Rabbi Lynn Goldstein and her husband Jack Dougherty received a quick helping of Springfield hospitality when they arrived in town early this summer.
The couple’s moving van from Canada didn’t make it here for two weeks so they literally relied on the friendliness of strangers.
“We had nothing,” said Goldstein. “People brought us chairs to sit on, brought us cutlery, cups and food. The community really got together and was fabulous.
“My husband and I spoke (recently) and we said there was nothing to complain about 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, her classmate at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, recently retired from the pulpit for 29 years had.
It wasn’t the only move in the past few months. Rabbi Barry Marks retired last summer after 47 years at the helm of Temple Israel on West Governor Street.
The change in leadership brings with it another unique feature: Goldstein becomes the first female rabbi to serve in a Springfield ward.
The reform movement began in 1972 with the ordination of female rabbis. Goldstein was consecrated in 1987.
Goldstein, 64, said she was the first female rabbi to serve in the Tarpon Springs, Florida ward; Bloomington, Illinois and Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
“When you go to a community that didn’t have a (female) rabbi, there are questions people want to ask, and that’s fine,” Goldstein said in a recent interview with Temple B’rith Sholom. “The most important thing is that we as men and women in the reform movement treat each other on an equal footing.”
For Goldstein, a Cleveland native who grew up in Levittown, Pennsylvania, it is a return to the Midwest, where she spent some time as a rabbi in the Kol Am Congregation in St. Louis and the Moses Montefiore Temple in Bloomington.
Goldstein comes to Springfield after a shortened stay in Temple Beth El, just across the Canadian border. She said family breakup and the COVID-19 pandemic played a role in her departure.
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Goldstein said she wanted to work with a smaller community and had kept in touch with Datz over the years. Temple B’rith Sholom has about 140 families.
“I didn’t want to be in a 500-family congregation,” Goldstein admitted. “I wanted to build warm and caring relationships and get to know everyone. It was very important to me that I was able to really change people’s lives. I am not saying that this was not for other rabbis in other situations, but that I wanted to I absolutely
“We didn’t care where we went (geographically). We cared about who the people were. We wanted to be in a place where people treat each other with respect and kindness and where they are really open to each other and not” in get stuck in small cliques. “
One of the first new things Goldstein brought to B’rith Sholom Temple was Saturday morning Torah study.
That struck a chord with temple member Lisa Stone.
“I think the community was excited about it,” said Stone. “That’s her strength and her interest, so she started the sessions. In fairness Rabbi Datz did it (Torah study), but he did it with a ministry.”
Interaction with other faiths
Goldstein said she also looks forward to interacting with other churches and parishes.
In Windsor, she helped coordinate an interfaith response after 11 people were killed and six injured in the 2018 attack on the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh.
This led to additional programs 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 community held a Super Bowl party for the homeless with big screen televisions, food and snacks, and a clothing giveaway.
“Those are the things that I think are very important,” said Goldstein.
Growing up in Levittown, where her parents ran a clothing store, Goldstein said she had an encouraging rabbi in Lawrence Rubinstein.
Goldstein remembered that when people asked her what she wanted to be, “I think I want to be a rabbi, but you can’t be a rabbi,” she recalled.
These doors were opened when Sally Jane Priesand ordained the first woman in the United States to be a rabbi in 1972.
As a student at Barnard College (Columbia University), Goldstein started and directed a number of Jewish programs, including Seder dinners for inmates in a maximum security male prison.
At Barnard, Goldstein also began longstanding correspondence and mentoring under Ellis Rivkin, a well-known professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College, where Goldstein’s uncle was on the board of trustees.
While Goldstein’s presence as the first woman to serve a Springfield ward is considered a historic spot, a temple member is just plain glad Goldstein is here.
“I think at this point people are familiar with society and what is going on,” said Pat Chesley. “I think it’s a non-factor.”
“We have all experienced inappropriate comments (towards women),” added Goldstein. “We learned how to deal with them, we hope.
“I think the people here made it easier. They went out of their way to help me.”
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Stone said the landscape changed when Goldstein in the Temple of B’rith Sholom and Rabbi Arthur Stern took over the city in the Temple of Israel.
“I like putting old wine in new bottles,” said Stone. “I am open to changes and what each of these people brings with them from their life experiences.
“She meets with church members individually or in small groups to talk openly about what they want to see, what they liked, what they didn’t like, what people are open to, what they are willing to give up, and how they like the waters navigate to be a successful congregation leader. “
The Rev. Susan Phillips knows a little about history. In 2017 she became the first female pastor of the First Presbyterian Church – “Lincoln’s Church” – in downtown Springfield.
Phillips has worked with the Greater Springfield Interfaith Association since arriving here. Phillips’ husband, the artist Simon Levin, is Jewish.
“I am pleased to welcome Rabbi Lynn Goldstein to Springfield,” said Phillips. “Interfaith work between congregations can inspire us all and strengthen our relationships.”
Working with the Springfield community
Goldstein admitted that she is just beginning to say how we shape our community in the building and how we can shape the larger community so we can be part of the Springfield storytelling.
“There is certainly work that needs to be done,” she added. “What we have to do, I think, is find ways to bring people together and do all sorts of things together. In many ways, people are very united. In many ways, there are more things we can do. We don’t want to stagnate .
“I believe that we are all very creative, that we can find all possible ways to improve life, be it in the synagogue or in the community as a whole.”
Contact Steven Spearie: 217-622-1788, firstname.lastname@example.org, twitter.com/@StevenSpearie.
Meet Rabbi Lynn Goldstein
Rabbi, B’rith Sholom Temple, Springfield
Family: Husband, Jack Dougherty (married 2012); Daughters, Jenny (lives in Rochester, New York); Becky (left in Ann Arbor); Andrea (left in Chesapeake, Virginia)
Seminar: Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute for Religion
Education: Bachelor in Political Science, Barnard College (Columbia University); Masters Degree in Hebrew Literature, Hebrew Union College; Masters Degree in Social Work from Washington University in St. Louis