Nazi concentration camp Terezin in the Czech Republic.

Several female rabbis from Jonas’ native Germany, the United Kingdom and the United States — notably Sally Priesand, who in 1972 became the first American female rabbi — attended Thursday’s ceremony in the camp’s former columbarium.

Jonas, a Berlin native, was ordained in 1935 and served the Jewish community in the German capital until her deportation to Terezin in 1942. Two years later she was murdered in Auschwitz at 42.

“Rabbi Jonas’ unique genius and perseverance allowed her to overcome the prejudices of the past, an achievement that continues to serve as a model,” said Lesley Weiss, head of the U.S. Commission for the Preservation of America’s Heritage Abroad, which organized the ceremony.

During her internment in Terezin, Jonas continued to lecture, preach and provide pastoral care to fellow inmates. She also worked for a crisis intervention service set up by the prisoners.

“Her particular job was to meet those who just arrived at the station and help them cope with shock and disorientation,” said Jan Munk, the director of the Terezin Memorial.

Jonas’ life and work was largely forgotten until the 1990s when her personal archive was rediscovered in Berlin.

“I did not know about Regina Jonas, and I only discovered her as everyone else has,” Priesand, 68, told JTA. “I feel like we are almost kindred spirits, and I’m glad we came to dedicate her plaque in order to restore her story.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.