‘Rabbi of rabbis’ looks back

‘Rabbi of rabbis’ looks back

'I'm very proud of him'

Kenneth Hain, rabbi of Congregation Beth Sholom in Lawrence, one of Long Island’s Five Towns, recalls convincing Rabbi Shmuel Goldin that the Rabbinical Council of America needed him to return to its leadership. Goldin had withdrawn after controversy erupted over his views of how Jews in the diaspora should relate to the positions taken by Israel’s government.

The RCA is “an organization that requires leaders who are blessed with balance in terms of temperament, as well as ideologically,” Hain said. “You are working with a really diverse membership – something close to 1,000 rabbis. One of the problems is that many of the quality rabbis are doing quality work in their rabbinates. It’s hard for them to carve out time for work on the national level.

“It’s essentially being a volunteer, when you don’t have the time for it.

“Rabbi Goldin really had the qualities we needed – he’s a wonderful thinker, and a thoughtful, reasonable guy, who really does understand and accept people on their own terms.

“Those are the qualities that have made him successful as a rabbi, and that makes sense, because in a way as president you are the rabbi of rabbis.”

When he convinced Goldin to take the RCA job, Hain said, “I told him ‘It would be good for us, and in some ways it would be good for you.’ He believed the first part, but it took him a while to believe the second part.

“He’s done some really gutsy things. He really has made a difference.”

Citing Goldin’s positions on women and on reporting sexual abuse, Hain said, “I don’t think that all of the positions he took are universally accepted, but that’s the nature of leadership.

“I am very proud of him.”

Shalom Baum, the rabbi of Congregation Keter Torah in Teaneck, is first vice president of the RCA and the outgoing president of the Rabbinical Council of Bergen County, so he knows Goldin in many contexts. “Rabbi Goldin is a person of tremendous vision,” Baum said. “He is a team leader who really believes in listening to everybody’s point of view, and at the same time he has strong personal convictions. He is open-minded and at the same time anchored with great fidelity to the tradition.

“And he is kind. He has the unique ability to come across as both kind and firm simultaneously, and that is a great combination for leadership.”

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