Goldie Goldstein’s father, Jacob Rabinowitz, instilled in his children the value of giving, something she heard from an early age in Odessa, Russia, where she was born.
“My mother took it to a new level,” said her son Stephen Goldstein. Her passion for charity endured well into her 90s.
Her father, brothers Morris and David Rabinowitz, and her husband, Sol Goldstein, founded the Miami Diamond Center in 1944 after the families moved from Philadelphia. The downtown store was a fixture in the community until its closing in 1984.
Goldstein, who helped found the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center, quickly established her philanthropic activities — which would long outlast the family business, up to her death July 22 at her home in Boca Raton at 97.
At the retirement community she had moved to after her husband’s death, she established a charity room about 10 years ago. A dedicated apartment at Edgewater Pointe Estates was filled with donated clothes and furniture. Monthly, a local Haitian church gathered the goods for delivery to the needy. “She ran it, it was her concept, up to a year ago,” her son said.
“She stressed the importance of a ‘good reputation’ and that we must all ‘give back to the community where we live.’ Those have always been essential family beliefs,” said niece Linda Faber.
“I was always impressed that someone well into her retirement years just didn’t stop working for the community she loved. I used to tell her, ‘I want to be like Goldie Goldstein when I grow up,’ ” said Norma Orovitz, former president of Temple Israel of Greater Miami.
Goldstein served numerous boards and charities, including the Council of United Way Women of Dade County, the National Council of Christians and Jews, and the Miami Jewish Home and Hospital for the Aged.
She was president of the Women’s Division of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation and Sisterhood President of Temple Emanu-El. She was appointed Florida’s liaison to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council by Gov. Bob Graham.
“She was a deeply committed person in her religion and in her civic activism. Those were qualities which I thought would make her an ideal representative from our state on the Holocaust commission,” Graham said. “And all the reports I’ve ever received about her service has confirmed that judgment.”
Two days ago, Graham sat on a plane next to a young man from New Brunswick, Canada, who was going to Washington to attend a three-day program on how to most effectively teach the Holocaust to middle school students.
“He’d been selected for this special training and I would not be surprised if that kind of thing — reaching out to people who influence the next generation — had some of Goldie’s fingerprints,” Graham said.
If so, that would have fulfilled Goldstein’s mission.
“Their stories must be heard then retold over and over again until it penetrates the mind of all the future generations so it cannot and will not ever happen again,” Goldstein told the Miami Herald in 1988, a few months before she retired as executive director of the Holocaust Documentation & Education Center.
The Holocaust center was the idea of the late Sister Trinita Flood in 1979. Then president of Barry University, Flood presented Goldstein, then 59, with her bachelor of science degree in the professional studies program. She asked Goldstein to stick around after graduation ceremonies for a chat. Goldstein figured Flood was seeking a check.
Instead, Flood told Goldstein she was helping organize the center with a group of community leaders and needed her help.
“Here was this woman in a habit sitting there telling me she was organizing a Holocaust Memorial Center. I’d been an officer of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, president of the sisterhood at Temple Emanu-El and an honoree of the National Council of Christians and Jews. And there she was in that habit telling me, a Jew, she was organizing this,” Goldstein recalled in a 1992 Herald story.
The center opened on Florida International University’s Biscayne Bay campus in 1980, with Goldstein as its unpaid executive vice president for nearly nine years. The center became one of the world’s largest collections of taped memories of survivors and a source for Holocaust education.
Her consummate selfless and tireless commitment ensured that the authentic memory of the Holocaust would be preserved, protected and perpetuated for today’s and future generations.
Rositta Kenigsberg, president Holocaust Documentation & Education Center
After the center left FIU in 2001, it moved to a suite of offices on Biscayne Boulevard and, in 2004, to Hollywood. The center moved to its current 25,000-square-foot Dania Beach location on North Federal Highway in 2013.
“Goldie was an amazing and incredible inspiration to all who knew her. Her tremendous leadership and vision endowed our community and beyond with an everlasting legacy of memory and hope,” her successor, president Rositta Kenigsberg, said in an email.
Goldstein’s survivors include her children Stephen Goldstein and Francine Denner, grandchildren Jennifer Goodman and Kimberly Multack, and great grandchildren Brody Goodman and Jolie Multack. She was also predeceased by her grandson Daniel Denner. A memorial will be at 11 a.m. Wednesday at Levitt-Weinstein North Miami Beach, 18840 W. Dixie Hwy.