Profile: Dr. Roberta Goodman, MAJE '81

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

“The ability to touch people’s lives and make a difference” is what Dr. Robert Goodman values most about her work. As Education Director of North Shore Congregation Israel in Glencoe, Illinois, she defines her role “as the hardest work I have ever done but also some of the most rewarding.”


Dr. Roberta Goodman’s legacy is felt deeply throughout HUC-JIR and the field of Jewish education. Since graduating from the Rhea Hirsch School of Education in 1981, Roberta has gone on to research and write on Jewish education, work in organizations throughout the Jewish community, influence congregational education, and impact the field through consulting work on a range of educationally related topics. In her work with North Shore Congregation Israel she oversees the Youth and Family Community, including the Goodman Center for Jewish Education, a combined school of two congregations and 400 students.


“Prepare to adapt and fit into positions you may never have anticipated,” she advises to those entering the field.  As an educator with over three decades of experience, she has seen vast changes in the field and found herself working in positions she never could have imagined. Most notably, Roberta pointed out the difference between the Jewish community her great grandfather and his colleagues (who included Solomon Schechter and Mordechai Kaplan) worked to create and the community we have today. Today the individual’s experience is the focus. This communal change has created smaller, “fringe” organizations, but “just as the fringes on the Tallit are central to the garment, so too are these smaller organizations no less important to the community” she notes.


 HUC-JIR played a significant role in Roberta's career. Aside from the training she received as a student, which she describes as being of the highest quality, she shared her gratitude at the support she’s experienced from faculty and the alumni network following graduation. Because of this, Roberta has found it important to give back to the College-Institute. “It is important for alumni to support HUC-JIR not only because it is an indicator of what the College-Institute has meant to us, but also because HUC-JIR is important to the success and survival of the Jewish community and Reform Movement.”


In addition to regularly supporting this institution where she feels her donation has a significant impact, she has generously given of her time as an alumni leader. In this capacity, Roberta worked to create the Council of Alumni Associations and served as its Chair. “The creation of the Council of Alumni Associations reflected the idea that there may be different schools but all of the schools can learn from one another – this opportunity is so vital. The Council represents the statement of: many schools, one College-Institute.”

Founded in 1875, Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion is North America's leading institution of higher Jewish education and the academic, spiritual, and professional leadership development center of Reform Judaism. HUC-JIR educates men and women for service to North American and world Jewry as rabbis, cantors, educators, and nonprofit management professionals, and offers graduate programs to scholars and clergy of all faiths. With centers of learning in Cincinnati, Jerusalem, Los Angeles, and New York, HUC-JIR's scholarly resources comprise the renowned Klau Library, The Jacob Rader Marcus Center of the American Jewish Archives, research institutes and centers, and academic publications. In partnership with the Union for Reform Judaism and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, HUC-JIR sustains the Reform Movement's congregations and professional and lay leaders. HUC-JIR's campuses invite the community to cultural and educational programs illuminating Jewish heritage and fostering interfaith and multiethnic understanding.