Rabbi David Goldberg, pioneering rabbi and ‘original thinker’
The first rabbi to initiate gatherings of Jews, Christians and Muslims at Regent’s Park mosque
08 August, 2019 — By Helen Chapman
WHEN the invitation to speak at an international conference first arrived, his wife joked that they must have got the wrong person.
But Rabbi David Goldberg, who has died aged 80, was invited to help out at the Waldzell Meeting in Austria each year since his first invitation 15 years ago.
His wife, Carole Goldberg, an astrologer, said: “He was invited to speak among the most intellectual thinkers and Nobel Peace Prize winners who gather to discuss literature, science, religion and art. I joked when he opened the invitation that I thought they got the wrong David Goldberg. But he was thought of as an original thinker. He would always think outside the box.”
A pioneer, David was the first Anglo-Jewish commentator to call for Palestinian rights.
In an article in The Times in 1978, he wrote: “How can any Jew celebrate with a clear conscience the Festival of Freedom when he knows that over two million Palestinians languish in refugee camps?”
He was the first rabbi to initiate gatherings of Jews, Christians and Muslims at Regent’s Park mosque. In 2004 David received an OBE for his interfaith work and in 1999 the International Council of Christians and Jews presented him with their Interfaith Gold Medallion Peace through Dialogue.
Before university – David won a scholarship to study at Oxford – he spent a gap year working on a kibbutz in Israel.
“That’s when Israel got under his skin,” said Carole. “He was very political and it was very clear to him that Palestinians did have rights. He was liberal in his being – what is not right is not right. It was moral, not ideological.”
David and Carole’s home in Kentish Town, which they moved into in the 1980s, became a centre point for meetings.
“It was about making right. It is important to fight these things when young,” said Carole.
In 1975 David joined the Liberal Jewish Synagogue in St John’s Wood and nine years later was appointed senior rabbi. Lord’s Cricket Ground was a short walk away – Rabbi Goldberg’s sporting passion.
“He was a good preacher, intellectual and well argued, with a beginning, middle and end. Although the joke was that he certainly gave shorter sermons when the test matches were on,” said Carole.
He wrote five books: The Jewish People: Their History and Their Religion; To the Promised Land: A History of Zionist Thought; The Divided Self: Israel and the Jewish Psyche Today; This is Not the Way: Jews, Judaism and the State of Israel; and The Story of the Jews.
Born in east London in 1939 and raised in Manchester, David was a teacher before becoming a rabbi. “At a conference in Dartington he was approached by a woman who said, ‘you won’t remember me, but you changed my life.’
“She had gone on to do a degree. Hearing that made him so pleased,” said Carole.
Rabbi Goldberg is survived by Carole and their children, Rupert, 45, a furniture maker, and Emily, 42, a nanny, as well as grandson Oscar and his brother, Jonathan, and sister Sandra.
A memorial will be held in January. helen chapman