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2015-08-14 digital edition

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The Jewish Press of Tampa and the Jewish Press of Pinellas County are Independently- owned biweekly Jewish community newspapers published in cooperation with and supported by the Tampa JCC & Federation and the Jewish Federation of Pinellas & Pasco Counties, respectively. Copyright © 2009-2018 The Jewish Press Group of Tampa Bay, Inc., All Rights Reserved.


August 14, 2015  RSS feed
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Text: T T T

Seasoned woman rabbi joins B’nai Emmunah

Jewish Press staff

Rabbi Lynn Goldstein came to the Tarpon Springs temple from a congregation in Bloomington, IL. 
Photo courtesy The Pantagraph, Rabbi Lynn Goldstein came to the Tarpon Springs temple from a congregation in Bloomington, IL. Photo courtesy The Pantagraph, From the time Lynn Goldstein was a little girl, she wanted to be a rabbi, but back then women weren’t allowed to become rabbis.

People would tell her that what she really meant was that she wanted to be a temple president. “No,” she would answer. “I want to be a rabbi.”

Goldstein was 11 years old when she received a phone call from a professor at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, who, at her uncle’s urging, invited her to lunch and told her that women already were studying to become rabbis. This was shortly before the first woman rabbi in the nation was ordained in 1972.

From that day on, Goldstein was determined to follow her dream and in 1987 was ordained as a rabbi by Hebrew Union College Jewish Institute of Religion (HUC-JIR) in New York City, where she graduated with a master’s in Hebrew Letters. In 2012, in recognition of 25 years of service to the Jewish community as a rabbi, she was awarded an honorary doctorate from HUC.

Rabbi Goldstein brings a depth of experience in Judaic studies, education, administration, and social work to her new position at Congregation B’nai Emmunah in Tarpon Springs. She replaces Cantor Colman Reaboi, who is now working at a Conservative synagogue in Oklahoma City.

“Even as a candidate, Rabbi Goldstein showed up for us. She counseled congregants undergoing chemo and helped me through the sudden death of my oldest sister. She is fearlessly compassionate,” said Joel May, co-chair of the Reform temple’s Rabbi Search Committee.

The other committee co-chair, Andy Lyons, added, “We could tell, immediately, that Rabbi Lynn cares about us as individuals, and is also very committed to involvement in the community as a whole.”

Rabbi Goldstein said she had many choices of where to go, based on her rabbinic experience, when she and her husband decided it was time to leave Bloomington, IL, where she served as rabbi of Congregation Moses Montifiore.

She said when she interviewed with B’nai Emmunah, “I wanted to know they were good people; people who would respect each other; people who would listen to each other. I wanted to know that their heart and soul was there and to know I was not just filling a niche. I wanted to be in a place that would think out of the box and willing to experiment, willing to make mistakes and try again.” She told her husband right after the interview that she found what she was looking for in a congregation.

This is not her first time in Florida. After being ordained in 1987 she served as assistant rabbi at Temple Beth Am in Kendall in South Florida. She has served in various capacities at more than a dozen congregations, including in St. Louis and New York.

In addition, her rabbinic career included service as hospital chaplain, Hillel rabbi, university professor, religious school director, teacher, family educator and director of a Jewish educational resource center. Rabbi Goldstein also served as the host and producer of the St. Louis, MO, television show L’Chayim for a decade.

Her varied experience includes being a social worker, working with indigent, often homeless clients with addictions, severe mental or physical health diagnoses, family traumas, and domestic violence victims. While studying to be a rabbi, she became an advocate for Ethiopian Jewry.

Rabbi Goldstein said at the time she was helping teach at a New York synagogue when she first learned about the peril of Ethiopian Jews in Africa from a videotape sent to the synagogue. That led to a research paper on the topic, which earned her an invitation from the North American Conference on Ethiopian Jews to visit the country. One professor threatened to fail her if she took two and half weeks off to go to Ethiopia, but had a change of heart after talking to his wife. “She told him he should left me go, that I was doing what rabbis should do,” Rabbi Goldstein recalled.

When Goldstein returned, she went on a speaking and fundraising tour across the U.S. as a volunteer for the Conference of Ethiopian Jews.

Goldstein was born in Cleveland and grew up near Philadelphia. As early as in high school, she served in a variety of Jewish youth organizations and traveled to Israel for the first time.

While in college she served as chairperson of the North American Jewish Youth Conference, the body that represents all Jewish youth movements. She was chosen to represent American Jewish youth in Cairo and in Jerusalem for the signing of the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.

Congregation B’nai Emmunah leaders say they are looking forward to leadership by Rabbi Goldstein and continuing outreach programs, as well as adding new educational offerings to better serve the Jewish communities of Pasco and Pinellas counties.

“Rabbi Lynn will infuse our congregation with an invigorated spirit, and lead us forward into an exciting future,” said search committee co-chair Lyons.

Rabbi Goldstein assumed her new rabbinate position at B’nai Emmunah on July 1. For those who have not yet met her, she will be on hand to greet congregants and the community at an open house at the synagogue on Sunday, Aug. 30 from 3-5 p.m.

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