Reform leaders this week paid tribute to a “major figure” in the development of Reform Judaism in the UK who passed away in Israel, aged 87.
Raymond Goldman, who was Reform’s first executive director, was described as “instrumental” in the movement’s set-up in Britain almost 60 years ago, even relinquishing the directorship of a family business to do so.
He was connected with Alyth since childhood, his parents being members. He later taught at the school and chaired the Alyth Jewish Fellowship, before serving as the community’s vice-chair and chair.
Reform leaders said he was “heavily involved” in establishing the precursor to today’s youth movement RSY-Netzer, and in so doing met Joy, who he later married.
Throughout the 60s and 70s he dedicated much of his time at Finchley Reform Synagogue and the fledging movement, which was then called Reform Synagogues of Great Britain (RSGB).
Travelling the country, he said his ambition was “to make RSGB articulate to its own membership and to build a movement of committed Jews” and to see it “playing the full and influential role which was its right in Anglo-Jewry”.
This week colleagues said his success was down to his “ability to work with the hundreds of different council members and synagogue representatives with whom he had contact” and paid tribute to “the patience and tact he displayed throughout the thousands of hours of committee meetings he attended”.
Senior Reform Rabbi Laura Janner-Klausner said she recalled “his drive for excellence, learning and achievements,” as well as his “outstanding professionalism” and “unique deep voice, which resounded through our conferences and services”.
David Jacobs, a former Reform director and lifelong friend, said: “This marks the passing of a generation and the end of an era”.
He added: “Raymond served the RSGB and the wider Jewish community with great distinction and an absolute dedication. He was the consummate Jewish civil servant with a passion for the development of Reform Judaism”.
Goldman made aliyah to be close to his family, firstly to Rehovot and more recently to a retirement home in Protea Ba’har near to Jerusalem. He is survived by his wife Joy, daughters Karen and Deborah and three grandchildren.