First Woman Holocaust Survivor to be Ordained a Rabbi on May 21, 2000 - Hebrew Union College - Jewish Institute of Religion
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First Woman Holocaust Survivor to be Ordained a Rabbi on May 21, 2000

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Monday, May 1, 2000

First Woman Holocaust Survivor to be Ordained a Rabbi on May 21, 2000 
by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion

Helga Newmark, a 67-year old survivor of the Terezin concentration camp, will be ordained a rabbi by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion on May 21, 2000 at Congregation Emanu-El of the City of New York (Fifth Avenue at 65th Street). Mrs. Newmark is the first woman Holocaust survivor to be ordained a rabbi.

Newmark was born in Essen, Germany and her family moved to the Netherlands when she was one year old. When World War II started, she and her family members were imprisoned in Auschwitz, Westerbork, Bergen-Belsen, and Terezin concentration camps; only she and her mother survived. Her family was not very observant and during and after her experiences in the camps, she said "I never gave God a thought." Slowly her views toward God and religion changed, especially after the birth of her first of three children. In the 1950s, when she was married and living in New Jersey, she began to learn about Judaism. She eventually taught Sunday school, became the principal of Temple Emanuel of Westfield, NJ, studied Hebrew at the Jewish Theological Seminary, and discovering the beauty and meaning of Judaism - she decided that she wanted to become a rabbi. She called her decision to become a rabbi, "a faith progression...with lots of questions along the way," in which she gradually decided to devote herself to the rabbinate.

An amazing woman who has dedicated herself to helping and educating others, she speaks publicly about her personal Holocaust experiences for children and adults in synagogue and organizations. She teaches about the Holocaust and ethics at Temple Sholom in River Edge, NJ, has directed the family education program at the Reform Temple of Suffern, and taught Hebrew to Russian immigrant children at Har-El Synagogue in Jerusalem, Israel. She has served as a rabbinical intern at synagogues in New York, New Jersey, Virginia, and Ohio.

She has worked as a clinical social worker at the Family Services of Bergen County where she counseled families, couples, and individuals; and managed cases with clients experiencing grief reactions and personality disorders for Jewish Family Service in Elizabeth, NJ. She has served as a Synagogue School Consultant for the Jewish Education Association/United Jewish Federation of Metrowest, Whippany, NJ.

She is the recipient of the First Board of Directors Scholarship from the Jewish Foundation for the Education of Women, and the Lena and Abraham Steinberg Prize, among others.

She received her Bachelor of Science degree in Education/Administration from Empire State College and a Master of Social Work (Clinical Track) from Yeshiva University, Wurzweiler School of Social Work. She wrote her rabbinical thesis on "Hope and Destruction in Selected Psalms."


Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates leaders to serve North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, museums, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.