By JOE BAUR
BERLIN (JTA) – Rabbis can be military chaplains again in the German military for the first time since they were kicked out by the Nazis in the 1930s, nearly a century ago.
The German Bundestag, or parliament, unanimously approved the move in a vote on Thursday.
“The first clergymen are expected to begin their ministry this autumn,” a statement by the Department of Defense. “Later, up to ten pastoral workers of the Jewish faith are to serve in the German armed forces.”
The decision completes a promise made at the end of 2019 by Defense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. A state contract was signed in December with the Central Council of Jews in Germany, modeled after similar state contracts with the evangelical and Catholic churches.
“Today at the Cabinet meeting, we sent an important signal to our Jewish soldiers,” Kramp-Karrenbauer said on Twitter. “After about 100 years, we will install a Jewish military rabbi in the #Bundeswehr again. A clear commitment: Jewish life is self-evident in our country.”
About 300 Jewish soldiers serve in the German army abroad, according to The New York Times.
“The military rabbis will play an important support role for Jewish soldiers,” said Central Council President Josef Schuster. “Particularly in times of growing anti-Semitism and the spread of conspiracy myths in society, this is an important step in supporting democratic attitudes among the soldiers.”
As many as 12,000 Jewish soldiers died fighting for Germany in World War I, before the Nazis came to power.