Josef Schuster calls on German army to restore Jewish chaplaincy

The President of the Central Council of Jews in Germany – the country’s EJC affiliate – Dr. Josef Schuster called on the German military to offer its Jewish and Muslim members religious service as it does to Christians.

In a column in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Schuster wrote that “young Jews…consider Germany to be their home,” adding that it is time to “restore an old tradition.”

During World War I, some 100,000 Jews served in the German army. Eighty-one German rabbis served as Feldrabbiner, or field rabbis, among them Leo Baeck and Aaron Tanzer.

Currently there are roughly 400 Jewish soldiers serving in the German armed forces, the Deutsche Welle reported, and 1,500 Muslims.

Despite Muslims now being the second largest non-Christian group to serve in the German army, there are no Imams serving as Chaplains at the moment.

This means that a Muslim-German soldier who wants to ensure that, should he or she die in the field, they are buried according to the Muslim faith – they must see to it on their own.

“During my missions in Afghanistan, I arranged for my body to be washed and wrapped in a shroud,” said Nariman Reinke, a naval petty officer who is also a Muslim. “I always carried my shroud with me in a bag,” she added.

The process of creating a formal path to enlist imams to the military is now 7 years in the making, with no clear end in sight.

One of the sensitive issues that the German government must deal with in order to progress is the question of where will these Imams be taught.

As Germany is the home to a large Turkish community, it was once thought that the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs (DITIB) would be a good partner for the government to recruit imams, but recent diplomatic clashes between Turkey and Germany had stopped this process for now.

The ongoing concern is that Imams trained outside of Germany might be influenced by ideologies that are not in step with the needs of German society. Given that the Muslim community inside Germany is very diverse, it is unclear who can represent it in its entirety to the German state.

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