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Pioneering Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick set to retire


Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick, Britain’s first female rabbi, is to retire after stepping down from her current role as Convenor of the Reform Judaism Beit Din after 11 years. 

Ordained by Leo Baeck College in 1975, at the age of 27, Rabbi Jackie was a pioneer and mentor for the many women rabbis who followed in the Progressive movements. 

She worked for many years at West London Synagogue with Rabbi Hugo Gryn and then at North West Surrey Synagogue. She has always been a passionate supporter of interfaith work becoming co-President of the World Congress of Faiths helping to deepen religious understanding, respect and co-operation. 

It is estimated that during her time as Beit Din Convenor, she has overseen more than 1,300 UK conversions and at least 300 European candidates.  

Rabbi Jackie said: “It has been a real honour and joy to head the Beit Din of the Reform Movement for the last eleven years. I have always regarded my rabbinate as a time to try to reach out and to be as helpful as I can to others on their Jewish journey. Being with wonderful, inspired, enthusiastic, knowledgeable and committed people as they begin their ‘official’ journey as part of our people has been an absolute mitzvah, a chance to share this sacred moment in their lives. I wish my successor similar joy in this amazing and privileged position, to help others become part of our world.” 

Jackie was renowned for her engaging and down to earth sermons and she also held positions of Chair of the Assembly of Rabbis, Chair of the Council of Reform and Liberal Rabbis and Vice president of the Movement for Reform Judaism.  

Rabbi Jackie, who was presented with a series of gifts by colleagues on her retirement, has always played down her status as the first female rabbi in the UK but her achievement is widely acknowledged by those who followed her. 

“I’m fascinated by her struggles and achievements,” said Rabbi Debbie Young-Somers. “She is an inspiration to us all. I was aware of how many battles that had been fought before me. I have learned so much from her. She paved the way for me and so many other women to say I’m going to be a rabbi and of course it was possible.” 

“It’s a rare and beautiful thing for someone to mix profound compassion, kindness and love, combined with such hard work all driven by ideology and care,” added Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner. 

And Rabbi Robyn Ashworth Steen said: “Jackie modelled to me such compassion and leadership and as Beit Din Convenor she was always so true to the values of putting the people first when dealing with status and legal issues during such emotional times in people’s lives. Jackie leaves the Beit Din in an amazing space. Her support has meant the world to me and I hope it will continue.”  

Inevitably Rabbi Jackie is not stopping immediately. She will continue at the European Beit Din for another year and as she says “I hope to run services every now and then.” 

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