Trailblazing female rabbi presented with portrait

Rabbi Jackie Tabick was painted to mark almost 50 years since she graduated as the UK’s first female rabbi


Rabbi Jackie Tabick and artist Monica Jaye, with the portrait presented to Rabbi Tabick to mark almost 50 years since her ordination (Photo: Mark Dalton)

The first female rabbi in the UK has been honoured with a portrait which reflects her “happiness and wisdom”, said its artist.

Rabbi Dr Jackie Tabick made history when she graduated from Leo Baeck College in 1975 at the age of 27.

The trailblazer has now been immortalised by an oil and acryclic painting by A-level art student Monica Jaye.

Receiving the portrait, Rabbi Tabick said: “It’s an amazing piece of work. I’m so honoured. I can’t believe anyone would want a portrait of me. It’s the first time anyone has painted me, and Monica’s done such a wonderful job. I’m totally enamoured by the whole thing.”

After her ordination, Rabbi Tabick served as the rabbi of several communities, including West London Synagogue, North West Surrey Synagogue, West Central Liberal Synagogue and, for a short time when it was between ministers, Oaks Lane Reform Synagogue in Essex.

She was the convener of the Reform Judaism Beit Din from 2012 until she retired from the role earlier this year.

Monica, 18, from Loughton, who is hoping to do an art foundation course next year, said that the aim of the portrait was “to bring [Rabbi Tabick’s personality] to life”, telling the JC: “I didn’t know her personally before doing her portrait, but I got to know her as a person when I went to take photos of her for the portrait. I realised she was very wise and jovial, and it really felt like I was talking to someone of great importance.”

The two of them bonded over a mutual love of art.

“She is very artistic,” said Monica “and there was a lot of artwork in her home, including a dolls’ house she has been working on for years.”

While Monica had previously been commissioned to paint family portraits, Rabbi Tabick was the first rabbi she had painted, but she is now hoping to get more rabbinical commissions.

Using mixed media for Rabbi Tabick’s painting, Monica said that she was currently focusing on realism, “but sometimes, I like to switch things up by making the colours in the face more vibrant. I wanted to do this for Rabbi Tabick’s portrait to bring out her liveliness.”

The painting was presented to Rabbi Tabick at a Shabbat service at Oaks Lane Reform Synagogue in Essex, the community in which Rabbi Tabick grew up and where Monica herself is  a member.

In her painting, Monica emphasised Rabbi Tabick’s link to the Oaks Lane community by incorporating the pattern of the ark curtain into the background.

A celebratory service was led by Rabbi Jordan Helfman and Rabbi Lev Taylor, along with musician Mich Sampson.

Dean of Leo Baeck College Rabbi Dr Charles Middleburgh, who attended the service which marked nearly 50 years since Rabbi Tabick’s ordination, said: “I vividly remember being in the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, in 1975, when Jackie was made a rabbi. There was this sense that something quite monumental had started. [Jackie’s] warmth, her generosity of spirit and, above all, her humility are very inspiring.”

Rabbi Tabick also spoke, paying tribute to the kindness and friendship of the Oaks Lane community.

For commissions or enquiries, email:

Share via

Want more from the JC?

To continue reading, we just need a few details...

Want more from
the JC?

To continue reading, we just
need a few details...

Get the best news and views from across the Jewish world Get subscriber-only offers from our partners Subscribe to get access to our e-paper and archive