My Jewish Hero! This week.. Dr Barbara Borts

The latest Jewish News

Read this week’s digital edition

Click Here

My Jewish Hero! This week.. Dr Barbara Borts

This week Woodford Liberal Synagogue explains why Dr Barbara Borts is their Jewish Hero

Rabbi Barbara Borts
Rabbi Barbara Borts

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

Support your Jewish community. Support your Jewish News

Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.

For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.

Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.

You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.

100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...


Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.


There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.


In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.


Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.

Easy access

In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.

Voice of our community to wider society

The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.

We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.

read more: