Shaare Emeth honors Rabbi Andrea Goldstein

BY ROBERT A. COHN, EDITOR-IN-CHIEF EMERITUS

Rabbi Andrea Goldstein of Congregation Shaare Emeth was honored at a special Shabbat service followed by a congregational dinner for her tenth anniversary of service to the l,800-member unit Reform congregation. Over 600 people attended the special service in the Stiffman Sanctuary of Congregation Shaare Emeth, and many attended the dinner after the service.

Rabbi Goldstein was praised by her colleagues at Shaare Emeth, including Rabbi Jim Bennett, Rabbi Jeffrey B. Stiffman, Rabbi Annie Belford and Cantor Seth Warner. Rabbi Lane Steinger, regional director of the Midwest Office of the Union for Reform Judaism, also attended the tribute event.

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It was recalled by Rabbi Jeffrey B. Stiffman that when Andrea Goldstein stood before him to become a bat mitzvah at Shaare Emeth, he remarked, in praising her mastery of her service, “You really should consider becoming a rabbi.” Rabbi Stiffman joked that “members of Andrea’s family gave me a few looks when I made that observation, but it turned out that it would really happen.” Rabbi Stiffman added, “Every rabbi needs a rabbi, and Rabbi Goldstein has been such a rabbi for me and many of her colleagues. One of our sages in the Pirke Avot says, ‘I learn from my students.’ I started to learn from you at your bat mitzvah. When I traveled with Mike Geigerman our past president and Rabbi Jay Perlman to Cincinnati to interview rabbinic candidates, you really blew us away, as you did our search committee. You truly glowed as you shared your wisdom and insights with such empathy.”

In his remarks, Rabbi Jim Bennett said, “When we approached Rabbi Goldstein about our idea to honor her on her tenth anniversary of service at Congregation Shaare Emeth, she responded, typically, ‘Why would you have to do that?’ We are doing it not because we have to, but because we want to, and because we love and respect you. One of your colleagues, Rabbi Janet Marden of Palo Alto, Calif., notes that it is written in Pirke Avot, ‘Find yourself a rabbi.’ She notes that the rabbi stands with you in joy and sorrow, holds your hand in the hospital, and holds you up at a funeral. Martin Buber said that when a rabbi went to study with the Magid, he was as interested in how he laced and unlaced his boots as in how he studied. We respect our rabbis as much or more for how they behave off the bema as on the bema, and Rabbi Goldstein consistently sets the highest standards for herself and the rabbinate.”

Rabbi Annie Belford commented, “The word rabbi in Hebrew is ‘Rav,’ which means Master. The rabbi is expected to be a Master of Torah, a priest, a teacher and a friend. All of those qualities are true of Rabbi Andrea Goldstein. She is also the Master of herself, always being true to herself and her values and principles. She teaches people how to be more brave in our world and how to take action to improve the world and humanity.”

Cantor Seth Warner also joined in the tributes to Rabbi Goldstein, including a selection of songs sung by a special choir in honor of her tenth anniversary of service.

Emma Compton, one of Rabbi Goldstein’s former students, read from the Torah Portion on the Book of Numbers, along with Benjamin Gregory Weinstock, who was becoming a bar mitzvah.

Congregation members Carol Wolf and Sue Matlof, who were co-chairs of the tribute to Rabbi Goldstein, joined in expressing appreciation for her service to the synagogue, and presented her with a specially designed work of art by noted St. Louis artist and calligrapher Tsila Schwartz, who is a member of Congregation Shaare Emeth. “It is such an honor to share these few words with you and to present you this gift as a token of our appreciation to you for all that you do to serve our congregation and our community,” Wolf said. She noted that the artwork includes a Tree of Life, whose roots contain the names of Rabbi Goldstein’s family, her husband Brett and their children, Macey, Eli and Lila. “The trunk of the tree contains the word ‘tzedek,’ or justice, a word which is the very core of Rabbi Goldstein’s very being — to seek justice for all who cannot find it for themselves.”

The artwork also includes the words from Pirke Avot, “It is not upon you to complete the task. But neither are you free to desist from it.”

In her remarks, Sue Matlof shared a story about a father and son taking a walk, when the son falls and hurts himself. “He shouts ‘ouch’ and he hears back an echo, ‘ouch.’ He yells, who are you? and the echo repeats ‘who are you?’ The father then shouts ‘I admire you,’ and the echo says ‘I admire you,’ and then says, ‘You are a champion,’ and so on. The father says life is like an echo; what you do comes back to you. Rabbi Goldstein has touched so many lives, and has given us so much, that we hope that your life will also be such an echo.”

After Rabbi Goldstein’s bat mitzvah 25 years ago, she and her family moved to Boston a year later. She fufilled her promise to complete her Jewish education through confirmation. While an undergraduate at Northwestern University, she was active in Congregation Beth Emet, the Free Synagogue in Evanston, Ill. She then attended the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion where she was ordained a rabbi in June 1998. She became a rabbi at Shaare Emeth on July 1 of that year. She had served student pulpits in Ishpeming, Mich.; Carey, N.C.; and Cleveland. She also served at Congregation Chevra Tikvah. While at Congregation Beth Shalom in Carey, N.C., her rabbinic mentor was Rabbi Lucy Dinner, a former associate rabbi of Shaare Emeth. Her husband is Brett Gillam.

In her remarks, Rabbi Goldstein recalled her bat mitzvah at Congregation Shaare Emeth 25 years ago, noting, “I even still have the original folder. On the bema were Rabbi Stiffman and Rabbis Susan Talve and Jim Goodman and Cantor Edward Fogel. I have re-read my speech and found that I had not only thanked my parents, the rabbis and the cantor, but also thanked Congregation Shaare Emeth. I said this was a place where I felt comfortable and safe, and this is a great part of why I decided to become a rabbi. I wanted to wake up to serve a place where the members are not so much concerned with the outer trappings of how they dressed or how much money they had, but a warm and welcoming place for children, parents and grandparents, where people could come during times of joy or sadness, a place where God’s presence could be felt.

“Just as this week’s Torah Portion has to do with counting, I cannot begin to count all of those I want to thank, our rabbis, cantor, our members, Carol Wolf and Sue Matlof. Of course I want to thank my family, Brett and our children Macey, Eli and Lila, and my parents and brother who came here from opposite coasts to share this evening. Often as a rabbi I am torn in my feelings between my family and my rabbinic responsibilities. When I am with the family, I may be missing temple obligation; when I am at temple, I miss being with my family. My family and this temple are both always so understanding. When you see the members of my family, please join me in thanking them as I thank each of you.”

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