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Jeannette Miriam Goldberg

GOLDBERG, JEANNETTE MIRIAM (1868–1935), U.S. Jewish educator. Goldberg, a charismatic organizer, was the first field secretary of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW) and the longtime executive secretary of the Jewish Chautauqua Society (JCS). For three decades, she guided the Chautauqua Society, which popularizes Judaic learning among English-speaking Jews and non-Jews.

A native Texan whose parents had emigrated from Russia to Louisiana in 1860 and then to Texas after the Civil War and whose father, Louis, was among the founders in 1873 of Jefferson's Hebrew Sinai Congregation, Goldberg enrolled in Vassar College's preparatory division in 1883. She received an A.B. from New York's Rutgers Female Institute, where she was class valedictorian. Goldberg taught literature at women's finishing schools in Birmingham, Ala. and Dallas, Waco, and Sherman, Tex. She worked as a Sabbath School superintendent in Houston and Jefferson.

In 1896, she attended the Council of Jewish Women's first triennial in New York. Appointed vice president for Texas, she helped organize her state's first Council chapters in Tyler, Dallas, Waco, Beaumont, and Fort Worth. In 1902, she was elected a national director of the council and carved out a role as field secretary. In that capacity, she traveled cross-country organizing chapters and motivating co-religionists who had grown indifferent toward Judaism. "We have had enough lullaby and slumber in religious life," she exhorted. "[W]e now need wakefulness and spirit, to revivify the dry bones of American Judaism."

In 1905, the Jewish Chautauqua Society, headquartered in Philadelphia, hired Goldberg as its field secretary, a position similar to her volunteer role with the NCJW. When the Chautauqua's home secretary retired in 1910, the two positions merged, with Goldberg shouldering both roles. Under Goldberg's leadership, the JCS launched study circles, assemblies, and a national correspondence school to train Sabbath School teachers. In her travels throughout the U.S., Goldberg helped organize congregations and recruit rabbis to lead them. The JCS opened religious schools in the Dakotas and in the south New Jersey farm colonies started with Baron de *Hirsch funds. The Chautauqua Society also initiated a university lecture circuit – still in operation in the 21st century – featuring rabbis speaking to non-Jewish audiences about Judaism.

Rabbi Julian *Feibelman, who became acquainted with Goldberg when he was a Mississippi boy enrolled in Chautauqua correspondence classes, maintained that she "kept her hand on the pulse of virtually every congregation" in the nation. She was "instrumental in helping many rabbis [including himself] to advancement in pulpits." He lauded Goldberg as "one of the two Jewish women in America capable of addressing an audience on Jewish subjects – the other was Sadie *American" (the first executive secretary of the NCJW). When Goldberg died on February 28, 1935, she was eulogized in the Philadelphia Exponent as "a modern Miriam" and a "high priestess" of Judaism. Unmarried, she outlived her siblings and had no survivors.


J.B. Feibelman, The Making of a Rabbi (1980), 56, 266–68; M.E. Berkowitz, The Beloved Rabbi: An Account of the Life and Works of Henry Berkowitz. D.D. (1932), 144–47, 171, 180; H.A. Weiner, "The Jewish Junior League: The Rise and Demise of the Fort Worth Council of Jewish Women" (M.A. thesis, University of Texas at Arlington, 2004); "Report of Miss Goldberg on Organizing," in: Proceedings of the Council of Jewish Women, Fourth Triennial Convention, Chicago, Illinois, December 5 to 12, 1905, 149; P. Kronsberg Pearlstein. "Understanding through Education: One Hundred Years of the Jewish Chautauqua Society, 1893–1993" (Dissertation, George Washington University, 1993).

Sources: Encyclopaedia Judaica. © 2007 The Gale Group. All Rights Reserved.