Rabbi Jackie Tabick continued her trailblazing work last week when she became the only British Rabbi to be invited to the ‘Forum on Common Values among Religious Followers’ organised by the Muslim World League in Riyad. Jackie, Reform Judaism’s first female Rabbi attended as President of the ‘World Congress of Faiths.’
“To be treated as a VIP in Saudi Arabia whose record on human rights and its attitude towards women has not been the best was quite something,” she said. “The fact that I was a Rabbi astounded many people. And for a while, they only called me Doctor. But on reflection, it was a miracle that this conference even happened in the capital of Saudi. Its aim was to promote moderation in religious matters and I brought home with me a belief that there is a real desire to curb extremism in the country,” she added.
Around a hundred faith leaders took part representing most of the world’s major religions. The vast majority however were men, and Jackie and a female Muslim delegate were the only representatives from Britain.
“I went with an open mind hoping for the best. And to be fair I was treated with the utmost respect. Everyone just wanted to be helpful. I was in the company of a dozen or so Rabbis from other countries and we were all offered Kosher food.
“Mind you, it was clear that the pool in the hotel was for men only and none of the main speakers were women, so of course, there’s a long way to go. But I feel overall this was at least a step in the right direction.”
The Forum meets next in London and Jackie hopes her wish to get more women involved will result in an invitation to speak when the assembly gathers again in the autumn.