We Value Multiple Perspectives on Israel

September 17, 2019

We all know the old expression, “Two Jews, three opinions!” A cute, funny line, but rooted in a fundamental philosophy that is paramount to our tradition. From our very beginnings, Judaism has been a religion that encourages dialogue and debates l’shem shamayim (for the sake of heaven). Jacob wrestled with a divine being and was renamed Israel – one who struggles with the Divine. In our Yom Kippur morning Torah portion, Nitzavim, we are taught, “the Torah is not in Heaven… it is in our hearts,” for us to interpret and disagree over! And the rabbis of the Talmud provide one of the greatest examples of discourse, constantly pushing each other and questioning. 

In this spirit, we are excited to engage with Israel this fall in three distinct learning opportunities, beginning with two very different perspectives.  Read the rest of this entry »

Shoftim – Bal Tashchit by Rabbi Eli Freedman

September 13, 2019

Rabbi Eli Freedman’s sermon from Friday, September 6

Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof – Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue. This week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, literally meaning “judges” is filled with talk of justice. 

Justice in our judicial system. We read in our Torah, “You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.” We are also taught that at least two witnesses are needed to convict someone – one witness is not enough.

Justice for our rulers. Kings are commanded to always have the Torah by their side as they rule as a constant moral reminder. They are commanded not to amass wealth and there is even an emoluments clause in this week’s portion!

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Benediction: “To Whom Am I Loyal?”

August 25, 2019

This Shabbat, for our benediction, Rabbi Maderer offered these words written by her colleague Rabbi Michael Adam Latz:

To whom am I loyal?
To God.
To my beloved family.
To children everywhere.
To my congregation. Read the rest of this entry »

Loyalty: To Bigotry No Sanction, Washington’s Slave Quarters, and the Holy Ground of Our Nation’s Struggle

August 25, 2019

Rabbi Maderer delivered this D’var Torah on Shabbat, 8/23                  

Two days ago, the Reform Movement’s rabbinic arm released the following statement:

“The Central Conference of American Rabbis is dismayed by President Donald J. Trump’s politically charged and divisive statement referring to Jews who vote for Democrats: ‘I think it shows either a total lack of knowledge, or great disloyalty.’ The deployment of this classic antisemitic trope should raise serious concerns for every member of the Jewish community, regardless of one’s political party.  Throughout our history, Jews have been maligned by the dangerous, antisemitic speech of individuals in positions of power who accused us of placing loyalty to Israel or Judaism over loyalty to the lands of our sojourn. Often, those accusations have contributed to violence against Jews and expulsion.  American Jews are well informed voters—Republicans, Democrats, and Independents—who are deeply devoted to American values, including bipartisan support for Israel. The suggestion that Jews, or any religious group, should be affiliated with any one political party is un-American and should be challenged directly and unequivocally.”

As our Rodeph Shalom clergy and leadership affirmed in our congregational email yesterday, we stand with those words.

Furthermore, I’d like to briefly comment on the most recent events, that led to the absurd disloyalty accusation. As most of you know, I am committed to Israel and believe Israel’s security is critical to the Jewish people.  And I care deeply about a Two-State Solution that would offer dignity to the Palestinians. Read the rest of this entry »

What Does Judaism Say About Reproductive Rights?

June 27, 2019

By Rabbi Eli Freedman

In the spirit of lifting up women’s voices, I want to begin with the words of Rabbi Elaine Zecher of Temple Israel in Boston. She writes, “Women have been wronged.Children have been wronged as well. No one is left untouched in the destructive legislation concerning abortions—especially, of course, women’s bodies, which have been viewed as the property of government.” Rabbi Zecher then goes on to quote this week’s portion, Behar, with the words: “Do not wrong one another, but fear your God; for I the Eternal am your God.”

We consider the specific command “not to wrong another” in light of legislation in Alabama, Missouri, Ohio, Georgia, and elsewhere that has robbed women and those who love them of their own agency and, preemptively, in some states, indicted them as potential murderers. Although these heinous behaviors of lawmakers reflect a sinister strategy to get to the Supreme Court, they have trampled human dignity and decency on the way.

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Clergy Leadership Beyond Our Walls

May 29, 2019

by Rabbi Jill Maderer

I am so grateful to serve a congregation that cares not only about its immediate needs, but also about the broader Jewish community. All of our clergy work on initiatives beyond our walls. Such work nourishes us in our professional growth, contributes to the greater good of American Judaism, and offers us the opportunity for regional and national impact.

For instance, Cantor Frankel recently shared in the May Bulletin about her upcoming role as an officer on the Board of the American Conference of Cantors. Rabbi Freedman most recently joined the Board of Interfaith Family and continues his involvement in POWER and local and global multi-faith work, and I am concluding my term on the Board of the Jewish Federation and also service on the Board of Interfaith Philadelphia and on the Central Conference of American Rabbis Task Force on the Experience of Women in the Rabbinate.

I have taken on a new short-term role, and I have an idea about how some of you might like to be involved. This December, I will lead the Friday evening Shabbat service at the Biennial convention of the leadership of the Union for Reform Judaism. I am excited for the opportunity, and I enthusiastically invite you to consider joining me in Chicago for the 5,000-person convention of Reform Jews.

The large number of participants means this service is quite a production, so I am already planning the service. Presently, I am studying readings, poetry, and commentary I might like to incorporate into the service. I am focusing on readings that highlight relationships, connection, intimacy, and authenticity. Here is where I would like to invite your involvement. As I collect the commentaries, I would love to study them with you! I am so curious to know what you would find inspiring.

I plan to study the prayers and commentaries that I am considering for the service, along with parts of that week’s Torah portion, at our regular Torah Study session on Saturday, June 8 from 9:15-10:30am. I hope you will join the conversation!

Combating Anti-Semitism

April 9, 2019

by Rabbi Jill Maderer

I write this having just returned from the annual convention of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). There, I moderated a panel about important work that is now taking place to combat anti-Semitism. This work was unknown to most of my colleagues, and I thought it may be unknown to you as well. So I would like to share with you what I learned.

The panel was comprised of Amy Spitalnick and Roberta Kaplan. On Shabbat, August 12, 2017, hundreds of Nazis or White Supremacists descended on Charlottesville. Amy and Roberta are the people who are suing the Nazis.

Amy Spitalnick is the Executive Director of Integrity First for America, an organization which holds accountable those who threaten the principles of our democracy. Integrity First is funding and supporting the Sines v. Kessler lawsuit filed by a coalition of Charlottesville community members against the Nazis responsible for the violence. Previously, Amy served as senior policy advisor and communications director to the New York Attorney General, and as advisor and spokesperson for the New York City mayor.

Roberta Kaplan, or Robbie, the founding partner at Kaplan Hecker & Fink, is a commercial and civil rights litigator, and an expert in cutting-edge areas of law. Robbie’s work is “Where Were You When” kind of work. Where were you when the Supreme Court ruled for Robbie’s client Edie Windsor and for marriage equality? I remember where I was. Where were you when the witness of #MeToo became the fighting words of #TimesUp? When Robbie co-founded the Times Up Legal Defense Fund? I remember where I was. Where were you when… the racists, the anti-Semites, chanted “Blood and soil” and then actually shed blood in Charlottesville? I remember where I was.

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