German soldiers prepare their patrols in the Marmal mountains near Mazar-e-Sharif, Afghanistan. (Photographer: Jose Giribas/Bloomberg News)

German Armed Forces to Recruit First Rabbis in About a Century

(Bloomberg) -- Germany’s armed forces will have rabbis in their ranks for the first time in about 100 years, as the Bundeswehr looks to expand pastoral services for Jews serving in the military amid signs of a resurgence of anti-Semitism.

Germany’s Jewish Council will propose candidates for consideration and those selected could serve in military missions outside Germany, the Defense Ministry said Tuesday. A low single-digit number of rabbis will be recruited for an initial trial phase.

“This is an important signal at a time when anti-Semitism, religious polarization and narrow-mindedness are on the march in many places,” Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen said in a statement. Servicemen and women are not obliged to reveal their faith, but the ministry estimates there are around 300 Jews serving in the Bundeswehr.

Germany’s Jewish Council warned in January that there is a significant level of ignorance about the Holocaust and a lack of sympathy for the millions of victims -- especially among young people. A recent European Union survey suggested insecurity fueled by anti-Semitism has prompted a growing number of British, German and Swedish Jews to consider leaving their countries.

The German Defense Ministry is also planning to expand pastoral care for the approximately 3,000 Muslims in the armed forces.

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