Rabbi Seth Goldstein was honored as the 2020 recipient of the Evan Ferber Peacemaker Leadership Award by the Dispute Resolution Center of Thurston County (DRC).
Since 2010, the DRC has honored members of our community with the Evan Ferber Peacemaker Leadership Award. The award was named in honor of Founding Executive Director Evan Ferber, and is given to “individuals who have demonstrated a commitment to peacemaking and community service through strengthening civil discourse and civic harmony.”
For nearly 30 years, the DRC has served residents of Thurston and south Mason counties through a variety of resources to individuals, families, businesses and organizations, and the broader community, to help them manage and resolve conflict, to prevent conflict when possible, and to create a more civil and peaceful community.
Harriet Strasberg, member of the Temple Beth Hatfiloh (TBH), nominated Goldstein for the award this year. She explained the TBH has become a sanctuary congregation for a woman and her son facing deportation due to domestic violence. Goldstein has been outspoken in the congregation and in the community about the Jewish tradition to welcome the stranger. He has been a leader in navigating this situation in our community and in our congregation. He went to the border with HIAS to observe the situation firsthand and he has shared about his experiences widely. He is a leader nationally in his Rabbinical Association, currently serving as President. He has spoken in his congregation and the legislature on diversity and civil liberties of all sorts. He has been welcoming and involved on issues of homelessness generally and with Interfaith Works. He is actively engaged with other clergy in the Olympia area on issues of social justice. In short, he is a peacemaker.
In a recent interview with Goldstein, he shared his views on life, spirituality, and service.
ThurstonTalk: Can you give us a glimpse of what your life looks like as past, present and future?
Goldstein: I have been serving Temple Beth Hatfiloh for 17 years, a long time to be in one place. But when I decided to pursue the rabbinate, and specifically congregational work, I was drawn to the idea of being in one place for a long time, to grow with a community. At this stage of my tenure it feels that past, present and future are all rolled into one, as I have been a part of this community, and anticipate being a part of this community, for a while. The strength of a community is built on relationship, and relationships are built over time. I feel blessed to have developed strong relationships both within my congregation and within the Olympia community.
ThurstonTalk: How has serving your community become an integral part of who you are?
Goldstein: Before I decided to become a Rabbi, I studied Jewish Studies thinking I would become a teacher or a professor. But what I realized over the course of my studies, is that what called to me was not just a deep understanding and knowledge of my faith and tradition, but the ability to use that knowledge to build community. Judaism was and is personally meaningful to me, and I was drawn to help create that experience for others. And since completing the seminary and settling into a pulpit, I have come to realize that Judaism calls us not only to improve ourselves, but to improve our communities. How can we best serve those around us? This is fundamental to the work that I do and the life that I lead.
ThurstonTalk: What does the Evan Ferber Peacemaker Leadership Award mean to you?
Goldstein: The fact it is named for Evan Ferber is meaningful to me since Evan is a member of my synagogue, and I admire all the work he has done in our community. To be called a “peacemaker” is humbling, and very meaningful. For me making peace is not just an absence of conflict, but it is about achieving a sense of wholeness and mutuality. I strive to bring this into the work that I do.
ThurstonTalk: How would you define spirituality?
Goldstein: Spirituality means that we are part of something greater than ourselves. We may have different names for what that is, but we are bound together in a greater whole. Also, spirituality means for me that we always have the possibility for change, and that we are limitless potential continually moving forward to a better future.
ThurstonTalk: How might one go about living in the present moment?
Goldstein: We remember that our entire life’s journey, every choice we ever made, has brought us to the moment we are in right now. We acknowledge the path we have taken, offer gratitude for all of our blessings, recognize the brokenness, and take the next step.
ThurstonTalk: From a spiritual perspective, what is a practical way to respond to the crisis that is happening in order to stay centered and grounded?
Goldstein: I think we need to remember that a lot is out of our control, regarding the virus, and life itself. Staying at home is very hard. And yet we must remember that the reason we do it is to help others. We strengthen our community by avoiding being in community. We draw close to one another by staying away. That is the paradox of this virus. And we remember that while we are physically distancing, we are not socially distancing. I think too that by forcing us to stay at home, do things differently, make different choices, we are perhaps learning a new way of being in the world that will serve us well when we return. Part of what the virus is forcing us to do is slow down, take a pause and be more mindful.
ThurstonTalk: What message do you have for the community?
Goldstein: I am deeply honored to win this award, and I accept it with the recognition that I could not do what I do if it wasn’t for the community. We all contribute what we can to the greater whole, and we are dependent on one another. One thing we need to remember is that no one person is better than another. As my tradition teaches, we are all one, we are all interconnected.
The DRC normally presents the award at their annual fundraiser, The Toast, which would have happened in early April but was cancelled. They tentatively have a big picnic scheduled for their more than 140 volunteers in late July. If it’s deemed safe to still have that event, they’re considering doing the actual presentation then. In the meantime, they will continue to serve the Thurston County community and always welcomes new volunteers. For more information, please visit the Dispute Resolution website.