People A-Z / Rabbi Dr. Martin L. Goldberg
Rabbi and Community Leader
Dr. Martin L. Goldberg blended attentive pastoral care and religious leadership in his rabbinic career of more than 40 years as Rabbi, Senior Rabbi and Rabbi Emeritus at Temple Beth Zion. Over many decades, Dr. Goldberg built a reputation as a devoted pulpit rabbi, chaplain and inter-faith leader in Buffalo, Niagara Falls and Western New York.
Born in Paterson, New Jersey, in 1925, to Bella Bachrack and Morris Goldberg, Martin Goldberg spent three formative years as a serviceman in Europe during World War II. On his return to the United States, he studied at Syracuse University, graduating in 1949. He received a master’s degree from the University of Cincinnati and a doctorate from the University of Pittsburgh. He was ordained in 1953 at Hebrew Union College, Ohio. He married Claire Zeligman in 1954 and they raised three children: Deborah, Joel and David.
Rabbi Goldberg served several small congregations in Ohio, Illinois and Pennsylvania during his rabbi training and immediately afterwards. He became an Assistant Rabbi at Temple Beth Zion in 1954, where he was mentored by the nationally respected rabbi, Dr. Joseph L. Fink who had served the synagogue as Senior Rabbi for many decades and was in declining health. Within five years Dr. Goldberg was elected as Senior Rabbi, succeeding Dr. Joseph L. Fink in in 1959.
In 1961, a fire destroyed the synagogue at 599 Delaware Avenue. For almost six years after this catastrophic event, Rabbi Goldberg shepherded the congregation through multiple worship venues, keeping the congregation together. He was actively involved in the creation of the new synagogue complex at 805 Delaware Avenue, annotating architectural plans and advising on Hebrew text for stained-glass artist Ben Shahn and the composer Darius Milhaud who wrote the dedication music.
Out of his work with Christian faith leaders, he co-founded the “Know Your Neighbor’s Faith” series in the early-1960’s. This group evolved into the Buffalo Area Metropolitan Ministries in 1976 with Rabbi Goldberg as a founding member. In 1967, Rabbi Goldberg, along with Episcopal Bishop Lauriston Scaife, became one of the first two non-Catholics to join the theology faculty at Canisius College, and he served on the faculty until his death in 2002. From 1985 to 1994 with Reverend Thomas (Tom) P. Stewart of Westminster Presbyterian Church, he led interfaith trips to Israel.
Dr. Goldberg was also part of the organizing group for a Jewish Museum at Temple Beth Zion in 1973. The museum opened in 1978 and expanded in the 1980’s into the Benjamin and Dr. Edgar R. Cofeld Judaic Museum.
As the leading Reform rabbi in the city of Buffalo in his era, Dr. Goldberg was heavily involved in civic and Jewish affairs. He served as Jewish chaplain at the Buffalo Police and Fire Departments, Erie County Sherriff’s Department and was a member of the School Superintendent’s Advisory Committee for Review of Public Education. He served on several boards including the Buffalo General Hospital, Children’s Hospital, Buffalo Area Boy Scouts and the American Red Cross. He also served as a President and member of the Buffalo Board of Rabbis, and an advisor to the Jewish Community Center, Jewish Federation, Rosa Coplon Jewish Home and Infirmary. He was a longtime Rabbinical Advisor of the Northeastern Lakes Federation of Temple Youth
Dr. Goldberg was recognized for his service to college youth and community welfare with an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Divinity from the Alumni Overseers of Hebrew Union College, Jewish Institute for Religion. He was named a Buffalo Evening News Outstanding Citizen and received an Honorary Degree of Doctor of Humane Letters from Canisius College. After serving three generations of Temple Beth Zion members, in his retirement, he continued to work in community-wide pastoral care, as well as a part-time rabbi at Temple Beth El in Niagara Falls.
Rabbi Goldberg was buried at Forest Lawn Cemetery, Buffalo, NY., in 2002.
To the Cofeld Judaic Museum for permission to reproduce some materials from their display about Dr. Goldberg.
Obituary and Remembrance
Exhibition Panel: Senior Rabbis and Rabbi Emeriti, Dr. Martin L. Goldberg