Rabbi Lynn Goldstein and her husband Jack Dougherty received a quick dose of Springfield hospitality when they arrived in the city earlier this summer.
The couple’s moving truck from Canada didn’t arrive here for two weeks, literally leaving them dependent on the kindness of strangers.
“We had nothing,” Goldstein said. “People would bring us chairs to sit on, bring us silverware, cups and food. The community really came together and was fabulous.
“My husband and I were talking (recently) and said there was nothing wrong with us if we tried.”
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Goldstein became the spiritual leader of Temple B’rith Sholom on South Fourth Street on July 1 after Rabbi Michael Datz, his classmate at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, recently ended his tenure as 29 years in the chair.
It wasn’t the only movement in recent months. Rabbi Barry Marks retired last summer after 47 years as head of Temple Israel on West Governor Street.
With the change of leadership comes another distinction: Goldstein becomes the first female rabbi to serve in a congregation in Springfield.
The reform movement began ordaining female rabbis in 1972. Goldstein was ordained in 1987.
Goldstein, 61, said she was the first female rabbi to serve in congregations in Tarpon Springs, Florida; Bloomington, Illinois and Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
“When you walk into a congregation… that hasn’t had a rabbi (female), there are questions people want to ask and that’s good,” Goldstein said, in a recent interview with Temple B’rith. Sholom. “The most important thing is that we men and women in the reform movement treat each other as equals.”
For Goldstein, a Cleveland native who grew up in Levittown, Pa., It’s a return to the Midwest where she spent time as a rabbi at the Kol Am Congregation in St. Louis and at the Moses Montefiore Temple in Bloomington.
Goldstein comes to Springfield after an abridged stay at Temple Beth El, just across the Canadian border. She said separation from her family and the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in her departure.
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Goldstein said she was looking to work with a smaller congregation and had kept in touch with Datz over the years. The B’rith Sholom Temple has about 140 families.
“I didn’t want to be part of a congregation of 500 families,” Goldstein admitted. “I wanted to develop warm, caring relationships and get to know everyone. It was really important to me, that I was in a position where I could really make a difference in people’s lives. I’m not saying it wasn’t. is not the case with other rabbis in other situations, but I really wanted to.
“We didn’t care where we were going (geographically). We didn’t care who the people were. We wanted to be in a place where people treated each other with respect and kindness and were really open to each other. to others and not stuck in small cliques. “
One of the first novelties that Goldstein brought to the B’rith Sholom Temple was the study of Torah on Saturday mornings.
It struck a chord with temple member Lisa Stone.
“I think the congregation was excited about this,” Stone said. “This is her strong suit and interest, so she started the sessions. In all honesty, Rabbi Datz did it (Torah study), but he did it with a service.”
Interact with other faiths
Goldstein said she was also eager to interact with other churches and congregations.
In Windsor, she helped coordinate an interfaith response after the attack on the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh left 11 dead and six injured in 2018.
This led to additional programming with the Muslim community, including a Christmas morning initiative on the similarities and differences between Judaism and Islam.
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In St. Louis, the congregation hosted a Super Bowl party for the homeless with big-screen TVs, food and snacks, and a gift of clothing.
“These are the kinds of things that I think are really important,” Goldstein said.
Growing up in Levittown where her parents ran a clothing store, Goldstein said she had a rabbi encouraging Lawrence Rubinstein.
Goldstein recalled that when people asked her what she wanted to be, “I would say I guess I want to be a rabbi, but you can’t be a rabbi,” she recalls.
Those doors opened when Sally Jane Priesand became the first female ordained rabbi in the United States in 1972.
As a student at Barnard College (Columbia University), Goldstein initiated and directed a number of Jewish programs, including hosting Seder dinners for inmates at a maximum security men’s prison.
At Barnard, Goldstein also began a longtime correspondence and mentorship under Ellis Rivkin, a renowned professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College, where Goldstein’s uncle was also on the board of trustees.
While Goldstein’s presence is considered a landmark as the first woman to serve a congregation in Springfield, one temple member is just happy that Goldstein is here.
“I think at this point people are in sync with the company and what’s going on,” Pat Chesley said. “I think it’s a non-factor.”
“We’ve all had experiences (of) inappropriate comments (towards women),” Goldstein added. “We have learned to manage them, we hope.
“I think the people here made it easier. They went out of their way to do absolutely everything they could to be of service to me.”
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Stone said the scenery had changed with Goldstein at Temple B’rith Sholom and Rabbi Arthur Stern taking over through town at Temple Israel.
“I like to put old wine in new bottles,” Stone said. “I am open to change and to what each of these people brings from their life experiences.
“She meets face to face with the faithful or in small groups to talk frankly about what they want to see, what they liked, what they did not like, what to do. people are open about what they are willing to give up and how she can navigate the waters of how to be a successful leader for the congregation. “
Reverend Susan Phillips knows a bit of history. She became the first female pastor at First Presbyterian Church – “Lincoln’s Church” – in downtown Springfield in 2017.
Phillips has worked with the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association since coming here. Phillips’ husband, artist Simon Levin, is Jewish.
“I am delighted to welcome Rabbi Lynn Goldstein to Springfield,” said Phillips. “Interfaith work between communities can inspire us all and strengthen our relationships.”
Working with the Springfield community
Goldstein admitted that she is only “at the very beginning of starting to say what are the ways in which we could shape our community in the building and what are the ways in which we could leave a mark on the community as a whole. , so that we can be part of the Springfield narrative.
“There is definitely work to be done,” she added. “What we need to do, I think, is find ways to bring people together and be able to do all kinds of different things together. In many ways people are very united. In many ways there are. has more things we can do, we don’t want to stagnate.
“I believe that we are all very creative, that we can find all kinds of ways to improve life, whether in the synagogue or in the community at large.”
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, [email protected], twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.
Meet Rabbi Lynn Goldstein
Rabbi, B’rith Sholom Temple, Springfield
Family: Husband, Jack Dougherty (married in 2012); Daughters, Jenny (lives in Rochester, New York); Becky (left in Ann Arbor); Andrea (left in Chesapeake, Virginia)
Seminar: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion
Education: Bachelor of Political Science, Barnard College (Columbia University); MA in Hebrew Literature, Hebrew Union College; master’s degree in social work, Washington University in St. Louis