Joan Friedman became the first woman to serve as a rabbi in Canada in 1980, when she was appointed as an Assistant Rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. Her appointment was followed shortly after by that of Goldstein as Assistant Rabbi from 1983-1986; Goldstein has been noted as the first female rabbi in Canada, but that is incorrect.
Youth and early life
Goldstein was born in 1955 in Scranton, Pennsylvania, U.S.A. Goldstein's parents, Abraham (1918–1997) and Terry (Gallant, born 1922), were natives of greater New York City. Her father was a purchasing agent and her mother the director of a youth organization. As a student, Elyse Goldstein served at Beth Or, a synagogue for the deaf in New York City, and she remains committed to Jewish education for the deaf.
Her first rabbinic positions were as assistant rabbi at Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto between 1983 and 1986. From 1986 to 1991, she served as rabbi of Temple Beth David of Canton, Massachusetts, before returning to Toronto.
In 1985, she married Baruch Browns (changed to Browns-Sienna) (born 1956), a Jewish educator and graphic designer, and they have three sons: Noam Ezra (born 1989), Carmi Yonah (born 1991), and Micah Benjamin (born 1994).
In 1991, Rabbi Goldstein founded Kolel: The Adult Centre for Liberal Jewish Learning in Toronto, an institute in the tradition of the Lehrhaus in Germany, offering Jewish studies to adults in classes, lectures, retreats, and in-depth seminars. It was the first such institution under Reform Jewish auspices in Canada and one of only a handful in North America. Housed in its own building and serving an increasing number of singles and unaffiliated Jews as well as established members of the community, Kolel became a significant and singular presence on the Jewish educational scene of Toronto. In 2011, Rabbi Goldstein retired from Kolel to found a new Reform synagogue in downtown Toronto, City Shul.
Rabbi Goldstein lectures on campuses and to Jewish groups across Canada and appears frequently on radio and television.
- ReVisions: Seeing Torah through a Feminist Lens (1998)
- The Women’s Torah Commentary (2000)
- The Women’s Haftarah Commentary (2003)
- New Jewish Feminism: Probing the Past, Forging the Future (2004)
She is one of seven women featured in the Francine Zuckerman documentary Half the Kingdom.
In 1996, the YWCA of Metropolitan Toronto presented her with the Woman of Distinction Award for excellence in the field of education. Her book ReVisions: Seeing Torah Through a Feminist Lens won the Canadian Jewish Book Award in the field of Bible 1998. She was named ORT "Woman of the Year" in 2001. Elyse Goldstein received the 2004 UJA Rabbinic Achievement Award. She is the 2005 recipient of the most prestigious award in Jewish education, the internationally recognized Covenant Award for Exceptional Jewish Educators. In May 2008 she received an honorary Doctor of Divinity degree from Hebrew Union College.
- Michael, Brown (1 March 2009). "Elyse Goldstein". Jewish Women: A Comprehensive Historical Encyclopedia.
- "Women of Influence".
- Malul, Chen (2012-11-08). "Women of the Wall, breaking down walls - Haaretz - Israel News". Haaretz.com. Retrieved 2017-04-27.
- "Goldstein, Elyse". Jewish Virtual Library.
- "Books by Rabbi Elyse Goldstein". Jewish Lights Publishing.
- Kraft, Frances (9 December 2010). "Jewish feminists look back and ahead". Canadian Jewish News.
- "The 2005 Covenant Award for Exceptional Educators". Kolel.
- "Rabbi Elyse Goldstein staff profile". Prosserman JCC. Archived from the original on 2011-07-15.