NORTHBOROUGH, MASS. – Charlotte (Finkler) Goldenberg Penn of Northborough and formerly of Providence, passed away peacefully on March 16, 2023. She will be lovingly remembered by many as a brilliant, wickedly funny and opinionated woman. To know her was to love her, argue with her and love her again. She always had the right outfit for every occasion, from board meetings to the captain’s table on a cruise. She was dedicated to her family, her work and her community— a force to be reckoned with, and a trailblazer in her time.
Charlotte was born in Lawrence, Massachusetts, on Oct. 10, 1922, and, as a child, moved to Rhode Island, a state she would come to love and cherish. At age 21 she married Harold Goldenberg, a handsome bomber pilot who was recognized for flying 60 missions in the Battle of Monte Cassino, Italy. The pair had three children: Larry, Cori and Jonas.
While raising her family, she was active in many groups and organizations: the Jewish Woman’s Veterans group, Temple Beth-El Sisterhood and Couples Club, and the Jewish Community Center, oftentimes in leadership roles. Later in life she volunteered at the Red Cross, served as a docent at the Jewish Historical society, tutored ESL students and more.
When her husband became ill, Charlotte became one of the few women in her circle to work, eventually holding the role of director for teen department at the Providence Jewish Community Center. During her decade there she mentored and counseled hundreds of teenagers, and the program flourished under her leadership. For decades, a number of those who participated in her teen programs have reached out to share what a significant impact she had on them during their teenage years and beyond.
Later, Charlotte accepted a position as administrative assistant for the executive director of the local chapter of the National Conference of Christians and Jews (NCCJ). She was deeply committed to their mission fighting prejudice, bigotry and hate. Within a year her talent and dedication led her to become the organization’s executive director. From 1974-1994, Charlotte steered the local NCCJ office from obscurity to prominence, gaining national recognition for her work. Of special note was her signature “Heritage Panel,” which she developed in RI and then introduced to NCCJ chapters throughout the US. It was during this period she finally had the chance to finish her education, earning both a bachelor’s degree from Salve Regina College at age 56, and a master’s in Nonprofit Management from Lesley University at age 64.
Upon retiring, Charlotte enjoyed traveling the world, exploring Israel, China, Italy, France, England, Thailand, Egypt and other countries. When she offered to share her adventures with a local Providence elementary school, her visits became so popular the school created a “Charlotte Penn Travel” section in the school library. Creative throughout her life, Charlotte was an avid scrapbooker, designing volumes of memory books for family members until the end of her life.
Charlotte is survived by her son, Jonas Goldenberg (Karen Weiner); her grandsons Matthew Goldenberg, Aaron Maass (Ashley), Ethan Maass (Laura), and Fook Goldenberg; her granddaughters Rachel Goldenberg (Adam Silver) and Fahn Goldenberg; and four great-grandchildren, well as many beloved nieces, nephews and other loved ones. Charlotte was predeceased by her husband Harold, her daughter Cori Maass and her son Larry Goldenberg.
Donations may be made to: Rhode Island Jewish Historical Association, 401 Elmgrove Ave., Providence, RI 02906 rijha.org or Rhode Island for Community and Justice (formerly NCCJ), 271 N. Main St., Providence RI, 02903 ricj.org *Note that funding is for Youth Programs