MIDDLESEX New Synagogue's latest rabbi has pledged to improve links with other faiths and Harrow's young people.
Earlier this month, Holland-born Kathleen de Magtige-Middleton took up the mantle at the synagogue in Bessborough Road, Harrow, addressing her congregation for the first time on Saturday June 7.
The 37-year-old mother-oftwo, who took over the reins from Rabbi Simon Franses following his 21-year tenure, is now keen to continue his work and hopes her youthfulness will encourage new members.
She said: "I would hope that being part of a young family will help to attract people, and that it will hopefully be a part of the magic.
"One thing I would like to do is start up something for tiny tots because it is a good way for people to meet other young families.
"As a congregational rabbi, I would like to create in the community a positive sense of belonging, a positive under-standing of what it is to be progressive Jew.
"I would hope that its individual members will be able to assert themselves proudly as responsible, ethical, progressive Jews in the Jewish and non-Jewish world."
And while it is now more common than ever before for a woman to take up the position of rabbi, Mrs De Magtige-Middleton appreciates it may take some time to get everyone on board.
She said: "I have always been more inclined to stick to traditions, particularly with regards to services, than most of my Liberal colleagues.
"I have had different responses to me being a woman, from both ends of the spectrum, but it's all about perception.
"Very orthodox people will find it difficult to accept a female rabbi, but nominally orthodox people have no problem with it at all."
As well as engaging young people, she also talked about her interest in promoting dialogue between different faiths - having taught basic Judaism at a Muslim college as well as taking part in interfaith services.
Mrs De Magtige-Middleton has led bible study sessions for the Council of Christians and Jews, taken part in a conference for rabbis and imams arranged by the Home Office, and been co-organiser of several seminars and conferences for the young adults' division of the World Zionist Organisation.
She is married to David, 41, and lives with their two children, Emma, three, and Victoria, nine months.