Faith & Spirituality

June 11, 2010

Rabbi to leave Plattsburgh temple to pursue academia

Rabbi to leave Temple Beth Israel to pursue academia

PLATTSBURGH — July 1, Rabbi Emma Gottlieb will take the pulpit at Temple Beth Israel.

Rabbi Andrew Goodman, meanwhile, will be taking a leap of faith, in a sense like the Jews leaving Egypt.

It hasn't been slavery by any means, to pastor the Beth Israel congregation.

"But I'm leaving a known quantity and going into the wilderness."

Goodman, who came to Plattsburgh about two years ago to serve his first congregation, departs for the world of academia. It's not that he hasn't been there before.

"But in terms of rigorous psychological academic study, I haven't done it since undergrad."

And so he'll take the next several months to prove himself to the school of his choosing, Virginia Commonwealth University.

He'll take the college-entrance GREs again, beef up his scores. Perhaps he'll take a research methods course. Also, with an eye toward publication, the rabbi will pare down the thesis that capped his rabbinic studies.

And he hopes to win a research assistanceship under a faculty member whose specialty pretty much fits hand and glove with the doctoral work Goodman wants to do.

That professor and another at Virginia Commonwealth research forgiveness. Goodman's topic is repentance — from both the psychological and religious angles and how the two overlap.

"Usually, they are kept separate," he said. "I'm definitely not a pioneer, but it hasn't been researched nearly enough, from my perspective. I'm excited to add my voice to the little that's out there."

It seems a given — that a person's spiritual beliefs have a role in how he or she thinks. Goodman saw that for himself when he worked with home-bound elders whose issues often centered around loss, as a chaplain for sailors in the midst of the Iraq war.

"I don't think you can adequately help a person unless you establish what the person's belief systems are.

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