Goldstein always loved writing. She started to write as a child, stories at first, poetry later – most of it very religious. The first story she remembers writing was in second grade, about a mischievous little girl who tricks her mean principal. "I don't know if it's the first thing I wrote, but I remember it because my mother liked it. Everything my mother liked, I remember." Her mother was a child of the Depression and felt thwarted in her own literary ambitions. Goldstein thinks that, while writing first pleased her mother, it later became a painful reminder of her own unpursued dreams.
GOLDSTEIN MET HER FIRST LOVE when she was 15. She was with her older sister, Mynda, at a singles' weekend at a Jewish hotel in the Catskills. It was a Jewish holiday, and the hotel had designated one dining room for families, and one for singles. Taking one look at the meat market otherwise known as the singles room, the Newberger girls turned around and hid out with the families instead. They sat down with a Jewish family from Atlanta, the Goldsteins. Sheldon and Rebecca married four years later.
Marrying at a young age allowed Goldstein to pursue the education she longed for. She could now enjoy the freedoms a married woman was allowed within the orthodox community of White Plains. Her husband, himself a mathematician, encouraged her philosophical pursuits, and she went through college and graduate school before having children.
Having graduated summa cum laude in philosophy from Barnard College, Goldstein went on to pursue a Ph.D. at Princeton University, where she wrote her dissertation "Reduction, Realism and the Mind" under the guidance of Thomas Nagel. Currently a professor of Philosophy and Law at New York University, Nagel remembers her as "highly intelligent, with a clear, logical mind, and intuitively sensitive to the profound difficulty of philosophical problems." Her first job was as an assistant professor of Philosophy at Barnard, where she taught for 10 years starting in 1976.