Shirley Goldstein


From 427 Forest Drive in Council Bluffs through a life-long journey that carried her to Moscow, Russia and other cities behind the Iron Curtain, Shirley Goldstein’s love of Council Bluffs and its schools is as strong as ever.

Shirley’s (AL 1940) early years might have been similar to those of her classmates. Shirley, a Council Bluffs native – who resided briefly in Nebraska during her childhood – still boasts of her education at the former Third Street School, Bloomer Junior High and Abraham Lincoln High School. She fondly remembers her school dances, her close friends – Jackie Hughs, Ann Verden and Marigold Walker – and spending time in EMESEL: a group of Jewish girls who also attended ALHS. She chuckled when she reminisced about failing geography in high school. Despite this, Shirley spent more than 40 years of her life traveling the globe assisting in and promoting human rights – especially for Soviet Jews.

During the 1960’s, Shirley and her husband, Leonard, traveled extensively to Europe and Israel. During a trip to the Soviet Union in 1972, the couple saw first-hand the harsh conditions of Soviet Jews behind the Iron Curtain: the denial of basic rights…faith, employment, travel and emigration. These practices were all too familiar – and a powerful reminder of the Holocaust only a few decades earlier. From that moment, Shirley knew she had to help, she had to try to make a difference. During those trips, Shirley would defy warnings, meet with dissidents, and gave aid and gifts to Refusinks (Soviet Jews, who applied for visas to emigrate, were denied visas, then denied jobs and the few privileges they had left).

Still today, Shirley remains steadfast in her belief that one person can make a difference – and a significant difference she has made. In all, she has made seven trips and was planning her eighth when her visa to re-enter the Soviet Union was denied. Still, Shirley continued the campaign from home, whether it was leading demonstrations, meeting with members of Congress or coordinating letter writing campaigns; she assisted more than 200 Soviet families resettle into Western Iowa and Eastern Nebraska.

Shirley was inducted to AL’s Hall of Fame in 1998. She was also recognized by the University of Nebraska at Omaha with an Honorary Doctorate, and in 2010, she was honored by the Israeli parliament in Jerusalem.

"It was a great period of my life, everybody’s got their thing.This is my thing. I’m not a card player. I’m not a golfer. I’ve had a great time. I’ve traveled to places I never would have gone. I’ve seen how Washington works. I’ve seen how Israeli politics works. I have friends in Europe, Israel and here in the States.”

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