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Rabbi Elyse Goldstein

Rabbi Elyse Goldstein is a woman who has been making history all her life.

A Canadian Reform Jewish rabbi of City Shul in Toronto, internationally recognized speaker, spiritual leader and innovative educator, Rabbi Goldstein is our esteemed Keynote Speaker for the NBSC's upcoming online Festival of Biblical Telling. She is author of four books and many articles and an inspiring speaker. Her festival topic: “The Jewish Storytelling Tradition”.

Elyse Goldstein Photo.jpg

 She says, "I am so excited to join you, because I love interfaith learning; I think it changes the world. This topic especially excites me because I want to share the Jewish roots of storytelling, and help your community enrich its Christian storytelling, infused by knowledge of its Jewish roots."

At age 13, Rabbi Goldstein knew she wanted to be a rabbi. She told her own rabbi this, who reminded her that there were no women rabbis. Indeed, she was sometimes told "Well, you could marry a rabbi." Unfazed, she said, “Well, I am going to be one.” That was in 1968.  In 1973, after 50 years of debate, the Reform Jewish community began allowing women admission to the rabbinate. In 1983, Rabbi Goldstein was ordained and became the first woman rabbi in Canada, as assistant rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. Her story makes history regularly. She is strong, compassionate and capable.

Rabbi Goldstein celebrated 40 years in the rabbinate this year and is working on writing her memoirs. Her list of involvements and accomplishments is stunning and admirable. A search on the internet will reveal a woman whose aim in life is “the restoration of the world.” Her awards are many, including the Organization for Rehabilitation through Training (ORT) Woman of the Year in 2001, YWCA Toronto Woman of Distinction and the Covenant Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators.

She received an honorary Doctor of Laws from (now-named) Toronto Metropolitan University . Her twenty-minute speech is inspirational and autobiographical and gives us all mighty and deep words to live by. Her impressive biography and that speech are available here: Rabbi - The City Shul Congregation

Rabbi Goldstein is excited about joining our Festival. She is no stranger to interfaith work and even play. She was a member of the Frozen Chosen Interfaith Curling Team!  This also highlights her strong belief in community and how we need communities of faith. We welcome her to our Biblical Telling community that spans the world as well as Canada.

There will be three keynote addresses given by Rabbi Goldstein at the Festival of Biblical Telling. Each will be opened by an experienced teller/responder with biblical telling and closed by them with a time of response. The Sunday keynote will offer a Question-and-Answer period.

Her first address to us will be on Genesis 1, the internal workings within translation and how these affect the story. She says to prepare ourselves for a challenging talk about translations through the centuries.


In her second address, she will speak on the importance of story in the book of Deuteronomy, which will enrich the understanding of our Epic Telling scripture this year.


Her final talk will focus on Midrash. Midrash is a strong tradition in the Jewish faith.  It is the crafting of parallel story alongside scripture, to assist us in our understanding of the original scripture. It is an ancient way of understanding text. Rabbi Goldstein will also talk about the influence of midrash on Jesus’ teachings and talk about contemporary forms of midrash. It should be fascinating!

As this is written there is great unrest in our world. It is significant that in her acceptance speech at Ryerson University she reflects that both in the Talmud and the Qur’an it says, “The one who saves a single life is as if they saved the entire world.”

By telling sacred story together, may we also touch and bring hope and life to those around us and to ourselves.

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