Tributes paid to leading Liberal rabbi David Goldberg
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Tributes paid to leading Liberal rabbi David Goldberg

Renowned figure in interfaith work and left-wing causes passes away this week, as Liberal Judaism heralds life-work of 'iconoclast'

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Tributes have been paid to one of Liberal Judaism’s best known rabbis after he passed away on April 30.

He was emeritus rabbi of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue and a leading figure in both interfaith work and left-wing, doveish causes relating to Israel and the Palestinians.

Born in London in 1939, he was raised in Manchester as a rabbi’s son. His father, Selvin Goldberg, was a graduate of Jews’ College who held Orthodox semichah but was for years the rabbi of Manchester’s flagship Reform congregation, Jackson’s Row. He was one of three siblings — his brother, Jonathan, is a well-known QC and his sister Sandra was active in the British Israel Chamber of Commerce.

Rabbi Goldberg was awarded an OBE in 2004 for his interfaith work, which he regarded as fundamental to Progressive Judaism. Though he never intended to enter the rabbinate, he was persuaded by the rabbi of West London Synagogue, Harold Rein, and he received his semichah from Leo Baeck College in 1971.

Liberal Judaism’s current senior rabbi, Danny Rich, paid warm tribute to his predecessor, who was the former chair of the Rabbinic Conference of the Union of Liberal and Progressive Synagogues, and co-chair of the London Society of Jews and Christians.

He was a prolific writer for national newspapers on Jewish and Israeli themes. He is survived by his wife Carole, a son and a daughter.

Rabbi Danny Rich, said: “I’ve been seeing David regularly for the past few weeks. He faced his death with the utmost integrity and no self-pity. He loved those around him especially Carole his wife.”

In a heartfelt tribute to Rabbi Goldberg, Liberal Judaism said “on his website, David recalled that he was particularly proud of four firsts: to have been the first prominent Jew in the UK publicly to call for recognition of legitimate Palestinian rights in 1978; to have been the first rabbi to initiate dialogue meetings between Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the same year; to have been the first Jew to recite Kaddish in Westminster Abbey when he co-officiated at the Memorial Service for (Lord) Yehudi Menuhin in 1999; and, as a cricket lover, to have been the only rabbi ever to have had an article in Wisden or to have been interviewed on Test Match Special.

“An outspoken iconoclast throughout his life, David never compromised his principles and would regularly point out whenever he thought Liberal Judaism was deviating from the radical path he once set.”

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