Rabbi Dr David Goldberg: An appreciation

Rabbi Danny Rich
2 May 2019
The Jewish Chronicle

Rabbi Dr David Goldberg OBE approached dying as he lived life: with integrity, realism, mischief, intellectual fascination and a degree of planning. He faced his death without self-pity, and, with the support of his wife of nearly fifty years, Carole.

His four years as a teacher presaged his life-long rabbinic vocation, virtually all of which took place at the LJS, St John’s Wood, first as a student rabbi and latterly as senior rabbi. The LJS enabled David to preach without fear or favour, and, although the LJS attracted ‘the great and the good’, David treated each congregant with equal respect – particularly if they valued his thought-provoking, well-crafted and appropriately timed sermons. Situated opposite the head of international cricket, the joke goes that ‘the LJS is not on the Lord’s side’, and, whilst David was an avowed rejecter of the idea of a personal God, I suspect one of his proudest moments was facilitating the parking of the West Indies cricket team’s coaches on the LJS forecourt!

David considered himself lucky, not only in meeting Carole and with his association with the LJS, but having been the recipient of a kidney transplant sixteen years ago. He appreciated his fortune most in the sense he joined the Liberal rabbinate at a time when he perceived Liberal Judaism to be really radical in that it placed principle above practice and which considered modern knowledge more important than ancient tradition. No wonder his pioneering acts included being the first prominent Jew in the UK publicly to call for recognition of legitimate Palestinian rights in 1978; the first rabbi to initiate dialogue meetings between Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the same year; to have been the first Jew to recite Kaddish in Westminster Abbey when he co-officiated at the Memorial Service for (Lord) Yehudi Menuhin in 1999; and, as a cricket lover, to have been the only rabbi ever to have had an article in Wisden or to have been interviewed on Test Match Special.

For over 40 years David was my teacher, and throughout my rabbinic career, it was often to David that I turned to find ‘clarity of liberal thinking’. He was able to combine a fine knowledge of classical literature with a real pride in the course of Jewish history and the Jew’s distinct and ‘resilient adaptability’.

David was a man who put much store by the written word, and his own historical and polemic works were an important aspect of who he was and made a major contribution to Liberal Jewish thinking.

I will conclude my offering of deep appreciation of David’s life in his own words:
Rabbi means teacher… I try not to give soft, simple answers but always treat life as it is and not how we would like it to be. My work brings me into close touch with the widest variety of people, taking me through the whole gamut of their lives… It is a privilege and the perennial stimulation of my calling. When I wake up every morning, my great joy is knowing that the day ahead will always be different. I am a very lucky and happy man.

Click here to read more about Rabbi Goldberg
 
 

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