Our Concealed Shortcomings: On Bias and Race

October 13, 2016

delivered by Rabbi Jill Maderer, Yom Kippur, Congregation Rodeph Shalom     

A story I love, from Rabbi Nachman of Brazslav.  A young woman visits her family and shares that she has become a master in the art of menorah making. She asks her parents to invite all of the other artisans in town to come see her masterpiece.  So all of the finest crafters come to view the menorah.  Later, the daughter asks her parents, “What did they think?” The parents reply, “We’re sorry to say, all of your fellow lamp-makers described a different flaw.” “Yes,” replies the daughter, “but that is the secret! They all say it was flawed, but what nobody realizes is this: Each sees a different part as blemished, but overlooks the mistakes that he himself would make.  You see, I made the menorah in this way on purpose — replete with deficiencies — in order to demonstrate that all of us have shortcomings.

Rabbi Nachman’s parable is drawn from the Psalmist, who calls to God: “Alumenu limor panecha” (Ps 90). “You can see our concealed darkness; You can see our concealed shortcomings, in the light of Your face.” God can see our shortcomings. Read the rest of this entry »

Sermon for Erev Rosh HaShanah 5777 – Hakarat HaTov (Remembering the Good)

October 5, 2016

I’m sick and tired of all this sin and repentance stuff! I know, it’s only Erev Rosh Hashanah, we haven’t even gotten to Yom Kippur yet. But every year, it’s the same thing:

Al chet shechatanu lifanecha…

For the sins I committed against you…

Ashamnu, bagadnu, gazalnu…

We betray, we steal, we scorn…

Enough already; enough beating ourselves up. We literally pound on our chests as we say these words, flagellating ourselves on the inside and out. I’m done.

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Celebrate Children’s Sabbath

September 29, 2016

Help us Celebrate Philadelphia’s 23rd Annual Children’s Sabbath on Sunday, October 16 @ 3pm at Rodeph Shalom

In Rab’s day, there was a teacher whose prayer for the rain was answered promptly. When asked to tell of his special merit, he said, I teach children of the poor as well as of the rich, I accept no fee from any who cannot afford it, and I have a fishpond to delight the children and to encourage them to do their lessons. (Ta’anit 24a)
This text from the Talmud reminds us how important education is in the Jewish tradition. It emphasizes that all children, regardless of socioeconomic status, deserve a quality education. On Sunday, October 16th at 3pm, our congregation will join with other congregations across the city to celebrate Philadelphia’s 23rd annual Children’s Sabbath.  Sponsored by the Children’s Defense Fund, the National Observance is a way for faith communities to celebrate children as sacred gifts of the Divine, and provides the opportunity for houses of worship to renew and live out their moral responsibility to care, protect, and advocate for all children. Rodeph Shalom is proud to be hosting the Children’s Sabbath again this year after a 10 year hiatus.
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High Holiday Services for Families with Young Children

September 28, 2016

Rodeph Shalom’s High Holy Days Services Designed for Families with Young Children

Contemporary Multi-generational Morning Services

Requires a “pass”; please contact Catherine Fischer cfischer@rodephshalom.org.

Rosh Hashanah: Monday, October 3, 8:30 am

Yom Kippur: Wednesday, October 12, 8:30 am

A full service for adults; yet a family-friendly atmosphere with children of all ages. Clergy, congregational choir, and guitar lead accessible music, encouraging participants to join in. Designed for all ages, the informality provides a comfortable setting for families with young children and there are activities for the children during the sermon.


Tashlich Service at Fairmount Waterworks
Monday, October 3, 1:30-2:00pm
640 Water Works Drive Philadelphia, PA 19130
Cast away your sins with breadcrumbs.  Open to all.


Afternoon Mini-Services for Families

Open to the community; no pass needed, please just bring photo ID for security.

Rosh Hashanah: Monday, October 3, 3:00 pm
Yom Kippur: Wednesday, October 12, 1:30 pm

A very brief service for families of very young children and their parents and grandparents.



Ben-Zion’s 80th Birthday Greetings

September 16, 2016

 ben-zion-freedmanGirls and boys , we have won a lottery ! Yes , we have won a lottery. Which one , you wonder ? The SUPREME lottery . . Being  Born ! Experiencing Existence ! Living Life ! Truly , a once-in-a-lifetime surprise prize !

Are you not amazed . . RADICALLY AMAZED . . . at being born . . feeling blessed and thankful at being alive . . experiencing  existence . . . blessed with intelligence and self-awareness .

Here’s more good news: social relationships . . living inter-connected.  We are all related, all members of this big family Homo sapiens sapiens: human beings, with intelligence , with feelings .

Now, None of us asked to be born . . yet, here we are !  HERE WE ARE: The Lucky Ones ! Blessed with birth; given the Gift of Life ; ! Especially today, I am HIGH on CHAI . Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel taught: “our goal should be to live life in Radical Amazement . . Everything is phenomenal . . . Never treat life casually; always be amazed” , says Heschel .

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Enfranchising All Voters: This is a Sacred Action

September 4, 2016

Mt._Zion_Methodist_Church_state_history_marker_in_Neshoba_CountyYou may have noticed that our country is in a national election season!  As a religious not-for-profit institution, we are very cautious to remain distant from endorsing or opposing candidates or parties.  Although we are permitted to speak about policies, in a polarizing season such as this, it is difficult to speak about the policy without speaking about the politician.

Still, we cannot and ought not entirely separate our congregational life from the process.  So voter registration work is the meaningful way that Rodeph Shalom empowers participation in the peaceful transfer of power we call democracy.  Judaism offers profound wisdom on what it means to take on the responsibility of voting and empowering others to vote:

Psalms teaches, “This is the generation and those who seek its welfare.”  In the Talmud, the ancient sage Rabbi Judah debates that this means the character of a generation is determined by its leader.   Read the rest of this entry »

Campers, College-Bound and All Of Us: Just Be Who You Are

August 23, 2016

Fran Drescher at a press conference for the charity ball 'dancer against cancer'

When the clergy decided to focus our summer Divrei Torah on profiles in Jewish Living, with a weekly look at an inspiring Jewish public figure, I could have guessed that for one of them, I might choose Elie Wiesel, my selection from last month.  I cannot say I expected that I would choose this week’s selection: the Nanny, Fran Drescher.  Yet, at the American Conference of Cantors concert we hosted earlier this summer, the hilarious depiction of Fran Drescher moved me deeply.  Because Fran Drescher truly knows who she is. Read the rest of this entry »