Rhode Island’s Gayle Goldin gives back

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State Sen. Gayle Goldin has proven her political prowess throughout her young career in public service. First elected in 2012, Goldin has been instrumental in the passage of several important bills that affect the lives of Rhode Islanders.

Goldin represents the East Side and Fox Point neighborhoods of Providence, where she lives with husband Jeff Levy and their two teenage sons, Zack and Jonah. “The people of the East Side of Providence have such a wealth of expertise and commitment to big-picture policy issues. I love being able to have those conversations with people and bring their ideas to the State House,” said Goldin.

“People reach out to me via email, call my office or just mention ideas when we see each other at the grocery store.”

During the last legislative session, Goldin introduced the Reproductive Health Care Act in the state senate. If signed into law, the legislation would protect reproductive rights in the state of Rhode Island regardless of any new legislation introduced at the federal level.

She has also helped to pass several other pieces of legislation this year, including automatic voter registration and a bill that puts into law greater protection for student journalists’ right to free speech.

In July of 2013, she successfully led the effort to pass legislation on Temporary Caregiver Insurance, which made Rhode Island the third state in the country to create paid family leave and the first to do so with job protection.

Goldin is excited by the prospects for the future of government in Rhode Island.

She said she believes that many people often get stuck on the idea that they haven’t “checked off enough boxes” or don’t know enough to run for office. But, Goldin explained, the reality is that “in the General Assembly, city councils or whatever other elected body, people’s own personal experience helps shape the policies that we pass, so having a diversity of personal experiences is equally as important as having an education or work experience that may lead you to think that you would be better suited for this type of work.”

There are many opportunities for young people who may be interested in a career in public service to get involved. “We have many interns from high school and college in the General Assembly,” said Goldin. “I recently had a high school student who shadowed me for the last month of the legislative session, and I think you really learn a lot. Many of us [Goldin’s colleagues] are happy to share that experience with students who are interested in politics.”

Opportunities for women to get more involved in government/politics are also important to her. “We’ve restarted the Women’s Caucus, which I co-chair, and we meet monthly,” she said.

 “While the caucus has existed in previous years, it had been dormant until earlier this year. Given the policies coming from the Trump administration and the president’s lifelong sexist comments about women, combined with the lower percentage of women holding office, many women felt it was important to develop a specific voice for women in the Rhode Island Democratic Party,” Goldin explained.

“This has been a great opportunity for women to get together and figure out how they can be engaged in the Democratic Party and push for things that are important to women within the party.”

Growing up in Atlanta, Goldin and her family belonged to the largest Conservative synagogue in the south and were active members of their Jewish community. She was engaged in many social activism causes through her synagogue. “That was formative in my youth. And, I think, as I’ve gotten older, the concept of social justice, the commitment to helping others, and understanding our place in the world is certainly framed by Judaism and influences the way I act in this world,” said Goldin.

She was also a member of BBYO, and she believes that, while it was a Jewish organization, it taught her important skills that have helped her in her adult life and career. They include courage to give a speech to a large crowd,  ability to  facilitate meetings and event planning.

Goldin has introduced proclamations recognizing Holocaust Remembrance Day and Israeli Independence Day, and has always made an effort to recognize the contributions and the impact of Jews in the state of Rhode Island.

Like many of her colleagues, Goldin works as a legislator part time, while holding a full-time job. She currently serves as the Family Medical Leave Insurance Campaign advisor to Family Values at Work, a national network of 24 state-based coalitions, fighting for family-friendly policies such as paid sick days and paid family leave.

Goldin has a long history of giving back and fighting for social justice causes. After completing a master’s degree in public policy at Tufts University, she began her career working in Rhode Island at a national organization focused on increasing access to health care for the uninsured. She later served in the nonprofit sector as a consultant, assisting with strategic advocacy efforts, policy analysis and qualitative research, and as the Strategic Initiatives Officer at the Women’s Fund of Rhode Island.

SAM SERBY is a freelance writer who lives in East Greenwich. He previously worked at the Peres Center for Peace in Tel Aviv.