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Vayechi 5775 – Farewell, Joseph

(A digest of my D’var Torah from Kabbalat Shabbat services on 1.2.15)

Rabbi Joe Goldman died just more than a week ago … and he added something to your life.

‘What?!” you say, ‘I never knew Rabbi Joe Goldman!’ You may have never met Rabbi Joe Goldman, but if you are reading this email and you have a connection to me or to Temple Micah or to someone else who values Temple Micah … then you owe a debt of gratitude to Rabbi Joe Goldman.

Rabbi Joe Goldman was Temple Micah’s first rabbi in the 1960’s. It was his spirit, character and vision that set the tone for our community, our values and how a rabbi and congregation partner to create a kehilah kedosha — a sacred community.

There are few narrative moments from Rabbi Joe’s tenure that show us who he was and how that spirit still abides among us today. 
  • Rabbi Joe taught about the trust that is an essential part of a successful partnership between rabbi and congregation when he insisted (and the community responded positively) that the community introduce the teaching Hebrew to its students. (Micah – as a congregation who identified with Classical Reform ideals – did not have a Hebrew component in its education curriculum.)  This decision took two partners to make and successfully integrate.
  • Rabbi Joe taught about the important balance for a religious organization to apply its values to operate both as a community and as a business. Complete with business degree and sales experience, Rabbi Joe understood that it was essential for a congregation to be able to talk about money and conduct its business in a way that reflected Jewish values and the best practices of our contemporary society. He would later use this experience and outlook, to help shape the pension plan and retirement for hundreds of rabbis and Reform professionals.  
  • Rabbi Joe taught about the ideal of radical welcomeness, as he would have no problem speaking about his lack of faith in God – from the bimah or in his office. He set the tone for a Micah community that still prides itself on inclusivity regardless of ideology, theology, socioeconomics, sexual orientation or family construct.

The Hebrew version of the name, Joseph – who we read about in the last portion of the end of Genesis – is Yosayf. It means: To add, to increase, to enhance. Rabbi Joe Goldman added something, increased and enhanced the lives of any of us who value Temple Micah.

Thank you, Rabbi Joe. May your memory continue to be a blessing.

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