Rabbi Leo Goldman

"Don't give up!"

Name at birth
Leibel Goldman
Date of birth
Where were you born?
Where did you grow up?
Koretz, Poland
Name of father, occupation
Joseph, Dairy farmer-made cheese
Maiden name of mother, occupation
Chaya, Homemaker
Immediate family (names, birth order)
Parents, me and three siblings; sister Zehaba (Goldie) and two brothers, Simcha and Borukh (Ruby)
How many in entire extended family?
Probably dozens, all living in the area of Koretz
Who survived the Holocaust?
Simcha, Zehava and me. My father and Borukh were killed.
At about age 22, I was drafted into the Russian Army and sent to Officers School and graduated as a lieutenant.  I was in hand-to-hand combat with bayonets and shrapnel.  There were lots of Jews in the Russian Army then.  I was severely wounded in the left side of my chest.  It wasn’t healing properly, and I was sent to a hospital in Uzbekistan for treatment.  My future wife (who was from Lithuania) had gone with her sister to visit someone who was hospitalized in that same hospital and met me there.  We knew each other for a few months and close to the end of the war we got married (March 9, 1943).  We were married for 39 years when my wife passed away.  Our son, Joseph Solomon, was born in 1946 in Beuthen (pron. Boyton), Poland.   
After the war, we went to Poland. On the holiday of Simchat Torah (Rejoicing of the Law), I was in the shul (synagogue), but there were no sifrei Torah (Torah scrolls), so in place of the Torah I carried a little boy. (I told the story for years, and 65 years later, there was a call from Betsy Kellman, the head of the Anti-Defamation League here in Michigan, to say that the little boy whom I had carried was none other than Abraham Foxman, National Director of the A.D.L.  We had a reunion when Mr. Foxman came to see me in 2010. There is also a song by Abe Rottenberg about me which can be heard on YouTube).  
My wife and I left Poland to go to Vilna. I worked as a rabbi then, and in 1946 or 1947, I obtained a position as the Chief Rabbi of Norway. I was also a shoichet (Jewish ritual slaughterer) and had had to learn poultry shechita (Kosher slaughter) and mila (Jewish ritual circumcision) for the job. My father was in the hospital in Stockholm, Sweden, and my wife traveled back and forth to visit him. We also had to travel to the Arctic Circle so I could supervise the kashrut (kosher processing) of the herring for the fish industry. Another time in Oslo, an observant woman working at the U.S. Embassy called to ask if she could come for Seder (Jewish ritual feast marking the beginning of the Passover holiday).  As she was leaving, she asked what she could do for the family.  It had been so long since we had had meat, my wife asked for salami. I wanted a Jewish newspaper.  The package arrived.  I said, “The meat was green, and the news was old,” but there was a job advertised by a refugee agency in Detroit looking to sponsor a Lithuanian refugee.  My wife contacted the agency, and I got the job.  Rabbi Leizer Levine was instrumental in helping, and Mr. Louis Berry paid for my family’s travel here.  
We arrived in Detroit in 1948.  Our older daughter Vivian was born in 1949.  I worked at the “Tyler Shul,” also a shul on Linwood, and others and also taught Yeshivah Beth Yehuda.  By the 1950s I became the spiritual leader of Young Israel Northwest, near Wyoming in Detroit, where I was employed for five years and also worked as a mohel (Jewish ritual circumciser).  My daughter Rose was born in 1956.  In 1959, I decided to build my own shul.  I had a building on Ten Mile Road, in Oak Park, starting in 1960 with daily and Shabbat (Sabbath) minyanim (quorum for prayer services) and have had a Shabbat minyan ever since that time.  After the building closed down, I moved to the Jewish Community Center on Ten Mile Road for weekday and Shabbat services, then only for Shabbat at my home on Victoria, in Oak Park.  After my wife passed away after 39 years of marriage, I saw a need for chaplaincy and started volunteering as a chaplain at Providence Hospital and at Beaumont Hospital which later hired me to fill that role.  I stayed in that position until February of 2010.                                   
Where were you in the Former Soviet Union?
Russia, Uzbekistan
Where did you go after being liberated?
Poland, Vilna, Norway
When did you come to the United States?
Where did you settle?
Detroit, Michigan
How is it that you came to Michigan?
An agency in Detroit was looking to sponsor a Lithuanian Refugee. I got the job and my family moved to Detroit.
Occupation after the war
Rabbi, Mashgiach, Mohel, Teacher, Chaplain
When and where were you married?
March 3, 1944 in Uzbekistan
Sonia, Ran a nursery school
Joseph, mashgiac; Vivian, clinical social worker; Rose, lawyer and housewife
Twelve: Joseph’s children – Yacov, Chaim, Dov, Rivka, and Sarah; Vivian’s children - Brian, Amy and Deborah; and Rose’s children – Sonya, Moishe, Daniel, and David. Twenty-nine great- grandchildren: Joseph has thirteen grandchildren, Vivian has fourteen, and Rose has two
What do you think helped you to survive?
True belief in G-d. I am a doer and would never give up.
What message would you like to leave for future generations?
Don't give up!
Charles Silow
Interview date:


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