By BRUDDAH HANK
Aloha to all. It’s your Bruddah Hank. Just about every article I write has a mention here and there of my Jewish Heritage and my faith. Most of my fellow temple members are retired or working-class Joes like me. What I’m grateful for is that no matter where you’re from in the world or even if you’re not Jewish, Temple Beth David is a congregation that welcomes everyone. We are not your typical Jewish congregation, and that’s a good thing because our new Rabbi, Jen Goldberg, is not your typical Rabbi. I asked her to answer a few questions, and here are her answers:
Tell me a little about yourself. My Jewish journey has varied throughout my life. I have had an interest in religion for most of my life, though not in the traditional ways that people think of when they imagine someone “religious.” (I use quotation marks because “being religious” means vastly different things to different people.) I was raised Jewish by my parents. My Dad was Jewish, and my Mom is Catholic – and, yes, to answer the next question, she is a “practicing Catholic” who attends church regularly and did throughout my childhood. My Mom has said that she felt that there was nothing about Judaism that went against her beliefs, but the reverse was not true. I would sometimes go to church with my Mom. I was never confused about my religion. Although I may not have been able to articulate it as a child, I understood that I was at church to keep my Mom company. I was easily bribed, receiving candy when I went with my Mom.
What did it mean to you growing up “Jewish?” Growing up, we moved around a lot, which means that we attended different synagogues that were grounded in different denominations with different customs and styles. When we were in Germany, we attended services on an army based on a house of worship that held many different religious services. My bat mitzvah was held while we belonged to a large, conservative synagogue in a suburb of Chicago. We moved around that time and then my three brothers each had a bar mitzvah at reform synagogues. Our preparation was quite different based on the synagogues, as well as based on our own interests and motivations.
What does worship look like in a Jewish House of Worship? “In today’s world, congregations include people who were raised in different denominations with a wide range of traditions; furthermore, many Jewish people are not affiliated with a synagogue. I believe it is critical to embrace the diversity of the Jewish world and individuals without judgment. It is important to meet people where they are at and help people engage with and connect to the Jewish community in diverse ways. Each person’s presence matters.”
How did you prepare to become a Rabbi? Rather than becoming a rabbi, I decided to pursue a career in education. I taught children with special needs for five years, went to grad school to get a PhD in Education and then was a professor of education for nine years. I was still connected with the Jewish community, including teaching religious school, but I kept being tugged toward working full-time in the Jewish community. I finally decided to finish what my heart had started, so I attended rabbinical seminary at the Jewish Spiritual Leaders Institute (JSLI) where I was ordained June 17th.
What does the personal life of a Rabbi look like? I live in Spring Hill with two children, Coby (12 years old) and Mara (18 years old), my significant other, Jeffrey, and family pets (two dogs and two cats!) They are having fun getting to know Spring Hill and the neighboring area. Despite my Rabbinical powers, my lawn does not mow itself, and getting my kids to eat the right foods is a nightmare! I love my family, and now, as the Rabbi of Temple Beth David, my family has gotten even bigger. I am truly blessed!
What would you like our Hernando Readers to know about you as a spiritual leader? In today’s world, congregations include people who were raised in different denominations with a wide range of traditions; furthermore, many Jewish people are not affiliated with any synagogue. I believe it is critical to embrace the diversity of the Jewish world and individuals without judgment. My goal as a Rabbi at Temple Beth David is to be part of a community that cultivates a sense of belonging for everyone who walks through our doors (physically or virtually!) I want to help people connect with the Jewish community and be a resource for those on an active spiritual journey.
Temple Beth David welcomes Rabbi Dr. Jen Goldberg as their new spiritual leader.