When Rabbi Lynn Goldstein was driving from St. Louis for an interview at Moses Montefiore Temple in Bloomington, she kept asking herself why she was doing it.
She’s been a rabbi for more than 25 years, serving congregations in 14 locations, including St. Louis, New York and Miami. None of them had cornfields.
But her opinion of the potential position at Moses Montefiore changed when she drove up to the synagogue on Robinhood Lane.
“There were two people waiting outside for me,” she said. “They didn’t want me to walk in by myself. I thought that was so nice. I was really, really impressed.”
And it got better from there, she said.
“I just loved everybody. They were all amazing. I just couldn’t imagine going anywhere else after that,” she said.
Goldstein was offered and accepted the position as the first female rabbi in the congregation’s 100-plus-year history. She started on July 1.
“She clearly stood out,” said member George Gordon, who was on one of the several task groups that helped find the temple’s new rabbi.
Gordon said Goldstein is a “go-getter ... very creative.”
Since she’s been at Moses Montefiore, membership has increased from 85 families to 100. She’s started Torah study, a class to learn Hebrew and is discussing the book, “Rethinking Synagogues,” by Rabbi Lawrence Hoffman, with the temple board and soon the congregation.
“It’s asking people to rethink what it means to be a synagogue,” she said. “It could take a year or more. It’s up to members how to re-envision the congregation.”
She also has made overtures to other Twin City congregations for community outreach programs and is in the planning stages of co-hosting a Super Bowl party for the homeless with Wesley United Methodist Church.
Goldstein, who has a master’s degree in social work, a bachelor’s degree in political science, her rabbinic ordination and a Master of Arts degree in Hebrew literature, has a lengthy list of community, therapeutic and pastoral care service credentials.
She also has created several educational programs through her tenure as a rabbi.
While her service as a rabbi has spanned about a quarter of a century, it’s something Goldstein has been preparing for since about age 11 when her mother asked her what she wanted to be when she grew up.
“She (her mother) said, ‘Gee, it’s a shame a woman can’t be a rabbi or you could be one,’” Goldstein said, noting the first female rabbi was ordained in 1972.
From that point forward, she made that her goal and received a lot of encouragement on the way. Ellis Rivkin, then a professor of Jewish history at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, met the very young Goldstein for lunch one day after finding out about her goal.
“Rivkin said, ‘if you’re comfortable with yourself as a woman, it doesn’t matter what you do … people will be comfortable with you,’” she said.
While a freshman at Barnard College of Columbia University, New York, Goldstein made an appointment with the dean at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion.
“I told him, I’ll be here in four years. What do I study (in undergraduate work)?” Goldstein said.
Her rabbinic ordination took place in 1987 at Hebrew Union College.