This past week I attended the memorial service of my dear friend Judy Goldblatt. For many Judy was a beacon of light in an otherwise increasingly dim world. She worked tirelessly, in her hometown of Indianapolis, on behalf of the under-represented by helping those less fortunate than herself register to vote, by driving lower class and home-bound voters to the polls on election day, and by counseling women who had fled homes in which they were victims of domestic violence. A number of others (here and here) have told the story of her commitment to the Obama campaign in Indianapolis and her political work in the low-income districts of the city. However, the story of my friendship with Judy Goldblatt involves not political work, but the very faith that led her to seek out justice and work toward the transformation of the world.
For me, Judy was the embodiment of Tikkun Olam, a Hebrew phrase which means roughly “repairing the world”. I met Judy in a course at Christian Theological Seminary on Jewish/Christian dialogue, co-taught by Clark Williamson and Rabbi Dennis Sasso. After the course ended, Judy graciously invited the class participants to meet at her home on a monthly basis in order to continue our discussion and dialogue. Only six of us showed up, but we continued to do so without fail for the next two-plus years.
For those of us who stayed in the group, our monthly meetings became, oftentimes, the most joyous two or three hours of our weeks. I will never forget sitting on Judy’s couch drinking wine, eating whatever treats corresponded to the season, and discussing books such as Irving Greenberg’s For the Sake of Heaven and Earth, Brian Maclaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy, or essays from Abraham Joshua Heschel’s Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audicity. Judy treasured these meetings, and we treasured our time with her, her generous spirit, and her eagerness to read, discuss and learn from one another. It was from Greenberg’s book that we began to think of Jewish/Christian dialogue and our own dialogue group as a part of the process of Tikkun Olam. Our conversations never stopped with the theoretical, but always merged into the ethical demands we faced in our own locations.
Judy embodied Tikkun Olam not only by engaging in dialogue and considering how together we could begin to repair the world, but by actively and incessantly reaching out beyond herself. I think I would not be wrong to say that each of us in the group felt ourselves to be a part of her extended family. We joined the Goldblatts for the high holidays and for Passover; we shared in each other’s difficulties; and we celebrated together the good things in life. Beyond our group I think it was Judy’s commitment to the hope of repairing the world that led her to political activism, to engagement with the working-class neighborhoods in Indianapolis, and to her commitment to Jewish victims of domestic violence.
Judy will be missed more than I can possibly express in words. But as I remember and cherish our time spent in her living room, I will always think of the lessons we learned together and, more importantly, the lessons we learned from her. Our acts of Tikkun Olam, of repairing the world, will be our most fitting tribute to the woman we loved so much who was never shy about giving her opinion, who made everyone feel cherished and included, and who never turned her back on those who most needed her help.