Speech of Rabbi Marv Goodman

Speech of Rabbi Marv Goodman

upon his retirement as Executive Director Rabbi Executive of the Board of Rabbis of Northern California and Rabbi-in-Residence of the Jewish Community Federation and Endowment Fund of S.F., the Peninsula, Marin and Sonoma Counties

and upon receiving the Humanitarian Hero Award from the Beyond Genocide Campaign for his support of the Yezidis and those Struggling for Freedom and Dignity.

August 29, 2017


I am very fond of the Buddhist meditation practice of Metta. The practice of Metta meditation is a beautiful practice. One recites specific words and phrases evoking a “boundless warm-hearted feeling.” It begins with our self and gradually extend the wish for well-being happiness to all beings.

When I do this practice I say:

  • May I be trusting and feel safe
  • May my heart by happy
  • May my body be healthy
  • May I live with ease

Lately I’ve been having a difficult time with this practice. I don’t feel safe – my heart often doesn’t feel happy and I rarely think that I’m living at ease.

We’re living in troubling times.

I’m 5 months into retirement – I have a first grandchild who’s an amazing blessing – this should be the happiest time of my life…

However, we’re living in troubling times.

What’s a retired rabbi to do?

For me it starts with paying attention. And at this time of the year, paying attention means paying attention to the sounding of the Shofar which is sounded daily during this Hebrew month of Elul that leads up to Rosh Hashanah. (Shofar is sounded)

It’s a sound that is supposed to wake us up to the lives we are living as well as the lives that God wants us to live, and perhaps more importantly the lives our world needs us to live.

In March I retired – that was one kind of wake up…

In April, along with 8 other rabbis and 3 Muslim leaders, some of whom are here this evening, I went to Greece, as part of an Interfaith Mission with IsraAID to learn about and see first-hand the plight of the refugees that over the past couple of years flooded into that country. The most significant moment while on that journey was a meeting we had with 3 survivors/refugees of the Yezidi community that had been ravaged by ISIS. To listen to them as they shared their story was all the more profound and moving because the day we met with them was Yom Hashoah – Holocaust Memorial Day. It was a day that started by focusing on OUR Jewish genocide – we visited local Jewish Memorials, but was transitioned as it became focused on their genocide as well.

You had to be there to understand what we experienced…..All of us who were there that day, understood that we needed to come home and then respond and do something.

This evening for me, is part of my response.

There’s work to be done to make our world a place in which refugees (the most since WWII) also feel safe, have happy hearts, healthy bodies and can live their lives, if not totally with ease, at least in peace. The refugee reality is overwhelming, but as I’ve often heard Ruth Messinger, the AJWS champion and former President, say – we cannot allow ourselves to be overwhelmed.

This is what tonight is all about. Not allowing ourselves to feel overwhelmed.

We’ve raised some money, but more than raising money, tonight is about raising awareness and hopefully raising the level of involvement in this work by people like you and me. As I have been telling people lately, people who say to me that they’re looking forward to “my event”, this evening is not about me, it’s about the future of the Yezidi nation – and it’s ultimately about the 60+ million displaced people around the world.

I pray that when you leave this gathering you’ll leave with the realization in your mind that you’ve been put on this earth to make an impact, to make a difference – and you can make a difference if you decide that you want to and that you’re willing to raise your voice and do what you can to save the refugees like Yezidi people.

You’ll be hearing from me and our campaign – our effort does not end here tonight…

Most certainly, TONIGHT, it is very special to be honored along with my fellow honorees, to be in the same room with so many of people I touched and who touched me during the past 42+ years of my life as a rabbi in No. CA. I’ve had a great run and it’s because of you that I’ve accomplished what I have accomplished. Without a doubt, I could not have accomplished what I did without your help, your encouragement and willingness to experiment. Thank you – to each and every one of you!

But this effort we’re undertaking is bigger than me. This evening is an interfaith event for the campaign to support the Yezidis is not a Jewish campaign, it’s a campaign for all people who are willing to open their eyes and ears – to hear and see what needs to be done. Ours is an interfaith effort and it is critical that efforts like this remain interfaith because all people of faith are needed to make a difference for the Yezidis. We must stay the course until Yezidis feel safe and are safe and can have happy hearts, healthy bodies and can live their lives with ease and in peace. For only when this is the way they live their lives, will our work truly be done and will we have happy hearts, healthy bodies and live our lives with ease and in peace.

And only then will we and others understand and see that the world in which we live, is the world in which we are co-creators with the divine – the world I want for my grandson and his generation.