Goldman recounts highs, lows of tenure at JCF helm

But here are a few: "Working and meeting so many people from so many parts of the Jewish existence. Seeing that we're going to have a campus on the south Peninsula. The rally at Justin Herman Plaza. The Quarter Century Circle. The Palo Alto street fair. Meeting the kids at Berkeley Hillel."

And the thing he's most thankful for? "Not only the support that everyone has provided me, but the fact that we have Sam Salkin as our CEO."

It was a vastly different world when Goldman, 52, first took the helm of the JCF in 1990.

Based on his family's long history of involvement in the San Francisco Jewish community, Goldman was actually asked to serve as JCF president years ago. Not until at least one of his children was out of the house, he replied. The board then waited, calculating he would be available for the post in 2000.

Goldman reminisced about his father, Richard, proposing a toast at the family's Rosh Hashanah dinner two years ago.

The toast was to "the prospect of peace being right around the corner. And a week later, it all disappeared overnight. It was disheartening and upsetting, and we know what's happened since."

Goldman said the renewed violence in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in the last two years has changed the attitudes that many people, including himself, have toward Israel.

"We all know we're talking about the survival of Israel," he said. Now more than ever, Goldman has wondered what life would be like for American Jews if there were no Jewish state. "It's resolved my commitment to ensuring its survival and long-term security."

No one could have predicted that Goldman would have to contend not only with the intifada, but also Sept. 11 and the downturn of the economy.

"When I came in, our economy was thriving," he said. "There was support for everything you could imagine, a lot of organizations, Jewish and non, were gearing up major capital campaigns to take advantage. Now we have to sit back and take stock."

Speaking at the JCF's annual meeting last week, Goldman expressed concern that some perceived the federation as "irrelevant, elitist and perhaps even uncaring," and hoped it could be viewed as "inclusive, supportive, inviting and embraced by every element of our community."

"If we've been able to change the perspective of federation, and been able to develop a healthier relationship between our community's organizations and our federation and if we've reflected the community better by those involved with our activities from the board on down, I will have accomplished what I hoped to."

Goldman said that Adele Corvin, who will follow him as president, shares his goals and will move the JCF forward.

He called for unity in the Jewish community at the annual meeting, saying, "We cannot afford wedges forced between us, competing for scarce resources and valuable time." The JCF "must continue to be enablers and facilitators — simply put, our job is to ensure that others succeed."

Saying that JCF's campaigns "should resonate with every Jew," Goldman said the federation should become "the place where our people join together to build this community to new heights."

Salkin, who became the JCF's chief executive officer during Goldman's leadership, said that Goldman's "experience, wisdom and guidance were perfect in terms of what I needed as a new federation CEO."

Salkin believed Goldman achieved much of what he set out to do, such as strengthening the relationship between JCF and its beneficiary agencies as well as diversifying the board.

In addition, Salkin added, Goldman "was consistently supportive and positive and, to the extent that he was critical, he always helped me do better."

Alix Wall
Alix Wall

Alix Wall is a contributing editor to J. She is also the founder of the Illuminoshi: The Not-So-Secret Society of Bay Area Jewish Food Professionals and is writer/producer of a documentary-in-progress called "The Lonely Child."