Rae Goodman, of blessed memory, was one of the most elegant and gracious women I have known.
Atlantans, most especially members of my congregation, Ahavath Achim, knew Rae primarily throughout the 1980s and ’90s. She was elegant and gracious, but she was so much more. She cared about our community and how we lived our Jewish lives. She encouraged us to take kashrut seriously by promoting it through her “Kosher Tastes of Atlanta.” She helped us and many others when, along with Sherry Maziar, she started the Jewish Dating Network and brought together Jewish men and women. Others of us knew Rae from a variety of activities she enriched through her presence and participation in the community.
But I knew Rae (when she was still “Mrs. Goodman” to me) since the mid – 1960s when she, along with Rabbi Goodman and their children, Ari, Daniel and Shira, came to my home congregation in Minneapolis, the Adath Jeshurun Congregation. I saw an elegant Rae every Shabbat morning in services. I experienced her graciousness and hospitality in Shabbat evening dinners with the Goodman family. I appreciated her warm curiosity when I would return to Minneapolis, first from Hebrew University in Jerusalem and then from the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York City. Like Rabbi Goodman, Rae always wanted to know how I was getting along as I was moving toward a career of service to the Jewish people.
Now the Goodmans – Rabbi Arnold, Ari, Daniel and Shira, along with their spouses and the Goodmans’ grandchildren – have reflected on the fullness of Rae’s life and its lasting meaning two years after her death. The result, crafted by a skilled individual, Yael Unterman, is a beautiful reflection entitled, “I’m so lucky: A life full of love – Rae Parnes Goodman, 1929 – 2016.”
Rae grew up in Queens, N.Y. Her home was a traditionally observant Jewish home in which Shabbat meant welcoming guests, going to shul and playing various games on Shabbat afternoon. This was also the nature of the welcoming home that Rae would eventually create with Rabbi Goodman.
Few of us knew about Rae’s academic prowess and accomplishment. She was the valedictorian of her graduating Jamaica High School class. She went on to study at City College in New York and, years later, earned an M.A. in special education at the University of Minnesota. Rae did some wonderful things in her special ed classrooms in suburban Minneapolis. She was creative and gave each student the personal attention required.
Rae Goodman was an excellent and engaging professional. But that truth was not the one she chose to emphasize. Why? Because what mattered most to Rae was her family: how her husband was progressing in his pulpit rabbinate career, that her children were achieving to the best of their abilities and becoming fine people and that her grandchildren were reflective of their parents in these ways.
Much of “I’m So Lucky” is the story of Rae’s successes in the manner I just described. The book is full of family members’ reflections and testimonials about Rae’s influence on their lives and on the lives of others. These children and grandchildren (and now even great-grandchildren) serve as Rae’s greatest legacy – a commitment to family, to Jewish life, however it is expressed, and to striving for excellence.
One final word. Rae Goodman developed willpower and discipline that strengthened her as she experienced physical challenges throughout her life. As she grew older and suffered from severe back problems, Rae’s tolerance for pain and her resilience of body, mind and spirit enabled her to live fully and enjoy the blessings that she and Rabbi Goodman had helped to create.
If you knew Rae Goodman, “I’m so lucky – A life full of love” will not only warm your heart and bring a smile to your face. It will also challenge you to reflect on your own life in light of the life of this extraordinary woman. May the memory of Rae Parnes Goodman continue to be a source of inspiration to us and to others.
“I’m so lucky: A life full of love” is available on Amazon, www.amazon.com.au/Im-lucky-life-full-love/dp/1090942516.
Rabbi Neil Sandler serves Ahavath Achim Synagogue.