A local synagogue overflowed this past weekend with pillars of the Jewish community wishing a new leader well.
Rabbi Audrey Kaufman was officially installed as the new rabbi at Am Shalom synagogue in Barrie’s south end on Saturday, which serves both Barrie and South Simcoe’s Jewish community.
While the new rabbi was officially ordained in June in New York, Saturday marked her installation as rabbi for the synagogue on Huronia Road.
“I would like to say I’m a trailblazer, but I’m really not,” Kaufman said with a laugh. “There are quite a number of female rabbis. I’m honoured to be one of them.”
Kaufman is a registered nurse by training, and worked for many years in intensive care before making the leap to become a woman of faith.
“The pastoral care having to do with death and dying is a critical component to me (becoming) a rabbi,” she told BarrieToday. “I really fell into it accidentally when I was asked one day to fill in for a cantor at another synagogue. I ended up staying for 13 years.”
Throughout those years, Kaufman studied cantorial art and slowly became more and more involved in the synagogue.
“I liked it. When my relationship with Am Shalom started 15 years ago, it continued,” she said. “Over the past five years, I felt that with my responsibilities I should educate myself to the fullest extent I could so I started the rabbinical training.”
The process has taken more than 20 years to get to this point, and Kaufman is ready to hit the ground running.
During the ceremony, she listed off ways she wants to make change within the synagogue and the local Jewish community as a whole with her overall goal being joining different sects of the community together.
“I have many new and exciting ideas I need your help with,” she said, including improving social media and communications, taking a look at programming which could include new cooking and music programs and reviewing membership requirements.
Overall, Kaufman says her feelings around taking over the congregation are positive.
“I feel love and pride,” she said. “I feel pride in myself for taking on what I thought was an overwhelming task and completing it is a great feeling.
“It truly has been a love affair, and I’ve had a lot of support from the congregation,” Kaufman added. “The love I saw today just fuels me.”