On Thursday, the German Parliament stamped the law that re-established the military rabbi’s official position in the first enlargement of the military pastoral care law since 1957.
Military rabbis were part of the German armed forces during the First World War, when nearly 100,000 Jewish soldiers fought for the country. As part of Nazi’s early efforts to drive Jews out of public life, they were banned shortly after Adolf Hitler’s power in 1933.
According to the defense ministry, the role of the rabbis will reflect the Catholic and Protestant chapels. They will provide soldiers with pastoral care and accompany them in foreign missions.
The ministry said new military rabbis will work as temporary military contractors for six years, but their positions may become permanent in the future. A similar initiative to promote military imams is being discussed.
The law also establishes a special federal military rabbi in Berlin to oversee branches in Hamburg, Munich, Frankfurt and Leipzig. The ministry said initially up to 10 rabbi will report to the federal chief.
Germany does not officially record the religious affairs of its troops. According to official estimates based on voluntary statements, there are currently around 300 Jewish soldiers and 3,000 Muslims in the German army. There are 53,000 Protestants and 41,000 Roman Catholics, which together make up about half of all service members.
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