If I confess what motivated me, a woman, to become a rabbi, two things come to mind. My belief in God’s calling and my love of humans. God planted in our heart skills and a vocation without asking about gender. Therefore, it is the duty of men and women alike to work and create according to the skills given by God.
Rabbi Regina Jonas was the first woman ordained a rabbi in modern times. Born in Berlin 1902, she grew up in Scheunenviertel, a poor area of the city and was orphaned from her father very early on it life. At school, Jones quickly developed a passion for Jewish history and like so many Jewish women of her generation, looked likely to go into the teaching profession herself. After School, she enrolled at Berlin’s Higher Institute for Jewish Studies and took seminary courses before graduation. Her thesis was entitled, “Can a Women be a Rabbi According to Halachic (Hebrew Law) Sources. It was a decisive piece of study for her and even-handedly concluded, having assessed Rabbinic, Talmudic and Biblical sources, that women could be ordained and she approached one of her teachers at the seminary, Rabbi Leo Baeck – himself an important figure in Progressive Judaism – to ordain her. He refused, because she was a woman, but she was undeterred and in 1935, she received her semicha and was ordained by the liberal rabbi Max Dienemann.
She served small Jewish communities in Germany, taught Torah, and in 1942, at age 40, was sent to the concentration camp at Theresienstadt where she worked alongside Dr. Viktor Frankl helping people cope with their disorientation. She gave lectures at the camp on various topics of Torah. She was deported to Auschwitz in 1944 and was murdered there.
She is remembered in the 1999 film, Regina, in which she is portrayed by Rachel Weisz.