SO many important Jewish names have featured in this column, from towering Biblical figures to those who have changed the world via science, literature, politics and arts. Who was there for me to add?
But then Rabbi Dr Barbara Borts came to speak at Woodford Liberal Synagogue and immediately proved why she is a true hero.
Born in Los Angeles in 1935, Barbara decided at a very early age that she wanted to be a rabbi. It was a time when, even in the Progressive movements, it seemed an impossible dream.
Unlike many youthful goals, Barbara followed hers. She studied at Leo Baeck College and, along with Sybil Sheridan, was in ordained in 1981 – becoming two of the first female rabbis in Europe.
Working for Britain’s Movement for Reform Judaism, she secured even more firsts. She became the first female Reform rabbi to have her own congregation and – as well as serving communities in the UK and Switzerland – became the first woman rabbi in Montreal, Canada.
As if that wasn’t enough, she also gained a doctorate in Jewish Music at Durham University, is currently studying to become a chazzan and is involved in many social action projects.
Despite all these achievements, she has faced discrimination. As a female faith leader, Barbara told us how she still has to deal with negative and rude comments. Thinking back to her ordination, she recalled being told what she was allowed, and not allowed, to do in a synagogue as a woman rabbi.
Thankfully, times are changing, and the rabbinate of the Progressive movements now closely reflect society as a whole. So much so that Barbara recently published a book – co-edited with Liberal Judaism’s Rabbi Elli Tikvah Sarah – called Women Rabbis in the Pulpit: A Collection of Sermons.
The fact that there were so many sermons to collect is a testament to pioneers like Rabbi Dr Barbara Borts.
• Merle is a council member at Woodford Liberal Synagogue