By Ron Stang, Special to the Jewish News
Photograph courtesy of Rabbi Lynn Goldstein
It all adds up to practicing tikkun olam.
Rabbi Lynn Goldstein, who now oversees the congregation at Windsor’s Reform synagogue, Temple Beth El, brings a point of view and resume that combines the spiritual and real world so that Judaism can be an integrated practice for daily life and the eternal.
“My overall theme and vision is to provide a whole series of different ways for us to be involved Jewishly, spiritually, and for us to make a difference in our community and in the world around us,” she says.
Goldstein joined the synagogue last summer after tenures in Florida, Illinois and New Jersey. She replaces the 25-year leadership of Rabbi Jeff Ableser.
Why choose Windsor?
“We (she and husband Jack Dougherty) said the thing that we care most about is that we want to be in a place where people are really good to each other, and we wanted to be in a place that would feel like home,” she says.
They found that first by interview over the phone, then through Skype and finally on a weekend visit.
“I was watching how people interacted with each other, and I was watching their body language and the way they spoke to each other, and the way they seemed to be incredibly open and friendly.”
Goldstein brings rabbinical, academic and practical experience to her first Canadian temple, all of which she plans to employ to further invigorate the south Windsor membership.
“We’re working on quite a number of different ways to energize the congregation to ever higher levels,” she says.
Goldstein has a track record of increasing temple members, and it’s already having an effect in Windsor, with nine new families joining since her arrival last summer. She has also introduced creative approaches to prayer and Torah study, upped general attendance and created interfaith networks as well as wider community involvement through social justice programs.
Before coming to Windsor, Goldstein taught or mentored in numerous post-secondary and religious environments. She also has extensive experience working with youth and was involved internationally in the cause of Ethiopian Jews.
Goldstein’s educational background includes graduating with honors from Columbia University in New York, receiving an MA in Hebrew Literature, rabbinic ordination and honorary Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College. She has a master’s in Social Work from St. Louis’s Washington University. She has studied professional fundraising, nonprofit management and counseling.
This multi-faceted background is already showing up in initiatives at Beth El.
Several congregation-focused committees have been created, such as parents overseeing the religious school, a new social action committee — which feeds the public four times a year at Ronald McDonald House — and a mini-Jewish university.
More interfaith work is also on the agenda, stemming in part from last fall’s vigil mourning the victims at a mass shooting at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life synagogue. There are now potluck dinners the first and third weeks of the month. The first week of the month includes a Family Shabbat with a shorter service and kids’ orientation. There are also Meal & A Reel movie nights.
Goldstein has also introduced a new Hebrew curriculum, using the Mitkadem (Going Forward) curriculum she had a hand designing in Rabbinical school.
“It’s liturgical Hebrew. What the kids are learning is not just to read —they’re learning what the prayers are about; they’re learning grammar that will help them understand and decode some of the words,” she says.
All these approaches, Goldstein says, “are ways for us to be involved Jewishly” both spiritually and to “make a difference in our community and the world.”