In 1963, Sherwin Silverman spotted Judith Goleman in a San Francisco meditation class. “I instantly knew she was the one,” he said.
What he didn’t know was how long it would take.
“I didn’t like him at first,” Goleman recalled.
Silverman agreed: “I was a person who was not very much at home with myself.”
Nevertheless, within the span of two years, they dated and then lived together, and even became engaged, before Silverman walked out on her and returned to his native Minneapolis.
So what propelled Goleman and Silverman to the chuppah on July 30 in Santa Rosa? One could say that Facebook had a hand in reconnecting them, but the couple would also say it was beshert — meant to be.
Goleman, 77, is a couples therapist and rabbinic chaplain ordained through the Aleph Renewal rabbinical program.
Silverman, 82, is the retired dean of a small college in Minneapolis, a sculptor and writer.
They live in Santa Rosa.
After their breakup in the ‘60s, they hardly spoke.
“I was the lead in our breakup because of my own inadequacies; my unwillingness to make a connection with another person and my inability to communicate,” Silverman said.
Each of them went on to marry other people and Goleman had a daughter, but neither marriage lasted; Goleman was widowed after four years, and Silverman’s ended in divorce after a year.
Even though Goleman was widowed at a young age and had subsequent relationships, “None of my relationships were deep or serious,” she said. “I feel as though I was very protective of my heart and wasn’t really available until now.”
Silverman, meanwhile, knew he was still in love with Goleman, and occasionally tried to get back in touch.
Once, when she listened to him long enough for a short phone conversation, he told her that he had never stopped thinking about her, even during his brief marriage. “But she thought I was blaming her for breaking up my marriage, so she hung up on me,” he said.
The hanging up continued the few times he tried.
“I spent years thinking about her, but knowing I had a lot of work to do on myself before I could be with anyone in a serious way,” he said.
Silverman credits years of meditation for breaking down the walls he had built up within, and getting to a place where he could be a loving partner. And when he finally felt ready, there was just one woman on his mind.
Looking up Goleman on Facebook in February 2015, he surmised that she was single, and wrote her a message. This time she sent him a cordial reply.
Why so? “It was a calm maturity of being older and wondering how he was,” Goleman said. “And he seemed like such a different guy. Right away, he seemed so thoughtful and to be a very caring person.”
Their messages soon turned into daily phone calls, and in October 2015, Silverman visited Goleman for a long weekend.
The first thing they did upon his arrival was to go grocery shopping.
“I felt so at home and at ease and quite happy, and Judith appeared to feel the same exact way,” he said. “It was almost as if we’d never been apart.”
In June 2016, Goleman flew to Minneapolis to help Silverman drive to California with all of his belongings in a rental truck, with the agreement that at first, he’d rent a room from her.
When they arrived and began unpacking his things, both noticed that they had many of the same books in their collections, especially about Jewish mysticism.
One month later, Goleman was diagnosed with early onset breast cancer. She had a mastectomy, and said that probably without Silverman, she would not have found the lump.
Not only was he “so caring and so loving and so supportive,” she said, but “he saved my life.”
On New Year’s Eve, Silverman asked Goleman whether she would like to pick out a ring or whether he should do it alone (she wanted to choose it) and by March he formally proposed.
They were married by Rabbi George Gittelman at Congregation Shomrei Torah. After the couple exchanged rings, a friend of Goleman’s sang Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” (a favorite of Silverman’s) with the lyrics rewritten by her to reflect their relationship.
“We met over 50 years ago
So many things we did not know
I couldn’t bring a true deep love to ya.”
Their reception spanned a lunch and a dinner, with two different klezmer bands (it was only then that Goleman learned what a great dancer her new husband was).
Silverman is now working on a short book about their relationship. Clearly, he has spent a lot of time — one could say almost a lifetime — thinking about it.
“I believe that our souls were so connected that our being together was something that was going to happen inevitably, but we had to grow up; I especially had to grow up,” he said.
“I had to become a person who could adapt, and so for me, I never lost my connection with Judith.
“I am also a particularly obstinate individual, so every time I got turned down, I took something positive away from it so I could keep on trying …”
He believes that “the two of us were much better together than each of us individually.”
Goleman said she had trouble putting into words their connection now, and why even after he‘d walked out on her, she could open up and trust him so easily this time.
“There was just this really deep connection,” she said. “And when you’re 77 and 82, you can’t mess around for too long.”
“At that time we were 76 and 81,” corrected Silverman.
“Yes, my dear,” said Goleman.