December’s daily #OneGoodThing was dedicated to celebrating extraordinary women I know. Many of the 31 bold, beautiful, brave women featured shared stories of perseverance after abuse, addiction, miscarriages, illness, and loss. They represent various fields and backgrounds, and I admire each for their passion and strength. The series was so deeply inspiring that I felt it needed to live on as a weekly feature in 2020. Each Monday, I’ll introduce you to another incredible superhero—including artists, businesswomen, union organizers, nurses, writers, teachers, movie makers, designers, reporters, and all-around badasses. It’s about finding the extraordinary in each of us!
Rabbi Deborah Goldmann lives in Los Angeles with her husband and two kids. She wins lots of points for long commute for traveling to Lubbock, Texas twice a month to serve Congregation Shaareth Israel (csitemple.org).
1. What did you want to be “when you grew up?” As a child in Brazil, my father always made a point to tell me that the first American Woman Rabbi was a member of his rabbinic ordination class. This meant I had heard of women rabbis, but I had never met one until I moved to the United States at the age of 13. I have a very random memory of walking around our living room in Rio de Janeiro asking myself what I wanted to be when I grew up. I’d list all kinds of possibilities: a dancer, an actress, a doctor, I don’t remember all the things I thought up. All I remember is that I dismissed those ideas with “eh, not really what I want to do.” But I also remember that I asked myself “could I be a rabbi? Ah, no, I couldn’t do that.” That memory stuck with me because it was clearly something I considered (unlike the other professions), but I didn’t think I could do it, probably because I had not met any female rabbis. Yet, of all the careers I considered as a child, “rabbi” was at the top of the list. It’s also likely that I wasn’t ready to fully embrace the idea of the rabbinate early on because I worried too much about what people would think.
2. What makes you the most proud of yourself? Even having an inkling early on, I took many detours and lacked confidence as I paved my way towards the rabbinate. Yet I am proud to have completed rabbinic seminary and I love serving a small congregation as a part-time rabbi. I feel absolutely blessed that I can spend time with my family and have a fulfilling purpose. I struggle with whether I am making good choices as a parent, but I know that I have their best interests at heart and that I am doing my best. I know my kids have stability and love, so even when I wonder about my capabilities as a parent, ultimately, I know that they are growing up to be good kids and we are doing well by them.
3. What darkness have you overcome? How did you find strength? There are so many blessings in my life and I feel so grateful for all of them, that it took me a long time to realize that I have been living with depression for a long time. When I realized that I was living with depression, I started calling myself a “high-functioning depressed person.” I manage so much and do so much that it was hard to recognize my depression for what it was. One of my biggest fears is that I worried about how my husband would respond when I shared how I was feeling—I feared it would be a deal-breaker. Once he told me that he would be supportive and we would work together on it, I sprung into action seeking out all the resources I knew were available to me. Having his support gave me the strength to find a better way to live.
4. Where will we find you on a Saturday morning at 10 a.m.? Since this past summer, when I confronted my depression and pushed harder to figure out what my daily priorities are, we have been working hard to make Saturdays (Shabbat) as relaxing and as stress-free as possible. Ideally, it’s a family day of games, spending time together. Sometimes we go to Shabbat morning services, sometimes we have friends and family over for lunch on Saturday.
5. What makes you smile the most? When we are together Friday night to welcome Shabbat, the kids are learning how to have a conversation and share about their week. I absolutely love watching them grow, how their ideas develop, witnessing their creativity develop, and I love seeing them read. I don’t know why reading is such a big deal for me, but watching my youngest read to himself, and knowing that my daughter always wants a book for company really brings a tremendous smile to my lips.
Bonus: What advice would you give your younger self? It’s hard to know what advice I’d give my younger self because most lessons need to be lived and learned in the moment. If there is one thing I wish I could have convinced my younger self of, it would be: everyone is caught up in their own struggles. Most of the time, when someone has a strange interaction with you, it has nothing (or almost nothing) to do with you and everything to do with something that is going on at that moment in their lives. Had I understood that when I was younger, I might have worried less about what other people think about me and spent less time analyzing so many minute interactions.
Today’s #OneGoodThing is sharing this extraordinary woman, Rabbi Deborah Goldmann, with all of you! Many thanks to the Extraordinary Alyssa Cohen for nominating this incredible woman! We are stronger together, so let’s shine a light on our extraordinary sisters! If you’d like to participate or nominate a woman to participate, please send me a note or leave a comment! What was your #OneGoodThing today? Please share in the comments! Kindness is Everything.