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Macon's Temple Beth Israel installs first female rabbi

Elizabeth Bahar got into town last year and began working during the COVID-19 pandemic

MACON, Ga. — Temple Beth Israel is a very historic place. The congregation first got together in 1859. They moved into the building at Spring and Cherry streets in 1902, and this Sunday, they are set to mark another historic milestone the installation of their first female rabbi, Elizabeth Bahar.

"I think it's an honor I get to break the stain glass ceiling here," Bahar said with a smile.

Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar actually got into town last year -- she got right to work, but 2020 is a year none of us will ever forget.

"We now live in a society that is now 'BC' and 'WC' -- 'Before COVID' and 'With COVID.' I'm now living in a time 'With COVID,'" she explained. "Where I'm trying to take the congregation is with technology, because frankly, we need multilayered access at all our events."

It's why the laptop now sits next to her prayer cloth, and the woman who has led two other congregations since she was ordained in 2009 has a vast library in her home that she can pull from. Hundreds of titles sit on her shelf.

"In our text, it says you are supposed to find a teacher, and the best thing is it doesn't define teacher, so it doesn't say the teacher has to be Jewish. I've learned things from Mahatma Gandhi and Mother Teresa," she recalled, and she wants to bring that kind of acceptance interacting with other faiths and other churches.

 "How can we bring a sense of hope and a sense of love and compassion into the broader community? And what that will look like, I don't really know," she said.

But what she does know is that even though she broke the glass ceiling, she is humbled to become part of the fabric of the community.

"I'm grateful that I'm held by this loving, gorgeous community, and excited to see the next phase of our journey together," Bahar said.

Sunday's installation service is at 2 p.m. at Temple Beth Israel, and you can see the event both in person or virtual.

The congregation just went back to in-person services last week.

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