Lighting the menorah at Temple Emanuel in Andover for the last time will be bittersweet for Rabbi Robert Goldstein. He'll be filled with the joy of the Hanukkah season that starts at sundown on Sunday, he said, while also realizing that he will soon say goodbye to his beloved congregation.

The popular rabbi is retiring in six months after leading Andover's largest temple for 30 years. He is 65.

His congregation of about 530 families learned in January that he was retiring. His replacement has not been selected.  

"This year when I light the Hanukkah menorah, I will of course remember the historic miracle of 2,000 years ago that led to our people’s survival. And I will also think of the many miracles of our own time," he said.

"The joy of the season is in a way a reflection of my gratitude of having been given the privilege of serving my wonderful congregation and living in this very special corner of the world, a place my wife and I worked and raised our three daughters."

His wife, Faith, is a teacher at South Elementary School.

He'll also be reflecting on gratefulness as he lights the menorah candles next week.

"On a personal level, I feel grateful that I was called to Temple Emanuel 30 years ago; that my congregation chose to take a chance on a young somewhat inexperienced rabbi.  Together we have built a strong and vibrant Jewish presence in the Merrimack Valley," he said.

While at times challenging, he said the match was a good one, as his relationship with his congregants "is one of deep and abiding respect and affection."

The Goldstein's  plans for next year are still somewhat undecided. The rabbi said that wherever they find themselves lighting their menorah next year, he will be thinking about the many people who  have touched his life.

"The joy of serving the special people of Temple Emanuel are some of those miracles in my life that I will always cherish," he said

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