Mother-of-one elected as youngest synagogue chair

By Sandy Rashty, May 30, 2013
Michelle Bauernfreund

Michelle Bauernfreund

A 27-year-old mother and part-time charity worker has been elected as the youngest chair of a United Synagogue shul.

Michelle Bauernfreund was voted in unopposed at the 220-member Alei Tzion synagogue in Hendon, north-west London.

Mrs Bauernfreund, who has a one-year-old daughter and works for Jewish charity Mitzvah Day, said: “I’m pretty nervous about the job, but I’m just going to try and be as organised as I can and manage my time well.

“I’m not going to be able to do everything myself, so I’m going to encourage people to get involved in the process. It’s about delegating and empowering people.”

She added: “Our shul has quite a young community, full of lots of young families and singles, so I want to hold more events for them, as well as catering for all the age groups.”

Essex-born Mrs Bauernfreund is a member of the US women executive committee and a former pupil of JFS.

She said the decision to allow women to run synagogues represented “a huge opportunity, especially for religious women who will always be more limited in their service in the Orthodox world. It was very frustrating and upsetting that women were not able to stand for chairs. That’s why I stood.”

Mrs Bauernfreund joins seven other women who have been elected to the post of chair. They are Frances Grossman at Belmont Synagogue, Nicky Burns at Central, Ros Goulden at Cockfosters and North Southgate, Karen Appleby at St Albans, Marsha Schultz at Northwood, Irene Leamen at Kenton and Hilary Stone at Staines Synagogue, an affiliate of the US. All of them, apart from Ms Leamen, stood unopposed.

Dalia Cramer, co-chair of US women, said communities would thrive under the new leadership.

“By ensuring that women can be involved in the running of the shuls, we are helping to build stronger communities for the future. It is about finding the best person for the job — be they male or female — to guarantee our shuls grow. We look forward to the day when women are also able to stand as trustees and even as US president.”

Anne Gordon will stand uncontested for Borehamwood Synagogue next Tuesday. Her election would mean nine out of the 49 chair positions will be held by women.

“It’s a good start and really encouraging,” said Mrs Bauernfreund.

Last updated: 9:45pm, May 30 2013