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!