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Newest female Progressive rabbi

  • Ordination - HOME
The ordination of SA's new Progressive rabbi was held on an auspicious day. The 160th anniversary of the Jewish Theological Seminary Breslau, the 140th yahrzeit of Abraham Geiger (founder of Reform Judaism) and the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland. It is also the 5th anniversary of the Foundation of Abraham Geiger College where she studied
by ANT KATZ | Sep 03, 2014

PICTURES BY STEVE LURIE FOR SAJR

Rabbi Julia Margolis became the third South African woman to be ordained as a rabbi and the first to serve in South Africa, when she and six other new rabbis and cantors, were ordained in Poland on Tuesday.  The ceremony, hosted by the Abraham Geiger College in Potsdam Germany, was held at the White Stork Synagogue in Wroclaw, Poland, on September 2 and poignantly took place 75 years since the German invasion of Poland in 1939.

Margolis was born in Moscow, in the former Soviet Union. At the age of 12 her family made aliyah and she completed her high schooling in Israel and served as an educational officer in the army (IDF).
In 2000, after her release from IDF she earned a bachelor´s degree from Ben-Gurion University in Jewish History, Islam and Art. Margolis then went on to complete her master´s degree in Jewish Studies in 2005.

She was raised in a family with deep roots in the Progressive movement – her mother was the first Russian-speaking female rabbi in Israel. Julia herself worked in the Progressive movement in Israel and has represented the movement in summer and winter camps all over the world.

Ordination - Julia proudly displays her certificate
RIGHT: Julia Margolis proudly displays her ordination certificate in Poland on Tuesday


Rabbi Margolis became involved with the Progressive movement in South Africa in 2009. 

During her internship, she worked as rabbinical assistant at Beit Emanuel, and since 2011 she has been working for the South African Union for Progressive Judaism (SAUPJ) in different synagogues, as well as performing in life cycle events.

  Her thesis focuses on a book of Menachem Finkelstein “Proselytism – Halakhah and Practice”.

Margolis will now be working at Bet David in Morningside, making her the only female rabbi currently holding office in South Africa.

Rabbi Margolis lives in Johannesburg with her husband and two daughters.

Studied in Germany

She studied to become a rabbi at the Abraham Geiger College in Germany. Geiger (1810 - 1874) was the founder of Reform Judaism.

Ordination - Julia and Mom FULL

LEFT: Julia Margolis with her mother Rabbi Helena Rubinstein of St Petersburg and Rabbi Rob Jacobs of Bet David in Sandton

In a joint message issued by the SAUPJ and the SAAPR (SA Association of Progressive Rabbis) today, the two organisations say they "would like to wish Rabbi Julia Margolis a hearty mazal tov on receiving her rabbinic ordination (smicha) from the Abraham Geiger College on 3 September 2014 in Wroclaw Poland." They also give Rabbi Margolis' new email address: [email protected] for anyone else who would like to communicate with her directly.

The ordination event was held on an auspicious day, being the 160th anniversary of the Jewish Theological Seminary Breslau, the 140th yahrzeit of Abraham Geiger and the 75th anniversary of the German invasion of Poland. It is also the 5th anniversary of the Foundation of Abraham Geiger College 

Ordination - HOME

 The historic White Stork Synagogue in Wrocław, Poland,
was Abraham Geiger’s pulpit for many years

12 Comments

  1. 12 Aaron 03 Sep
    One would think that the reform movement wouldn't make a big deal about female rabbis. Why the fuss?
  2. 11 Vivian 04 Sep
    Mazel Tov! Rabbi Julia Margolis!
  3. 10 Dion 04 Sep
    What is the size of the reform community in SA? They seem largely ineffective.
  4. 9 Jim 04 Sep
    @Dion, very small. 
  5. 8 Spencer 05 Sep
    DO NOT JOIN HANDS WITH THOSE PROMOTING INTERMARRIAGE ASSIMILATION AND NON-OBSERVANCE. AND I AM NOT IMPRESSED BY ABRAHAM GEIGER'S PRETTY CHURCH- THE GREATEST TORAH GIANT IN GERMANY CALLED GEIGER A LIAR, TRYING TO UPROOT THE JEWISH FAITH. IN FACT GEIGER DID NOT CALL HIMSELF JEWISH BUT RATHER "A GERMAN OF THE MOSAIC PERSUASION! " WAY TO GO GEIGER- IT DIDN'T SAVE YOUR CATHOLIC CHILDREN FROM THE GASCHAMBERS....
    WE ARE WITNESSING A SELF-IMPOSED HOLOCAUST OF ASSIMILATION IN THE USA DUE TO HIS AND HIS MOVEMENT'S ACTIONS.
    SPEAKING OF WHICH REFORM HAS NEVER BEEN ZIONISTIC UNTIL THE MID 2OTH CENTURY- BEFORE THAT THEY REJECTED ZIONISM BECAUSE IT WOULD EFFECT THEIR STATUS IN THEIR COUNTRIES OF DOMICILE- READ THE "PITTSBURGH PLATFORM OF REFORM". STEPHEN WISE, THEIR REFORM LEADER PREVENTED RABBIS PROTESTING THE HOLOCAUST FROM SPEAKING TO ROOSEVELT OVER THE JEWS PLIGHT IN EUROPE.
    OUR SAINTLY SOUTH AFRICAN CHIEF RABBI, LOUIS RABINOWITZ WAS QUITE RIGHT WHEN HE EXPLAINED REFORM'S "FUTILITY" AND HOW REFORM IS THE "HALF-WAY HOUSE TO CHRISTIANITY" (SEE BOOK "TO REACH FOR THE MOON: THE SOUTH AFRICAN CHIEF RABBINATE OF LOUIS RABINOWITZ") SHEER EVIL. PEOPLE ATTENDING BET DAVID: DO NOT BE FOOLED. YOU CAN GO TO REGINA MUNDI CHURCH IF YOU ARE LOOKING FOR ANOTHER VERSION OF CHRISTIANITY- EVEN IF YOU HAVE A CHARISMATIC FEMALE CLERIC. JOIN RABBI SUCHARD'S SANDTON SHUL IF YOU WANT YOUR GRANDCHILDREN TO REMAIN JEWISH.
  6. 7 Rabbi Greg 06 Sep
    Mazal tov to my newest colleague!
  7. 6 Rina 06 Sep
    Mazal tov to rabbi Julia. Her mother Yelena  is a marvellous rabbi and an intelligent person. Her daughter rabbi will follow the lead. 
  8. 5 david 04 Nov
    What a pity that 'Spencer' had to spoil the wonderful occasion and achievement of the New Rabbi Julia Margolis, who has joined the elite in South Africa.
    Rabbi Suchard and Regina Mundi  have no bearing on her accomplishments whatsoever .
    We welcome her with open arms , as a peer of Rabbi Suchard and all other Rabbis
    It's bad enough to live with the awful beliefs of the Arab Nations. Do we need an internal divide as well
    A Jew is a Jew is a Jew, and long it be so.  
  9. 4 Karen 22 Nov
    I am more than disgusted at Spencer's remarks about Reform Judaism. How dare he say it is a half way house to Christianity? How dare he imply that I, as a committed Reform Jew, am any less of a Jew than he is? I was born  Jewish and chose the Reform philosophy at the age of thirteen because it was the most meaningful and spiritual to me. When I immigrated to Canada twenty one years ago, my family continued to be involved in the Reform movement here. We joined a wonderful, supportive Shul, where we were welcomed as part of the family. I studied for two years, and did my adult Bat Mitzvah at the age of 55, a defining point of my life as a Jewish woman, who is now able to study and read Torah and perform the Mitzvot just like every other adult in my community. I attend Shul every Shabbat - Friday and Saturday. We keep Shabbat as a family, always kindling the Shabbat candles, I am in Shul for all the holidays, and we perform acts if Tikkun Olam within our community and beyond. We are strong supporters of Israel, as are most Reform Jews, and I feel sure that Israel benefits greatly from the support of many Reform Jews throughout the diaspora. So, Spencer, I am as a Jewish as you are, whether you like it or not, and as an Orthodox Jew, you should be practising some tolerance for those who are of your tribe, but may interpret things in their own way. It does not make us lesser Jews at all. We are proud JEWS, albeit Reform Jews, who will continue to flourish and bring up our children and grandchildren as Jews. We are here to stay, so get used to us! A Jew IS a Jew, is a Jew.
  10. 3 Melvin Kaplan 23 Nov
    Spencer, Spencer, Spencer,

    Only a South African could take the narrow position that you have. I can not imagine such a view coming from an Orthodox Israeli, U.S.A., European or any other Orthodox diaspora Jew. Your (S.A.) Orthodoxy is unorthodox!

    You are blind if you think that Conservative or Progressive Jewry is “those promoting intermarriage assimilation and non-observance” any more than
    Orthodox.

    That “we are witnessing a self-imposed holocaust of assimilation in the U.S.A.” (and elsewhere, for that matter) is without question one of the biggest problems facing world Jewry today. I believe the number is something close to 2,000 self-identifying Jews a day.

    But the truth is that while less than 20% of Jews in the world identify themselves as being Orthodox, almost half of those lost to Jewry were born into Orthodox
    homes.

    I have not been to S.A. for years, but I am guessing that most of your community are still non-Orthodox in practice – yet too ashamed to call themselves anything else in name. So they will drive to their Orthodox synagogue on Shabbos.

    Oh, and FYI, there are no “Reform” Jewish communities in S.A. (unless they have been founded recently but have no internet footprint). What you have there is a Progressive Jewish community.

    They pray from exactly the same Torah that you do – written by the same sofers. So what if their interpretations of some sections may be more modern than yours? Surely, for example, their belief in only observing one day for a Chag, as Orthodox do in Israel, makes sense today?

    I have to agree with Karen on this, as I too, am disgusted! Karen refers to the Reform movement which she is part of in Canada. S.A.’s community is Progressive. Similar in nature to Reform, but more Progressive Jews make aliyah and keep kosher homes than Reform say the statistics.

    Finally, speaking of statistics, let me ask you this: if you extract the Heredi community from the Orthodox, How would you propose – as a purported Zionist –
    that we keep an Israel, an army, a currency, a language, a culture, and so many other things alive if you are going to only recognise that there are somewhere around one-and-a-half-million Jews in the world who are Zionists.

    Wake up, my friend, we were born into Judaism together. Self-identifying Orthodox Jews in the IDF wouldn’t be able to hold back Cyprus! And, with the notable exception of Jews in South Africa, I do not know of any other Jewish community in the world, including (actually, especially in) Israel, from which such an uneducated opinion could have emanated.
  11. 2 Alchemist 28 Apr
    Pretty horrified at the 'synagogue' with statues and church like paintings.....if they dont want to be compared to Christianity how about removing these blasphemist things from their prayer rooms???? Shocked!
  12. 1 tony 02 Jul
    to put an end to this futile discussion.

    If your reform - YOU ARE NOT JEWISH. PERIOD!

    and that goes for 'rabbi' greg, aswell

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