Judy: I think I’ll just start at the beginning because a lot of it, I think of a lot of what has happened to me and who I am, is a result of where I grew up. My name is Judy Kamins Goldstein, and I was born and raised in North Dakota, back in the day, when there were small congregations in various cities, when there were one or two Jews in some of the towns, and not very many others.
By the time I was a teenager, I became involved in BBYO, because the Jewish men and women in North Dakota and Northern South Dakota all belonged to B’nai Brith. There was the B’nai Brith Organization and the B’nai Brith Women, and the kids all belonged to BBYO. This was the main connection. I was from Minot and once we had a Rabbi, who stayed for, I think, a year- otherwise we were served by the travelling Rabbis who might come for the High Holy Days or by Mr. Gordon. Mr. Gordon was replicated in many other cities in small towns. He was a very learned man who would help the occasional Bar Mitzvah boy with his studies.
Back in those days, of course, girls weren’t Bat Mitzvah’ed, heaven forbid, so I grew up in BBYO. I became very active in that, and I was the regional president for a year, which entailed trips to the conferences, to the Twin Cities, Winnipeg was involved- that was always kinda fun, you know, a bunch of teenagers going across the border to Winnipeg. And then it was time to go to the University. Now, the common practice in the 50s was, especially if you had a daughter, you sent her to a university in a large enough community that had a reasonable Jewish population. Because, in the 50s, you not only went for your BA, your BS, or the unspoken reason, was to get your MRS. I was more interested in, you know, getting my degree in Nutrition and Dietetics, but as it happened, I DID get the MRS. One of you mentioned working with Hillel, so you must recognize the name Rabbi Louis Milgrom, who was an institution there in the 50s and 60s, and he had a saying “meet your spouse and the Hillel house”, and we all laughed about it! I met my husband on a Friday evening. They, once-a-month, had dinners and services at the Hillel house, and I was there with another fellow, when he said “come on, there’s somebody I want you to meet, he’s also from North Dakota.” And as they say, “the rest was history”. That man’s name was Alvin Goldstein.
After his family left North Dakota, they settled in South Minneapolis and joined the Adath Jeshurun Congregation. Louie, Al’s father, lived a block from the shul, and went every morning and every evening and Al was affiliated there and [did the] USY, LTF kind of thing. So, after his service and when we were married, it was just logical that we would join the congregation. No shopping around was needed. I’m sure that we would have enjoyed the process, but [it was] not an issue for us. So that was in 1959.
We joined the synagogue and really didn’t do a whole lot at first. We were both working and very busy, and attended services. And then, in the summer of 1964, I remember distinctly because that was just before one of the children was born, I was asked to serve on one of the education subcommittees. And I said yes! I have been working on and off, mostly on, at various committees and various board positions since: Secretary of the congregation, President of the congregation, and everything in between.
Talor: When you got involved with Adath, in sounds like you went from being kind of not being involved to being really involved over the course of your years. What was it that kept you coming back and taking positions and joining committees?
Judy: Well, I have been a volunteer my entire life. I grew up in the type of household. My father was always doing some volunteer kind of thing in the general community. And I just grew up, that’s just what you did. My first volunteer job was in 9th grade. There was a junior Red Cross group at the high school, so that was my first volunteer thing. So, the concept of volunteering was just what you did. And I had been heavily involved in Hadassah in the community in Minneapolis. I was president of one of the groups and so it was just my mentality. I had one child at the time, and working, you know, it wasn’t the Gan then, it was the preschool then, committee, just seemed a logical place to start (because I was pregnant with my second).
Mikaela: Definitely! What was your involvement like through Hadassah? Was that through Adath at the time or was that a separate entity?
Judy: It was just through some of the women that I knew. We were all young brides and we got together and joined the Weitzman Hadassah and I was fairly new at it- very new at it. I think I had only been there about a year and I was asked to be president, and I said ‘sure, why not!’.
Mikaela: That sounds like a theme, where people think very highly of you and ask you to do all of these positions.
Judy: My philosophy is if you’re going to do something, first of all, don’t take a job that you aren’t willing to finish, and you aren’t willing to give your best effort toward. And, once you’ve made that emotional and mental commitment, follow through with it! And I just do!
Mikaela: It’s so cool that you’ve been consistently at Adath your entirety, it sounds like, of being in Minnesota. What’s made you stay at Adath?
Judy: Well, there’s absolutely no reason that Al and I ever would have left! I mean, that was his synagogue! He was on the Board occasionally from time to time, and it was comfortable for us. The staff, the philosophy of the congregation, the way the services were conducted, and the educational philosophy and opportunity were there for the children.
Talor: Do you want to tell us about the National Women’s League for Conservative Judaism and the experience you had?
Judy: I could talk about Women’s League for years! Women’s League for Conservative Judaism was founded in November or December of 1918 by Mathilde Schechter and different conservative congregations from around the country started joining. The Adath Jeshurun women joined on June 1 of 1919, so we were one of the first congregations to join the organizations. It had lots of different names before it ever became Women’s League. It didn’t become Women’s League until the mid to late 20s. It was the Sisters of Peace and all sorts of really interesting backgrounds. So, it was the way women at the Adath connected. Because you have to realize that back in the ‘20s, and the ‘30s, and the ‘40s and the ‘50s and into the early ‘60s, we really had no identity. I have, around here, some old Clarions and I was always Mrs. Alvin Goldstein. I didn’t become Judy Goldstein until the late ‘60s. That’s just the way it was. We cooked in the kitchen, we served the Men’s club, we ran a very successful gift shop, and we did other charitable kinds of things, but it was years before we could even be on the board. And it was many more years before a woman, heaven forbid, became president of the congregation. Well, Esther Katz opened the flood gates and there have been many of us since then.
Women’s League had conventions every 3 years at the Concord Hotel in Upstate New York. And, for those of us from the Midwest, it was a double treat not only being with so many sisters, but to go to the Concord up in the Catskills. And in 1982, there was a conference in November, and the region president, at that time, was Beverly Fine, who at that time belonged to the Adath Jeshurun, and as I indicated before, the Adath was a reasonably progressive congregation, and had talked about counting women in minyan- I forget exactly when that happened. But, as a branch, we had decided we were going to offer a resolution at the plenary conference. So, at the end of the plenary session, when the question was asked if there was any other business, Beverly rose, paper in hand, approached the microphone, and read the resolution, which asked that Women’s League strongly encourage the Jewish Theological Seminary to accept women in their Rabbinic program. And then all you-know-what broke loose. Lots of buzz, lots of conversation. At first, they didn’t know quite how to respond and there was talk back and forth. It was decided that the motion was out of order, because it had not gone through the Resolutions Committee, and the issue would be referred back to the Committee, and brought forth at our next convention in 1984. And of course, for the rest of the conference there was talk about “ugh, these women from the Midwest” and “what are they trying to do?”. So, by the time we returned for our 1984 convention, of course, the whole thing was academic, because Amy Eilberg had already been admitted and was a student in the Rabbinic program. But back in the days when United Synagogue Rabbinic Assembly, or whomever, was going around the country and having listening sessions about women being counted in Minyan, one was held at the Adath, and I believe, that we were counting them in Minyan before it became “official policy”.
There were the days when women, of course, never put on T’fillin. I mean, that’s really sacrilegious. We had a staff person, a woman, who appeared at minyan one morning- she went regularly- and whipped out her T’fillin and put them on, and I remember my father-in-law talking about that, “how could she? How could they let her do that?”, and by the next week, he was okay with it. So, the idea of exposing people to some of these things.
Talor: Everything kind of moved really fast after that motion was introduced. What were your thoughts as it was introduced? Did you think it would become a thing as quickly as the next convention? You said it was kind of academic and that they were bringing it up again because it had already happened, but did you think that that would become a reality?
Judy: My hope was that eventually woman Rabbis would be permitted in the conservative movement. I don’t think that- I was hopeful, I was cautiously optimistic, but I really didn’t think it would happen at that point because things were always moving so slowly. But very pleased when it did happen.
Talor: What kind of progress have you seen since that point? Was that the first domino to fall in terms of progress for women in organized [Jewish] religion? Walk us through where we were then to where we are now.
Judy: It opened the door. If it is permissible now to have a woman Rabbi, why not have female Cantors? Not a bad idea! We have female Cantors [now]. We are producing female Rabbis. Now, we needed to get congregations at a point that they will accept them and hire them in pulpit positions, and that was not an easy task. How are we going to make our congregations comfortable counting women in minyan? Leadership on the board and presidencies were probably, maybe, one iota easier because during those times, women were taking leadership roles in business and in community organizations and were shown to be strong and effective leaders and could really do the job and in some instances, their skills were more appropriate than typical male skills.
We’ve gone from, “can they do it at all?” to “now let's have a congregation, whose staff is representative of the congregation”. That is a HUGE leap. And if you think about it and maybe from, well, from the mid 80s to now, it isn't really that much time. Yes, it's a number of years but historically speaking it's just not that much time. I’m proud to say that the Adath has been out front, you know, in many of these aspects.
Mikaela: Yeah, I definitely hear what you're saying-it's interesting. Since you've been a member, through a lot of this, you know, progression and change as Adath would do these progressive things that are ordinary today, would you agree with that being a long running theme of Adath?
Judy: Yes, I do think that the congregation has been in the forefront, a lot of these challenges. And I think a lot has to do with the type of professional staff that we hire.
I don't know how it happens because each committee is different. It's composed of different individuals, and a variety of viewpoints and skills, but generally speaking, we have managed to find just the right clergy person for the time, and to continue this forward view. So I think the lay leaders have to get some credit for it, because if we're smart enough to get the right professional staff, we've made it easier for all of these things to happen.
Talor: Judy, I would like to know, you know, you've kind of always stepped up to leadership and kind of taken on the responsibilities you’ve needed to in order to exact the progress that you wanted to see. I would love to know like what advice or what words of wisdom, you would give to the congregation in terms of keeping that trend going.
Judy: Well, I kind of have an idea in my mind of what needs to be done. I'm not sure how it's going to happen. But we, as I said earlier, we need to make the leap, the generational change.
The next generation or two after mine have completely different views of what a religious institution, in this case the synagogue, should have in their life, what the role should be, how it should operate. And they are different. And each generation has a different point of view. And as my group ages out, and the next one comes in, we recognize things are going to be done differently. You're going to have to appeal and find what works to appeal to the next generation or two. But while doing that, the new leadership can't lose sight of the fact that there are still members who are used to things being done another way. And to figure out how to blend these two things together, to service both groups, I think is the challenge. I don't have any idea. And I thus cannot make a suggestion as to how to do it, but I do know that it has to be done.
An example is technology. There are a number of people who are just not technologically proficient. And you have the question of then are we only going to have a Chadashot? Are we going to do away with the Clarion? And would that cut out the service to a large group? And blending together the generations and their needs is really, I think, the important task. And I'm cautiously optimistic that the leadership, the lay leadership, at the synagogue will be up to it.
Rabbi Harold J. Kravitz
D'var Torah Beha'alotcha
May 29, 2021
This past Tuesday evening Cindy and I felt an obligation to drive over to 38th and Chicago, that has been dubbed George Floyd Square to participate in some aspect of this week’s activities to honor the memory of the man whose brutal murder, under the knee of now convicted former Minneapolis Police officer Derek Chauvin, shook this city and shook the world. We arrived at the square in time to hear the end of a concert and accompanying speeches and prayers to a gathering of people I later learned that people came from all over the country feeling the need to be here to mark the first anniversary of George Floyd’s murder. Cindy and I
participated in a ritual at the end of the program, as the sun set by lighting a candle [see photos below]. Like any memorial ritual - it provided us a chance to reflect on what got us here and our hopes going forward.
So much has occurred this year- the impact of COVID-19 and our thoughts about how it feels to re-enter; the recent ugly flare up of violence between Israel and the Palestinians. On this Shabbat Beha'alotcha, whose story about Moses' siblings criticism of their brother for marrying a black skinned woman, a Cushite, with which I introduced I asked you to focus this morning, I want us to consider issues of racism that it inevitably raises for a modern reader. I ask you today to consider:
How has your understanding of issues related to racism changed in the past year since all of the events related to George Floyd’s murder that impacted the world and the nation, literally making Minneapolis and 38th and Chicago a focal point of the nation as it grappled with issues of racism?
Has your understanding of racism and the history of racism in the United States and in Minnesota changed as a result of the events related to George Floyd’s murder?
What have you read, or seen, that influenced your thinking?
What steps, if any, have you taken to address racism? It could have been related to organizations you supported to address these concerns; it could be advocacy you have done; it may have involved conversation you had with others.
One thing that has changed here at Adath was the establishment of Adath Jeshurun’s Antiracism Committee. We are so grateful for the outstanding work they have done as we have learned together, built trust and struggled together to think about our responsibilities at Adath related to antiracism – not simply addressing prejudice, but dealing with the systemic issues that racism poses.
I appreciate that Adath’s Board of Trustees has expressed its support for those efforts in a note to the congregation sent out in our weekly Chadashot email Monday on the eve of the George Floyd Anniversary:
Adath’s Board of Trustees appreciates the work of Adath’s Antiracism Committee which was formed after the George Floyd Murder. As we head into the anniversary of the murder, we encourage you to visit the Committee’s Webpage (adathjeshurun.org/antiracism) where you will find activities to promote the visibility of BIPOC members of Adath and advance racial equity in our larger world. Rabbi Tarfon teaches in Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Sages),“It is not on you to complete the work, neither are you free to desist from it." Words written over 1,500 years ago continue to inspire our action today.
These efforts are not without their challenges.
An early thing we learned was about the feelings of Jews of Color in our congregation. We had to hear them express the ways they sometimes feel marginalized, or not completely welcome. In that they may well relate to our parsha in which Moshe’s wife is called out as an outsider, even if God ultimately takes her side. The event that took place in Minneapolis at the end of last May left Jewish people of color in our community shaken and looking for the support of our community.
In dealing with issues of race we need to look at the complexity of Jewish attitudes about race and in relation to people of color. Many Jews in our country, do not particularly identify as white and therefore do not relate to white supremacy, other than to think that we too are at risk from the hated of white supremacists.
What we seem to have some difficulty understanding is that while it is true that Jews are hated and put at risk by white supremacists, we have also benefited from the fact that most Jews in North America, whose families came here from Eastern Europe are white and have long benefited from being able to pass as white. Those benefits are many, as I shared in my Yom Kippur sermon that focused on the issue of racism. The evidence of racial disparities and inequality in this country are quite real and well documented:
For example, during this pandemic Black people account for 25 percent of those who have tested positive and 39 percent of the COVID-related deaths, while making up just 15 percent of the general population (source).
Black civilians are arrested at over two times the rate of white civilians (source).
Yale University reports that studies over the course of the last five years show consistently, for example, that “Among unarmed victims, Black people were killed
at three times the rate (218 total killed), and Hispanics at 1.45 times the rate of white people (146 total killed) (source).
There are clearly documented racial disparities in this country in health care, employment, housing and policing. These are disparities and inequalities to which the majority of Jews, who appear white, are largely oblivious and not impacted by.
As we were launching Adath’s Antiracism Committee, we heard from Jews of Color associated with Adath of the discomfort they felt as they approached our building as we have ramped up an armed security presence in response to potential threats that overwhelmingly come from white supremacists. As we contemplate reentry into our building we will need to get back to the issue of security and how it lands on people of color, both visitors and those who are members of our congregation. I expect and hope that Jews of color will be a growing part of Adath as demographers agree it is a growing part of our North American Jewish community.
I want to reflect for a bit on a valuable book we have studied this past year in our Downtown Study Group that we will soon complete by Emory University historian Eric Goldstein, The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race and American Identity (2006). We are grateful to our member Riv Ellen Prell, Professor Emerita of American Studies at the U of MN. She stepped in, with her deep knowledge of this area, to lead the class from Dec to March, when I was on sabbatical and has thankfully remained a participant as we finish up the book.
Prof Goldstein, in his valuable look at the history of the Jews in America from the end of the 19th century to the middle of the 20th century demonstrates the deep ambivalence of Jews about race. Given that most Jews after the Holocaust would be leery about describing ourselves as race, it was quite surprising to learn that prior to WW II, Jews were commonly understood to be a racial group by themselves and others. While on one hand many Jews expressed real discomfort at the brutal treatment of blacks in this country, they often were glad to assert that Jews were part of the white race, or if a separate race, we had much to contribute to the country as good Americans. While there are many examples throughout the historical period covered of Jews standing up against the oppression of black people in this country, there are also many shameful examples of Jews participating in the exploitation of black people as they sought to create a good life for their families. Defining Jews as a race had the advantage of preserving Jewish identity, even if a Jew had given up on Jewish observance and belief. The only pattern that we could discern as Jews related to race was a consistent ambivalence about how to understand ourselves in relation to it. I highly recommend Eric Goldstein, The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race and American Identity to understand how Jews grappled and still grapple with our identity, our relation to whiteness and our place in this country.
Coming back to the gathering Cindy and I attended at the George Floyd memorial there is one other aspect that I want to comment on. As we discuss the issue of Jews and whiteness and how to respond to the work of antiracism, I want us to consider one other challenging issue of how we deal with the growing strength of antiracism activists who link the ongoing conflict between Jews and Arabs related to the cause of the Palestinians.
Thank you Rabbi Weininger for your thoughtful sermon last Shabbat responding to the identification of some leaders of the Black Lives Matters with the Palestinian cause. Having made clear my support for BLM through Adath and in our Rabbinical Assembly, which along with the USCJ asserted support for the Black Lives Matter Movement in the past year, I need to express my uneasiness at seeing a Palestinian flag waved in the crowd at one point and another that was planted in a section of the memorial and posters in the vicinity calling for the linking of Gaza with Ferguson, MO the killing of a black man near St Louis several years ago. We cannot close our eyes to the impact of ongoing occupation on the West Bank and the continuing inequality and discrimination exprienced by Israeli Arabs.
However, we need to continue to challenge those who would draw an inappropriate analogy between racism in the United States and the complexities of the conflict between Arabs and Jews in the Middle East that ignore the historic ties, and continual presence of Jews in the land of Israel. Nonetheless, defending Israel’s right to exist and to defend its citizen against violent attacks should not deter us from standing up against racism in North America.
In doing so let us turn to God’s role in this week’s parsha which lands on the side of the person who is being marginalized. It is up to us to know when to speak up in support of what is right and to find compassion when people, regardless of their color or background are being treated unfairly.
I invite you to join us at the kiddush later to reflect together on the questions I asked earlier:
How has your understanding of racism and the history of racism in the United States and in Minnesota changed as a result of the events related to George Floyd’s murder? And what steps have you taken, or would you be willing to take?
We conclude the service with this reflection on the prayer Aleinu that I shared this past Yom Kippur. It was written in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder by Cantor Rachel Stock Spilker of Saint Paul’s Mount Zion Temple and her sisters Hollis Schachner and Sara Stock Mayo.
Aleinu. It is on us.
To bow in praise before God
as a sign of reverence
and perhaps submission
It is on us to bend our knees
only in reverence for life
and only for submission to that which is good
Aleinu. It is on us.
Our sages teach that the angels have no knees
Their legs do not bend
They do not need knees
because their entire purpose
is to stand tall before God in service
But we are not these kinds of angels
We bend under the weight on our shoulders,
We let this twisted world twist us,
into knowing that our service to God comes,
not only in the form of thoughts and prayers,
but in the form of action
Aleinu. It is on us.
Va’anachu kor’im. We bend at the knee
Umishtachavim. We bow at the waist
Lifnei Melech Malchei HaMalchim. We stand straight before God
HaKadosh Baruch Hu. We who are made in God’s image
must be holy because God is holy
So we rise
To repair this very broken world
We stand straight because we can
We stand up because we must
Aleinu. It is on us.
We bend our knees before the God of love
In devotion and in disruption
In protest and in praise
From shame to shleimut – wholeness
We rise before the God of truth
to march and to move
to bend this broken arc towards justice
Aleinu. It is on us.
Bent knees are for showing reverence
to prostrate in peaceful protest
to prepare us for moving
to prepare us for marching
Bent knees are not for killing
God did not make knees, or any other part of us, for that
Aleinu. It is on us.
— Hollis Schachner, Sara Stock Mayo, and Rachel Stock Spilker
For more sermons and conversations over Kiddush, join us for services on Saturdays at 10 am from our Shabbat webpage.
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