CBI Welcomes Rabbi Justin Goldstein

On January 8th, Rabbi Justin Goldstein officially assumed his duties as the next spiritual leader at Congregation Beth Israel.

Justin grew up in Chicago, IL and was drawn to Judaism in his late teens, spending summers in Israel throughout high school and college. Rabbi Goldstein attended Hampshire College in Amherst, MA, graduating with a concentration in Ancient Literature, Archaeology, Anthropology and Biblical Hebrew. While there he completed a translation and commentary on most of the Book of Genesis.

Attracted by the traditions of Conservative Judaism—and believing strongly in the inclusivity of egalitarianism—Rabbi Goldstein enrolled at the USCJ-based Ziegler school in Los Angeles. His professors characterized him as incredibly bright and thoughtful, authentic and transparent, progressive and inclusive. “He has a unique way of seeing and walking in the world. He is not a cookie cutter rabbi,” Rabbi Bradley Artson noted. Rabbi Goldstein was selected by his graduating class to deliver the sermon during the class’ ordination ceremony.

After ordination, Justin assumed his first pulpit at Congregation Beth Israel, a small, diverse and active synagogue in Bangor, ME. Over the last two years, he has demonstrated the ability to reach individuals wherever they were and bring them together. His congregants describe him as a phenomenon, an out-of-the-box thinker, non-judgmental and a wise man in a young man’s body. He proved especially successful in attracting young families.

In addition to inspiring the spiritual and educational growth of the congregation, Rabbi Goldstein also served as a volunteer board member of Maine Interfaith Power and Light and assisted with the Advisory Panel for the Judaic Studies program at the University of Maine. He has also published extensively, writing for Jewish Choices, Jewish Voices: Social Justice and God: Jewish Choices for Struggling with the Ultimate, Shema.com and Hazon’s blog, the “Jew and the Carrot.” While in Maine, Rabbi Goldstein was named a Rabbis Without Borders Fellow.

In spring of 2013— prior to the beginning of our search process—the Goldstein family decided to relocate to Asheville so that his wife, Danielle could be close to her mother. The Jewish community in Maine was aging rapidly and he was eager to continue his work in a younger, emerging community like Asheville. While Justin nor Danielle had jobs here, they decided to make the move anyway, feeling a strong connection to Asheville.

“My wife and I decided that, rather than force a life into a place in which we did not necessarily feel at home, we would rely on our own ingenuity and creativity for our livelihood. It is much more important for us to live in a place in which our hearts and souls are invested,“ he explained.

The entire Asheville Jewish community joins Congregation Beth Israel in welcoming Rabbi Goldstein and his family to our family!

A Rabbi’s Take on “The Perfect Rabbi.”

by Rabbi Justin Goldstein

“Every once in awhile I receive the same email from various friends or colleagues which always brings a smile to my face. It brings to light the unreasonable expectations people in the clergy have of themselves and also touches on the impossibility of pleasing everybody all of the time. The email describes “the perfect rabbi,” and proceeds to explain that “the perfect rabbi preaches exactly 15 minutes. He condemns sins but never upsets anyone. He works from 8 a.m. until midnight and is also a janitor. He makes $50 a week, wears good clothes, buys good books, drives a good car and gives about $50 weekly to the poor. He is 28 years old and has preached 30 years. He has a burning desire to work with teenagers and spends all of his time with senior citizens.

The perfect rabbi smiles all the time with a straight face because he has a sense of humor that keeps him seriously dedicated to his work. He makes 15 calls daily on congregation families, shut-ins and the hospitalized, and is always in his office when needed.” Clearly a series of impossibilities which I believe serve to critique clergy as much as congregations that might place impossible expectations on their spiritual leaders.

I am always heartened by this email and reminded to approach the task set out before me with humility and joy. If it has not been made perfectly clear, I am incredibly excited to have been given the opportunity to work with this community, to serve your spiritual needs and to work together to create deep, meaningful and moving Jewish experiences. I can likewise tell that many of you, as well, are excited by the prospects which lay ahead.

This year, Western North Carolina has been dealt an unusually bitter and snowy winter. Growing up in Chicago and spending nearly a decade in New England, I have learned important lessons from winter. The two most important lessons which the cold and snow have taught me is to stay positive and always remain patient – the days will lengthen, the temperature will warm, the snow will melt and the spring will come. This is also great advice for myself in beginning this position. While I am so very excited to get to work on a variety of avenues, it is most important now to learn your names, understand the histories of the community and your families, connect with your children and become a true member of the community.  Just as I take the lesson of the importance of patience from winter, and am motivated to utilize that lesson as I begin my tenure at CBI, I want to ask the same of you – please be patient with me. I might call you the wrong name before I get it right, I might forget that we have met before. This is also a good reminder that despite being a rabbi, I, like you, am human and I will make mistakes.

I am honored and humbled to have been given the opportunity to learn from and with you. In the coming time we will have ample opportunity to get to know one another, so please keep an eye out for learning and events at which we can make good on that opportunity. I want to make an open invitation to the community to please schedule a time to meet with me in my office so we can really get to know each other on a personal level and I invite you to share with me your hopes, dreams and desires for what will make CBI the best and most inviting it can be.

Thank you for your vote of confidence and thank you for your patience. I look forward to exploring the depth of our tradition together and creating vibrant, inspirational and meaningful Jewish community in Asheville.”

L’shalom u’livrakhah לשלום ולברכה Peace and Blessings

-Rabbi Justin Goldstein

WNC Federation Jewish Summer Camp Scholarships

The mission of the WNC Jewish Federation’s Scholarship Fund is to enhance and encourage a childʼs Jewish identity through Jewish camp experiences. Scholarships are offered for day camp at the Asheville JCC and for Jewish-affiliated overnight camp programs and/or Israel summer experiences.  Scholarships for the Asheville JCC day camp are handled and determined through the established Asheville JCC Camp Scholarship application process.

Download the application

1) The Western North Carolina Overnight Jewish Camp Scholarship is open to Jewish applicants ages 10-16 who are residents of the eighteen counties of Western North Carolina.

2) Financial need is the primary consideration in awarding scholarships.

3) Funding is intended for a Jewish –affiliated overnight summer camp.

4) Summer camp application must be for a minimum stay of two weeks.

1) Scholarship application and required financial documents must be turned in by application deadline date: Monday, February 3, 2014. See application instructions under Policies and Procedures.

2) Following their camp experience, Scholarship recipients are to submit a 100-250 word essay, which may be hand-written, describing and providing examples of how their Jewish summer camp experiences contributed to their increased understanding of what it means to be Jewish.

3) This essay is due no later than 30 days after a recipient’s return from summer camp, and should be either emailed to email address is administrator@JewishAsheville.org with “ATTN: Scholarship Committee” in the subject line, OR mailed in a stamped envelope to:

WNC Jewish Federation
P. O. Box 7126
Asheville, North Carolina. 28802-7126
ATTN: Scholarship Committee

Download the application

Jewish Family Service Gets its Own Space

Jewish Family Services of WNC is pleased to announce that our agency and all of its programs will be moving out of the JCC building to a new location at Doctors Park on Biltmore Avenue. The move will be taking place in October or early November! JFS has a list of items that would be welcome donations to help with furnishing the new office space. Please contact the JFS office or look on the JFS website to see if there is something we need that you have! This is an exciting and momentous time for JFS, and we thank everyone who contributed in any way to helping us reach this great milestone in our agency’s development. We are deeply grateful to the JCC for housing and incubating JFS through all these years, and to the JCC Board and Staff for supporting our efforts to find our own home! A list of JFS “Relocation Fund” donors will be published soon in a future email and on our website. We look forward to opening our doors and welcoming everyone to visit us after we are settled in to our new space!

For more information, visit: Jewish Family Services of WNC

“Is That Us in the Spotlight, Losing our “Religion?”

Study: American Jews losing their religion

(Read the Executive Overview)

By Daniel Burke, CNN Belief Blog Co-editor

The number of nonreligious Jews is rising in the United States, with more than one in five saying they are not affiliated with any faith, according to a new survey.

While similar trends affect almost every American religion, Jewish leaders say the new survey spotlights several unique obstacles for the future of their faith.

According to the survey, conducted by Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project, non-religious Jews are less likely to care deeply about Israel, donate to Jewish charities, marry Jewish spouses and join Jewish organizations.

Pew says their study sought to explore the question, “What does being Jewish in America mean today?” The answer is quite complicated.

Just 15% of American Jews say that being Jewish is mainly a religious matter, according to Pew’s survey. By contrast, more than six in 10 say Jewishness is about culture, ancestry and identity.

The most essential parts of being Jewish, according to American Jews, are remembering the Holocaust (73%), leading an ethical life (69%) and working for social justice and peace (56%).

Almost as many American Jews say that having good sense of humor (42%) is as important to their Jewish identity as caring about Israel (43%).

Even among religious Jews, most say it’s not necessary to believe in God to be Jewish, and less than one in three say religion is very important to their lives.

Nearly all American Jews  – religious and secular – say they are proud to be Jewish.

“The fact that many Jews tell us that religion is not particularly important to them doesn’t mean that being Jewish is not important to them,” said Greg Smith, director of religious surveys for the Pew Research Center.

The most essential parts of being Jewish, according to the survey, are remembering the Holocaust (73%), leading an ethical life (69%) and working for social justice and peace (56%).

Overall, the majority of Jews (78%) call themselves religious, but the survey showed much lower rates of religious affiliation among millennials, one of several trends that trouble Jewish leaders.

Nearly a third of American Jews born after 2000 answered “none” when asked about their religious affiliation, suggesting that Jewish “nones” are not only a large group, they’re growing, Smith said.

The rise of Jewish “nones” tracks with wider trends in the American population, where about a third of millennials don’t affiliate with organized religion.

The nonpartisan Pew Research Center says its survey is the most comprehensive since the National Jewish Population Survey in 2000-2001.

Pew surveyed 3,475 Jews from across the country from February 20 to June 13, with a margin of error for the full sample of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

The study declines to offer a definitive estimate of the size of the American Jewish population, a matter of heated debate in recent years.

Instead, Pew offered several tallies of American Jews, depending on different definitions of Jewish identity.

Approximately 4.2 million American adults – 1.8% of the overall population – identify as Jewish by religion. In the 1950s, the percentage of religious Jews in the United States was nearly twice as high, according to Pew.

Meanwhile, about 1.2 million adult Americans now identify as secular or cultural Jews – they were raised Jewish, had a Jewish parent and still consider themselves Jewish, even though they don’t practice the religion, according to Pew.

Secular Jews are much more likely to marry outside the faith, according to Pew, a trend that has worried Jewish leaders in recent years.

Nearly 60% of American Jews who have married since 2000 have a non-Jewish spouse, according to Pew.

Intermarried Jews, like secular Jews, are much less likely to raise their children in the Jewish faith and have weaker ties to the Jewish community, says Pew’s report.

But, in a silver lining for Jewish leaders, intermarriage rates have leveled off, Smith said, holding steady at 60% since the mid-1990s.

Jane Eisner, editor-in-chief of the Jewish Daily Forward, said she is not surprised that the study found relatively low interest in Jewish religious beliefs.

“We are a people very much defined by what we do, rather than what we believe,” she said.

But Eisner said she is concerned that millennials are less likely to donate to Jewish charities, care strongly about Israel or belong to Jewish groups.

“It’s great that these non-religious Jews feel pride in being Jewish,” Eisner said. “What worries me is their tenuous ties to the community.”

(Read the Executive Overview)