Daniel Alter, from Germany, was the first of the three to graduate from the Abraham Geiger College in Dresden's modern, stone synagogue, which was rebuilt after the fall of the Berlin Wall.

Tomas Kucera, of the Czech Republic and Malcolm Matitiani, from South Africa, were also handed their ordination certificates at the ceremony on Thursday in the former East Germany’s first synagogue.

All three wore black robes with white prayer shawls trimmed with tassels draped around their shoulders.

About 250 people, many of them from Jewish communities across Europe and in Israel, attended the ceremony and afterwards the governor of Saxony held a reception for the new rabbis and the guests.

Nazi destruction

The men are the first to be ordained in Germany since the Nazis destroyed the College of Jewish Studies in Berlin in 1942.

Matitiani said he was "excited and happy" and that it was important to be ordained in Germany "because of the scholarship and the symbol of reviving Judaism in Germany".

"It's the birthplace of progressive Judaism and it has a long history of Jewish scholarship," he added.

Alter and Kucera will serve congregations in Munich in southern Germany and in Oldenburg in the northwest. Matitiani will return to his native South Africa.

Jewish community

Germany had a thriving Jewish community of more than 500,000 when the Nazis took power in 1933 and began their anti-Semitic policies, forcing many to emigrate. Around 200,000 German Jews were killed during the Holocaust leaving just 10,000 to 15,000 in the country in the first years after the war.

The German Jewish community has more than tripled since reunification in 1990 partly due to a government programme to take in Jews from the former Soviet Union. More than 100,000 Jews now live in some 102 established communities throughout the country.

"After the Holocaust, many people could never have imagined that Jewish life in Germany could blossom again," Horst Koehler, the German president said before the event. "That is why the first ordination of rabbis in Germany is a very special event indeed".