Steve Goldstein in Fond Remembrance
Steven Goldstein, 3/7/48–1/31/23, was an honored pediatric endocrinologist and husband of the eminent art historian James Saslow
No one — certainly not Steve or me — ever realized how much Steve Goldstein helped me to appreciate and care for myself.
As gay Jewish doctors with life partners who were notable gay Jewish activists, we had much in common. But especially as physicians in tumultuous decades of health care change.
Like Steve, I felt uprooted, struggling to maintain footing in a profession I also felt to be a calling. Put simply, you can’t care for sick children as Steve did, anymore than you can for societal pariahs like drug addicts as I did, without a personal sense of mission and commitment.
There’s no way to explain to an economically deprived child suffering from diabetes, any more than to an indigent heroin addict struggling to care for her baby, the extent to which landscape transformations in medical practice, administration and cost were aggravating their hardships as patients and ours as practitioners.
Being friends with Steve repeatedly helped me place my own circumstances in perspective. The skyrocketing challenges of American health care became easier to conceptualize, navigate and not take personally.
As did the challenges of ageing and retirement. With Steve as a partner and witness on this journey, staying the course felt less arduous and more rewarding.
The bond I felt with Steve was often tacit. Just being with him felt warm and comforting. I had that sense again this summer when we trekked to Bard College to see an opera rarity, Richard Strauss’s The Silent Woman.
In a moment that caught all of us by surprise, the lead character, a composer, steps to the front of the stage to deliver a monologue about what it’s like to get older and what it is older men want most in life and love: “a little kindness.” We all identified.
In countless small acts of courage, caring, and kindness, in just being his compassionate self without fanfare, Steve Goldstein was like my life partner Arnie Kantrowitz, who died from complications of diabetes and Covid last year. He was a mensch who brought the light of a little kindness into all our lives. It’s a light that shines bright today in inspiration and legacy.
And memories, some of the most treasurable of which were the film nights we shared with our close friend and host, Brandon Judell. Over pizza, odd snacks and sweets, and new and old film gems that were often on the cutting edge of gay and Jewish life, we would schmooze, gossip, dish, cackle and have fun, fleetingly but gratefully secure in a world once again darkening with menace for Jews alongside gays and most everybody else.
Steve’s health deteriorated in bouts with illness he kept weathering, but which ultimately took their toll. “Getting old ain’t for sissies,” beloved Bette Davis famously quipped. Wisdom of the ages for her great fan, Arnie, and in the example for all of us set by brave, decent and accomplished Steve Goldstein.
— Larry Mass
New York City, 2/3/23
Presented at the Memorial Service for Dr. Steven Goldstein at Riverside Chapel