Once emerged from his shell, a life of activism
Born 1950, Brooklyn, N.Y. Arrived in Washington, 1972
“I spent the first year here walking around, slack-jawed, at the physical beauty of Seattle. I just couldn’t believe it,” Barry Goren says. “I grew up in Brooklyn, a very urban environment. The lush green, the snowcapped mountains, the hills, the water. I was completely agog.”
Upon graduation from Brooklyn College and feeling a need to get out of his cocoon, Barry sought to go west. He joined VISTA, the domestic peace corps, where he became interested in juvenile crime and prevention. He spent nine years working for the City of Seattle, helping to prevent juvenile crime through direct intervention.
Barry left his city job in 1981 to run a city council campaign. When his candidate lost the election, he did what any self-respecting single, unemployed 30-something would do: he ran off to Europe.
“It was transformational,” Barry says. “I had a Jewish awakening. I found myself going to synagogues and places like Bern, Switzerland and Morocco. I had very positive experiences. People welcomed me and invited me into their homes. I realized that I’m part of this extended family that exists all over the world.”
Barry returned and worked on many activist causes, from advocating for Seattle’s black community to the fight to free Soviet Jewry and Israel advocacy. He befriended Judy Balint, founder of Seattle Action for Soviet Jewry. Together they worked with Sen. Henry Jackson, who championed the issue, and Barry attended the march on Washington in 1985.
Also at this time, Barry joined the Community Relations Council at the Jewish Federation of Greater Seattle as a volunteer and discovered an interest in working as a professional in the Jewish community. He joined the Federation’s staff in 1984 and eventually became its director, a position he left in 2005.
“One of the great opportunities I had working for the Federation is that I got to travel around the Jewish world quite a bit,” Barry says. “I got to go to Israel about 30 times.”
Barry now works to help students in underserved and lower-income communities find success in graduating from high school and moving on to college.