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Bob's Jam

The Jewish Federation of Omaha is counting down until we can welcome Bob Goldberg as our new CEO. While some of us, and some of you, have known Bob for many years, others have not yet had the pleasure. So, for the coming months, Bob will share short insights into who he is. This way, we get all get (re-)acquainted. If you have specific questions for Bob, feel free to email them to

December 23, 2022


Music has always been my go-to hobby and source of inspiration. What is better than music? I remember being young, around 1974 or ‘75, and listening to my transistor radio that my Bubby Syl had gifted to me, a radio that she had been given by the bank when she opened a new account. I listened to Roger W. Morgan on KOIL radio. He had a great radio voice and played the popular songs of the day. Many were what we call today part of the Yacht Rock genre. These were 70’s soft rock songs.

I remember playing catch with my brother in our front yard, when it came over the radio that Elvis had died. In the late 1970’, those transistor radios morphed into small boom boxes. I loved listening to R&B acts like the Jackson 5, Stevie Wonder, The Commodores, Earth, Wind and Fire, Ray Charles, and the like.

I carried my boom box on my shoulder walking around the neighborhood listening to music, strutting like John Travolta in Saturday Night Fever. I was exposed to classic rock and punk rock as Z-92 came into being. As a young person, I thought I would make a great radio DJ, because what could be more fun than to get paid to play all of your favorite music? It worked for Wolfman Jack! I still can remember hearing certain songs for the first time and running up to Homer’s Records to look at the album and read the notes on the back cover.

I used to walk up to Homer’s on 132nd Street a lot, with any money I’d earn mowing yards or doing chores and spend it on buying records. I would sit and listen to records for hours. I built up quite a nice album collection during my teenage years.

I am always listening to music, in the car, in my office, at home. My standards are Bob Dylan, the Grateful Dead, Bruce Springsteen, REM, Led Zeppelin, David Bowie, Elton John. I listen to a lot of the blues. I seem to really get into something and immerse myself in it for an extended period of time.

When I got into Leonard Cohen, I think I listened to only Leonard Cohen for almost a year. Same with classical.

When I got into classical, I listened only to classical (primarily JS Bach) for months and months.

Different people you share time with in life expose you to things that they love. My AZA#1 buddies exposed me to Springsteen when I was in middle school, my college friends exposed me to The Grateful Dead and Led Zeppelin. Kim exposed me to her punk rock favorites.

We were fortunate to have places like the Howard Street Tavern, the Chicago Bar, the Ranch Bowl, the Capital, places where you could go see live music for a few bucks most nights of the week. We are lucky that Omaha continues to provide great opportunities to see live music. Shout out to Marc Leibowitz. I love talking about and listening to music with my daughter, Lily. She has grown up listening to the music that Kim and I love, and today she is out there seeing bands and exposing us to new sounds that she discovers.

December 20, 2022

Things we ate and things we did

We spend a lot of time talking about food in my family. Perhaps too much. Like many of yours, we are often eating one meal and talking about what we’re going to eat for the next. My mom is a very, very good cook and we ate most meals at home. When we did go out, it was special.

I grew up with Big Fred’s, King’s Drive-In, Bronco’s, Goldberg’s, Goodrich, Little King, Julio’s, Martin’s Pastries, and the Bagel Bin, right in the neighborhood. What else could you need? When we did go out for a family dinner, I remember going to places like the Ground Cow, the Drawing Room, Jonesy’s Dinner Den, Highland CC, and sometimes for really special occasions to the Neon Goose or Gorat’s.

I have always liked exploring Omaha through its food cultures and enjoyed standards like the original Caniglia’s on 7th Street, Malara’s, El Alamo, Joe Tess, Piccolo Pete’s, Frankie and Phyl’s, Stella’s, the old Dundee Dell, Joe Marino’s, and Jim’s Rib Haven. The A-Ri-Rang Club was really good.

I love breakfast food and diners, so The Diner that used to be in the Old Market was a favorite and a regular stop, especially when we lived downtown. The Radial Café and Louie M’s are also great. I did eat a lot of those huge cinnamon rolls at the Garden Café! 

As a young adult, we often found ourselves at the Smoke Pit. It was our regular spot and we loved, loved, loved it and we still talk about it all the time. Other places we liked, especially in the summer, were the Surfside Club, Skeets, and the Alpine Inn.

We used to go to Gallagher’s for my birthday dinner. It was the only place (other than the Leavenworth Cafe) that was open on Christmas Eve (my birthday).

My favorite place to go as a kid was to Goodrich to get a malt or a sundae. My favorite was a chocolate sundae with marshmallow topping. Strawberry malts were a close second.

The first place that I remember going and being with friends with no parental supervision was Gizmo’s at the Westroads or maybe Skateland. WC Franks was a hangout during our junior high school years.

I was lucky to go to the College World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium a lot as a kid and saw some of the greatest ever play.  My dad took us to Nebraska football and Creighton basketball games. I remember when Creighton beat Larry Bird’s Indiana State team in Omaha. He took us to Kansas City-Omaha Kings NBA games when they played at the old Civic Auditorium. I remember seeing Pistol Pete Maravich and the New Orleans Jazz beat the Kings, who had Tiny Archibald and Sam Lacey. Maravich was unstoppable that night.
There used to be a few drive-in movie theaters in Omaha and in the summer, as teenagers, that was always fun. I don’t know if any drive-ins exist anymore.

I probably spent more time at JCC than any other place outside of home and school. I used to spend summers at the pool and playing basketball at the J or at the pool at Highland.

In the early 90’s and again in the late 90’s, after Kim and I moved back from San Francisco, we lived downtown. I loved living downtown and having the Old Market as my neighborhood. I would wander around and study the old buildings and wonder who built them and all the history there. We used to play frisbee in the streets at night because it was so quiet. And I loved hanging out reading in the park on 10th street across from Barry O’s, where the old Jobber’s Canyon had been, before they built the Embassy Suites. I spent lots of time at the Diner, M’s, Delice, 13th Street Coffee, Homer’s, W. Dale Clark Library, the Antiquarium, Howard Street Tavern, the Dubliner, Barry O’s, Jackson Street Booksellers, and La Buvette. I am still drawn to the downtown urban pedestrian lifestyle

December 16, 2022


I am a proud member of AZA#1, as are my dad and my brother. AZA gave me some of my best, lifelong friends, and it saddens me that my last two communities (Fort Worth and Des Moines) no longer have a BBYO (B’nai B’rith Youth Organization) presence. We tried to bring it
back to Fort Worth, but were unsuccessful. Some of the Fort Worth teens that wanted a BBYO experience had their parents drive the 30 minutes to Dallas so they could join a chapter there.

I was lucky that my brother, who is two years ahead of me in school, joined AZA and I was exposed to all of those guys two years before I was actually of age to join. I served as President of our chapter for two years and co-chaired two Sweetheart Dances (along with Brian Yampolsky and Michael Bloch), which were quite the events back in the day. Imagine young guys in tuxedos and cummerbands, the girls in beautiful dresses with corsages, and the whole to-do.

Our rivalry with Chaim Weitzman#1510 was legendary and made for great competition. There was also a strong AZA#100 chapter. So, there were three AZA chapters and two BBG (B’nai B’rith Girls) chapters. Beau dances, Sweetheart dances, Sunday meetings at the J, basketball leagues, the infamous nose bowl, and so many good times.
My buddies and my brothers from from AZA#1 include: my actual brother, Steve, Jeff Kirshenbaum, Alan Widman, Bennett Ginsberg, Randy Greenberg, Mark Passer, Jason Franklin, Lynn Polonski, Brian Yampolsky, David Kaslow, Corey Kaplan, Rich Rosenblatt, Mark Rosenblum, Mark Horwich (of blessed memory), Brad Goldstrom, Danny Rips, Adam Rod, Robbie Simons, Mike Merritt, Michael Bloch, Tom Kahn, Marty Cohen, Steve Wasserman, Larry Widman, and many others.

There used to be an old framed black and white photo hanging on the wall of the J at the end of the hall with Sam Beber and the first group that started AZA in Omaha in 1924. It continues to be an amazing legacy of Omaha that such an impactful program that has provided experiences that have framed so many of our lives was created in our home town.

December 2, 2022

growing up at Beth El

One of my most vivid memories of Beth El Synagogue as a child was going to Yom Kippur services, walking in with my family and hearing everyone offer Good Yuntif and asking my dad what it meant. I remember how the sanctuary seemed like a cavernous space overflowing with people, including in the balcony. I remember watching Rabbi Alex Katz walk in, a small man, covered head to toe in white, he had retired a generation earlier, and I remember thinking that he must be the closest thing to G-d. I remember Cantor Najman, a large man who wore a bukhari kipot, and when he started to sing Kol Nidre, the room went quiet and everyone was attentive.

For Sunday school, we would go to the synagogue on 49th and Farnam, and then to the J on Mondays and Wednesdays for Talmud Torah. I remember having great teachers, like Blanche Wise, Walter Feidman, Margo Riekes, and Gloria Kaslow. I remember Mr. Feidman, who I believe was a Holocaust survivor. He would teach us a prayer, like the Shema, and I would go up to him after class and ask him, what does it mean and why do we say it? And he would just look at me with a straight face and tell me to learn it, and to spit out my chewing gum! I know those prayers today because he made us repeat them over and over and over again. I am grateful to him for his persistence and dedication. My classmates included David Zacharia, Mark Rosenblum, Mark Horwich (of blessed memory), Debbie Cohen (Roos), Debbie Fellman, Lisa Gordman (Lieb Marcus), Danielle Epstein (Sherman), Barb Shkolnick (Flott), Andrea Joffee (Siegel), Philip Oren, David Ben Yaakov, Eric Konigsberg, Paul Roffman, Jeff Slutzky, Chuck Levy, Rich Rosenblatt, Kathy Mann (McGauvran), Heidi Meyerson (Schneiderman), and others. Our classrooms were in the main hallway of the J.

I remember Stan Mitchell was the head of the school and had a small office at the end of the hall in a space that later became the entry to the health club. I was active in sports as a kid and it caused me to miss Hebrew school from time to time, so much so that I was not allowed to graduate or go through confirmation. It is a hard deal as a young person when you have to choose between competing areas of your life. It’s hard for parents as well. That hasn’t changed. There still remain conflicts of time between religious school education and outside activities and there are no perfect answers.

A long overdue thank you from me to Mrs. Wise (of blessed memory), Mr. Feidman (of blessed memory), Mrs. Riekes, Mrs. Kaslow, and Mr. Mitchell. I owe each of you a sincere debt of gratitude because you helped instill in me a lifelong love of Jewish learning. I am forever grateful.