By Jess Dankenbring, '17
Sept. 16, 2014 marked a new chapter in the lives of Campus Rabbi Andrew Goodman and his husband, Rabbi Jesse Gallop. They welcomed twin boys, Parker and Holden, into the world and into their family.
“I’ve always wanted to be a parent,” Goodman says. “I’ve always had this desire to have a family, but it happened at the right time in my life. And it’s really wonderful to feel like we have been able to increase the joy and love in our lives with these two little boys.”
Goodman and Gallop both grew up as the youngest of three children and knew that they not only wanted a family of their own, but one with multiple children.
“Everyone knows the rabbi’s kid and how the rabbi’s kid acts during services is apparently everyone’s business and everyone will comment on it,” Goodman says. “I think this is true for pastors’ kids and clergy of any type, but there’s a level of scrutiny that is going to happen, given our profession. I think having siblings to share that experience with was really important for us.”
While Goodman and Gallop were ready to begin life as a family, it wasn’t until mid-October, a month after Parker and Holden were born, that the state of Virginia accepted same-sex adoptions. They were prepared, though, for the legal complications involved. They worked with a lawyer who is well-versed in family law involving same-sex partners.
“We essentially needed to make sure we went through this process in a way that protected us as parents and protected the kids,” Goodman says. “You hear these horror stories and in some ways they’re anxieties, they’re fears, but they’re all too real and they do happen.”
As Goodman and Gallop became a family of four, they found themselves surrounded by a loving and supportive community, both at the University of Richmond, where Goodman is director of Jewish life and campus rabbi, and at Congregation Beth Ahabah, where Gallop is associate rabbi.
“He’s in his fifth year and this is my fourth year, so we’ve built a lot of relationships,” Goodman says. “I think when good things happen, people want to support you. It’s been really important to us, given our roles, for us to try to involve people, to try to bring people in.”
One such opportunity was a Shabbat service and baby naming ceremony held at Beth Ahabah on Dec. 5, where the twins were blessed. It was an opportunity for both the Beth Ahabah congregation and the University community to come together and celebrate with the family. “This is a personal thing, but it was an opportunity to share it with all of the community that we are fortunate enough to have and that we’ve tried really hard to cultivate,” Goodman says.
“We’re both in the role of building relationships,” he continues. “We both put a lot of stake in the communal, interpersonal, interactive nature of Judaism. Judaism has never been done in isolation and true community really relies on the interaction. And I think it’s visible in our work.”
Goodman says that community support also takes the form of a work environment that fosters ideas of balance in life for both staff and students.
“Everything that we’re telling our students that they need to have, we need to be modeling it,” Goodman says. “We need to model self-care and not valuing relationships over work, but keeping the balance of relationships and work. If you’re only studying, you’re not living a whole life. And if you’re only doing extracurriculars, you’re not doing college right. We’re fortunate enough to have a culture in our office of work, family, spirituality, health — all of these pieces go together.”
The University also grants eight weeks of parental leave if an employee has a baby or adopts a child, allowing parents the time they need to foster a new or growing family.
“I think we’re able to have this story because we’re able to have the support of this amazing institution,” Goodman says. “I wouldn’t have been able to spend three weeks in the NICU. There are so many pieces that I don’t think I could have done if it wasn’t a supportive environment. It goes to the question of what it’s like to live in the closet, and that’s something that we’ve never had to do. We’ve just been fully supported for being the people we are.”
Photo by Rebecca Field Photography