Alice Dreifuss Goldstein loves to tell stories, true stories of her life in Germany and growing up in a strange country, the United States. She lovingly told these stories in her memoir “Ordinary People, Turbulent Times.”
To those who know her, Alice is far from ordinary. She has collaborated with her distinguished husband Dr. Sidney Goldstein in demographic surveys, including several of the Jewish community and Jewish education. In her own right she has earned international recognition for her research on the effect of modernity on populations; how people respond to change. Her interests lie in the human story behind and beyond the facts and figures.
To her family and friends, her synagogue Temple Am David, the Holocaust Education Resource Center and Library, the Jewish Alliance of Greater Rhode Island and the community as a whole, Alice’s extraordinary creative energy, knowledge and insights have been invaluable.
A goodly crowd of well-wishers attended the gala in Alice’s honor May 16, in the social hall of Congregation Am David. It was part of the congregation’s Weekend of Celebration. Paula Olivieri, chair of the gala, greeted the crowd. Warwick Mayor Scott Avedesian read a proclamation in Alice’s honor. Referring to the recent commemoration of the Armenian Massacre, he thanked Alice for speaking out against injustice.
The speakers who followed all alluded to Alice’s talents as a teacher and the life lessons she imparted by word and by deed. She has the ability to influence young people, raise their awareness of human suffering and motivate them to stand up for civil rights and human dignity. She inspires as she acts on her own commitment to her faith and Jewish values.
In offering the toast, Gloria Feibish, friend, colleague and cohort, spoke of their friendship and volunteer collaboration, how Alice fit the profile of the Eshet Chayil, a Woman of Valor.
Minna Ellison represented the Jewish Alliance and the former Bureau of Jewish Education, which Alice had served as president. She referenced Jewish sources regarding the importance of a census. Counting each person is not merely compiling numbers but rather valuing each soul, paying attention to people as individuals. In her professional career and as a teacher, Alice honored this special relationship to people.
Alice has reached more than a thousand students with her story, according to Judith Jamieson, president of the Holocaust Education Center and Library. She described Alice as “golden” in her support of the Center and its educational program, in the richness of her intellect and generosity of spirit.
Rabbi Richard Perlman described Alice as a gem, a source of beauty in the congregation. She is the one to whom he has turned when he needed a listening ear. Never has Alice spoken ill of anyone, he said. Her words are always well thought out, respectful of others. By her life’s story she teaches that change presents difficulties, but one can make something good out of change and the unknown.
A highlight of the evening was the saga of Alice and Sid narrated by Dr. Sidney Goldstein. Briefly put, it told the story of how an Ashkenazi boy and a girl originally from Germany found each other (after some maneuvering by two mothers plus a few missteps), fell in love and married. He spoke movingly of their life together, their family and their home in Warwick where they have lived for 40 years.
He paid a touching tribute to Alice for her immeasurable help to him in his professional career and her selfless devotion and caring. With his pride in Alice evident, he read several comments from young people who had been touched by her presentation. As one young man wrote: “You have changed my life. By your stories I have felt your pain.”
The two Goldstein daughters then called on Alice to sit on the stage. From a suitcase they produced items that told the story of her life. They included the quilts she had made for her grandchildren. As each of the seven quilts was displayed, a message was read from the grandchild it had originally warmed.
As a memento of this evening, Alice was given a painting by Naomi Lipsky. The artist, in making the presentation, spoke of Alice’s willingness to try something new and her joyful response to life.
At the end of the program Alice spoke with her typical charm and grace. She identified herself as a wife, mother, grandmother, great-grandmother and teacher, and expressed her gratitude to the agencies so important in her life: the former Bureau of Jewish Education, the Holocaust Center, Jewish Alliance and Am David, for the opportunities they afforded her to study, learn and teach.
On a personal note, the dictionary tells us what’s in a name. Depending on which of three languages you prefer, Alice may mean noble, kind or truthful. All three attributes come together in Alice Dreifuss Goldstein.
GERALDINE FOSTER is a past president of the Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association.
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