When I was growing up and heard the word rabbi, I automatically thought of a distant, unreachable authority figure. Over the last five years, Rabbi Carmit Harari changed this stereotype for me.
Rabbi Harari arrived in Edmonton fresh out of school and Temple Beth Ora (TBO) was her first pulpit. Todd Babiuk had the pleasure of interviewing her for the Edmonton Journal to introduce her to his readers. I thought it was only fitting to write a fond farewell as she heads to Chicago to become the rabbi of Congregation Am Echad and of B’nai Yehuda Beth Sholom.
Friday night was Rabbi Harari’s final Shabbat service and over 120 people from Edmonton’s Jewish and interfaith communities came to see her off. It was an emotional evening for myself and many others. You could easily see how she touched the lives and made an impact on Edmonton.
I still remember inviting her to a Jewish event so we could get to know each other. We were the only people at the event for over an hour and we sat awkwardly looking at our hands and around the room. Rabbi Harari was still willing to sit with a smile on her face even thought it appeared the event was a failure. Over the years, we got to know each other during movie nights, dinners and at synagogue. She taught my daughter at Sunday school and made her excited to be a Jew, especially when she came to my daughter’s school to teach the class about Chanukah.
Rabbi Harari was there for me for a few low points in my life, listening with compassion and offering me advice as I needed it. She gave me enough confidence as a Jew to encourage me to have my bat mitzvah for my 40th birthday. For nine months, she and I met weekly to study and chant my Torah portion. She beamed with pride while I chanted this portion last August to 50 guests at TBO.
This created a special bond for me as I was her first adult bat mitzvah. She’s become my teacher, mentor and I hope, always, my friend. I have an open invitation to visit her in Chicago and I plan to use it.