"Carolyn Goodman, z"l" - Jeremy Burton
First published on JSpot.org, August 21, 2007.
If you were in any way involved in NY progressive Jewish activism in the past few decades, or were a student at the City University's Queens College, chances are you met Dr. Carolyn Goodman, who passed away on August 17, 2007 at the age of 91.
Dr. Goodman first came to national prominence in the summer of 1964 when her son Andrew (a QC student), along with James Chaney and Michael Schwerner, was famously killed during the Mississippi Freedom Summer. The Upper West Side psychologist ..., went on to dedicate herself throughout her life to the social justice mission to which she and her husband had raised and sacrificed their son. This was hardly new to her. She had been a farm worker organizer in her youth, and was active in US support for Spanish Republicans during the civil war.
I first met her during the '89 marking of Freedom Summer's 25th anniversary, when she spent some time back at QC to help inculcate a new generation in progressive values, always and clearly rooted in the Jewish tradition and her upbringing.
In 1999 I had the chance to work with her when I was co-organizing (through JFREJ) the Jewish participation in civil disobedience after the police killing of Amadou Diallo, an African immigrant. Despite her already advanced years, she proactively sought to be involved, and brought her credibility, celebrity, and historic connection to the earlier civil rights work, to our cause. She was a key figure in bringing Jews into this new civil rights movement as Jews, anchoring our community's role as a credible and reliable ally to a new movement for New York at a time when most mainstream Jewish organizations wouldn't take on the issue.
No parent should ever have to bury their child and her passing is the close of the era when the parents of those Mississippi Summer students stood as living legacies to their own children. She deserves (along with her deceased husband) all due credit for raising her son with his values. She deserves even more to be remembered for her own part as a role model, not just as a Jewish mother, but as an activist and as a force for justice.