Anyone coming into Tiferes Yisroel will appreciate the feeling of warmth, friendship, and belonging in the kehillah. How have you fostered that feeling?
Rebbetzin Goldberger: I think that feeling flows down from Rabbi Goldberger, whose approach to all people is one of genuine respect. It is a special kind of respect that is built upon respecting the integrity of another person. This is an exceptional trait that I experienced in both my father-in-law and mother-in-law, Rabbi Daniel and Rebbetzin Ida Goldberger, of blessed memory. So, Rabbi Goldberger had wonderful teachers and is a wonderful teacher. I believe the example he sets has a ripple effect in our shul.
It’s no surprise that our fundraiser this year is subtitled A Dance with the Torah. Outward signs that music abounds at TY include the logo design with its musical notes, your Lecha Dodi nigun that is sung all over the world, and the sold-out status of the CD in which you sing melodies you composed. What are your thoughts on the role of music in continuing the mesorah?
Rabbi and Rebbetzin Goldberger: Music is an experience that allows, through harmony, the respect for both the whole and the individual. It’s a lofty opportunity for thoughtful self-expression of one’s own voice while having in mind how that will blend in a beautiful way with what is outside oneself. That music carries the mesorah of warmth, friendship, and belonging.
Did others in the long line of rabbis in your family have music as a primary interest?
Rabbi Goldberger: My father had a love for music, especially singing zemiros at the Shabbos table, but I wouldn’t say that it was a primary interest of his. I did not know my predecessors before him, so I don’t know about their musical interests. My mother was a skilled piano player and had a very nice voice. My maternal great-grandfather was a composer of nigunim including one for “Mechalkel chaim,” which I wish I knew. It’s quite interesting because, unaware of that, I also composed a nigun for “Mechalkel chaim.”
Rebbetzin, though women’s role in singing and dancing is circumscribed in shul, what makes the women feel included in the joy of davening?
Rebbetzin Goldberger: Women often play an exceedingly important role, namely taking it all in. Wow! That, too, is not only an individual experience but one that lifts the entire group. Would we sing if there was no one to hear? Would we dance if there was no one to watch? Having a less “active” role allows one to absorb and participate in an experience in a way that perhaps is more easily uplifting. Less active does not mean less involved. It’s how we’re involved. More active participants will have more of a struggle with “self” involvement, which is not good spiritual fuel. So maybe women are adding that help toward “Hashem” involvement over “self” involvement. In any case, joy of davening is an experience that we all—men and women—need to cultivate. There’s a joy that’s easy to feel at Kehillas Tiferes Yisroel as we come together to praise Hashem, to turn to our Father, to lose sight of our burdens as we sing and hear the same words of praise and thanks that have been sung and heard for thousands of years.
We know you were tremendously influenced by your rebbe, Rabbi Shloime Twerski. What aspects of Tiferes Yisroel remind you most of him?
Rabbi and Rebbetzin Goldberger: The warmth, the friendship, and the belonging. For us, being in Rabbi Twerski’s, ztz’l, shteeble was like being in the most loving, caring, and nurturing home. Also, the nigunim we sing and the diverse nature of our membership. A unique blend of unique people. The integrity of individuals is left intact.
What Chasidic works have influenced you?
Rabbi Goldberger: Some of the Chasidic works that have influenced me are the Meor Einayim, Sefer HaTanya, the PriTzadik, Sfas Emes, and Bnai Yissoschor.
How does the mesorah of TY today match what you expected it to be?
Rebbetzin Goldberger: BH, I think I left expectation a while ago. What I find today gives me joy and a place that I absolutely love davening in. Not much else I’m looking for, but I’ll take more of the same and, hopefully, an ever-growing respect and appreciation of one another.
You have a phenomenal memory for people’s names. How does that ability demonstrate your emphasis on and respect for individuals?
Rabbi Goldberger: It’s just a gift from above that I can’t take credit for. Yet, it is a gift that helps demonstrate the high regard that I have for each individual.