January 27, 2020

Lessons From Her ‘Shanghai Jew’ Father

As a child growing up in New York, Naomi Goldman often heard her father’s wartime stories. A Holocaust survivor, Robert Goldman spoke to Naomi of trying times in the ghetto — in China. 

The late Robert Goldman was one of the “Shanghai Jews” — one of 20,000 Jewish refugees who fled Nazi-occupied Europe in the 1930s and 1940s for Shanghai. At the time, aside from the Dominican Republic, the Republic of China was the only viable option for Jewish refugees.  Robert grew up under brutal Japanese occupation in Shanghai’s Hongkou District ghetto until his teens. 

“My father’s challenging past to get to this country was very formative for me,” Naomi Goldman said. “Because of that, he was someone who placed great importance on the community and was so proud to be part of his local Jewish community and all that entailed. I got that from him.” 

When she was 12, her family moved to Torrance, where they became members of Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach. Her mother, Faith Goldman, remains on the board to this day. The family also volunteered with local social justice causes. 

“I was always taught to think about how to give my time, talent and resources to good causes and vulnerable populations, such as immigrants like my father,” Goldman said.

Today, Goldman lives in Westwood and divides time between her childhood synagogue and Sinai Temple. She began her career in talent management after graduating from UCLA. 

“But I was only enjoying the part where I’d get clients connected to charities,” she said. “So I made a life change. I decided I wanted my life’s work to impact causes and communities.” 

“I was always taught to think about how to give my time, talent and resources to good causes and vulnerable populations.”

Today, as the head of her own successful communications company, Goldman carries on the legacy of her parents, supporting a bevy of progressive causes. She previously ran the state of California’s HIV/AIDS Prevention Campaign for several years and shepherded faith-based partnerships and educational programs that served as models for AIDS service organizations nationwide. She currently handles strategic communications for the chief executive office of the Los Angeles County Homeless Initiative. 

“Whatever I’ve done in my life, whether it’s around community engagement, volunteering, philanthropy, serving on boards, it comes from being raised by exceptional role models — my parents,” she said. 

During the recent midterm elections, Goldman canvassed, phone banked, rallied and fundraised for local progressive candidates. Recently, she started a magazine for the Visual Effects Society called “VFX Voice,” focusing on how digital animation and special effects can merge the worlds of emerging technology and social justice. 

“I’ve written about how the Shoah Foundation has been using virtual reality to share Holocaust testimony and preserve things for next generation,” she said. 

Another of her deepest passions is disaster relief. For years, she has volunteered extensively with the Red Cross, providing comfort to displaced families affected by wildfires. For someone who always tries to make change and think big, those experiences have shown her that it’s often the small moments that matter most. 

“I remember the Shabbat after the Woolsey Fire, sitting in a shelter with a family with four kids that had no home,” she said. “All we did was color together, read books, and they taught me about cartoon characters they loved. I also like intimate experiences like that, just being a part of a few moments of peace in that really tough time.”

Read more about our 2019 mensches here.