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Huntsville, Ala. (WHNT)-  Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar is rated as one of the 33 most inspirational rabbis in the country by The Jewish Daily Forward.  She has been the rabbi at Temple B’nai Sholom since 2009.  When asked how she felt, Rabbi Bahar said, “I’ll tell you, it’s a little overwhelming.  I guess I have to look forward to what’s coming next in my career, how I can continue to be inspiring.  I would say it’s probably once in a lifetime for most people to get on a list like this, so I feel honored just to be put on one and even more surprised to be put on one right now.”

Just why was Rabbi Bahar chosen for this award?  It all comes down to a specific action that she took.  “As you know, you were allowed to get married for same sex couples in the State of Alabama for a hot minute.  The local magistrate was issuing the licenses and he did not want to perform the ceremonies.  They were held outside with various volunteers, but then the weather changed.  When I heard about that, one of my congregants was down in Big Spring Park and they were trying to figure out where to go and what to do.  Right away, I offered our building because we’ve been offered to go to Weatherly Heights Baptist Church and the Church of the Nativity helped us out this past Passover by hosting our Seder and it’s amazing what it means to be a good neighbor.  And I thought for us, we also need to be a good neighbor in Huntsville.  We need to live the Jewish value of Hachnasat Orchim of welcoming in the stranger.   And by living out that value and being true to who we are, I encouraged the congregation and we did.  We opened the doors and over sixty ceremonies were performed in two days.”

Just how did this make the Temple B’nai Sholom congregation feel, was this a controversial decision?  Rabbi Elizabeth Bahar says, “There were some congregants who were concerned, I mean we are in the South.  But I would say aside from the issues and concerns of security, most people were not concerned about it.  In fact, I got several letters and emails from congregants happy to see that we were doing this wonderful mitzvah opening up our doors.”

Watch the three part interview here: