St Albans woman in breakthrough United Synagogue election

By Jay Grenby, April 29, 2013
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Karen Appleby, the newly-elected chair of St Albans synagogue

Karen Appleby, the newly-elected chair of St Albans synagogue

One of the United Synagogue's smallest communities has made history by becoming the first US congregation to elect a woman chair.

At St Albans Synagogue’s AGM on Sunday, Karen Appleby was voted unanimously and unopposed into the top job. The groundbreaking move followed last December’s ruling by the chief rabbi and other US leaders permitting women for the first time to become synagogue chairmen.

“We are in uncharted waters,” Mrs Appleby said after her election, “but we will learn as we go along.”

A member of St Albans, with husband Keith, for the past 15 years, she has been vice-chair for the past three years, and was largely responsible for steering the 65-year-old 130-member community from its original affiliated status to full membership of the US in 2011.

In recent months she has been overseeing the selection procedure for the recruitment of the community’s first minister in 50 years. One of her first tasks as chair will be to renew the recruitment process after the recent withdrawal of the appointed candidate on the eve of taking up the post.

She said: “In the past, I have been happy to work in the background to get things done, but I do agree it is time now for women to step forward and lead our shuls from the front rather than being confined to a supporting role. For far too long, the majority of women have been relegated to the task of organising kiddushim or fund-raising events. I am pleased that the US has recognised that we are capable of more than just this.”

Last updated: 1:48pm, April 29 2013