Even in Darkness it is Possible to Create Light

July 9, 2016

elie-wiesel1There are people whom we witness from afar, who make an imprint, and whose stories even mark the stages of our own life and growth.

I have a sense that this kind of impact, that defines moments in our lives,  for some of us has been discovered through our encounter with the work of Elie Weisel, zichrono livracha, of blessed memory, who died this week.  I know this is true for me.  I can remember where I was when I encountered the contributions of Elie Weisel, in different points in my own life, and the lessons he taught me as he appeared on my personal timeline.

Do you remember where you were when you first read the book, Night? Read the rest of this entry »

A Prayer for Love

June 22, 2016

Delivered by Cantor Frankel on June 17:

Hashkiveinu Adonai Eloheinu L’Shalom, V’haamideinu Shomreinu L’chayim, Let us lie down in peace O God and rise up, our guardian, to life renewed. We pray for protection, that in our most vulnerable moments we won’t have to focus on just how vulnerable we can be… And then we’re reminded how our sense of safety, how the sense of safety of those who have worked for equality and acceptance, can be rocked to its core.

Where is the symbol of God’s brit, God’s covenant, with all of us in those moments? Where is the rainbow?

After God destroyed the world in the flood, saving Noah and his family to continue human kind, God chose the rainbow to be a symbol of the promise not to destroy humanity again. The rainbow is so beautiful, it appears magically and without warning, it’s colors share space harmoniously in such a way that all kinds of people seem to be represented in its bands.

But as a symbol the rainbow is more than just beauty and harmony. It is a reminder of a two-way covenant, a reminder of the part we must play in repairing a world that after Orlando once again seems so broken.

There is such fear and shock after last weekend’s events. Such pain in the LGBTQ and Latino communities.

So we must remember the rainbow, and repeat the question, as Sen. Chris Murphy did on the Senate floor this week, “What can you do? What is your part?”

We pray for protection, we pray for peace, we pray for tolerance, we pray for sanity, we pray for the day when cultural differences, sexual equality, and gun control are all accepted, because on that day we all will agree, as Lin-Manuel Miranda said at the Tony awards last week, that love is love is love is love is love.

Remember the rainbow, remember the covenant. What is your part?

Have You Tried Turning It Off and On Again?

June 10, 2016

My husband, the I.T. professional, appreciates a certain tech-British sitcom he recently discovered.  On the show, the help desk repeats to each and every caller:

“Hello, I.T. Have you tried turning it off and on again?”

Not a bad response to our own challenges, I.T. or not.  Shabbat is here to say: “Have you tried turning it off and on again?”  Most things work better if, now and again, they get unplugged.  Shabbat shalom.

–Rabbi Jill Maderer

Two States for Two Peoples Demands Not BDS, But Empathy

May 15, 2016

16382816688_a64158563e_bThis week, my 10-year old son reflected with me about a wonderful lesson in his class at Berkman Mercaz Limud (our religious school).  The 4th graders learned about the siren that was sounded throughout Israel two weeks ago for Yom HaShaoh—Holocaust Remembrance Day, and just last week for Yom HaZikaron, Israel’s Memorial Day.  He showed me the video on YouTube, where you can see Israelis driving on the highway, stop their cars, step outside, and stand quietly in memorial honor for the duration of the one-minute siren. What impressed me about the teacher’s lesson was my son’s readiness to discuss deeper concepts.  He asked about the roots of hatred and why some groups live together peacefully and others do not.

I responded that the world—all of us—have work to do, and that Jews like every other group, need to be careful to take care of our own people and also to take care of others.

Within public discourse and institutional Jewish life, too often we are asked to choose between the two principles: If you care more about taking care of our own people, here’s the right-leaning organization for you.  If you care more about taking care of other groups, here’s the left-leaning organization for you.  The polarization may work for some, especially those who hold extreme positions.  But I believe most of us want a Jewish community who cares about and advocates, for both the interests of the Jewish people and the interests of other groups.  Both, Israelis and Palestinians.  Read the rest of this entry »

“Then They Came for the Jews”

April 28, 2016
downloadI have been horrified and heartbroken to hear hate speech spoken, and worse, accepted without repercussion, in so many circles of American life.  From the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic “scholarship” and responses at my husband’s alma mater, Vassar College, as well as other campuses, to candidates and their followers who scapegoat people of different backgrounds from their own, our society is too slow to see that when someone else’s humanity is sacrificed, so is our own.
Amidst such failures in our world, I am heartened to discover souls who see beyond their own identity, who can lift their eyes to see the humanity in the other.  I am grateful to our congregant Susan Friedenberg for introducing me to Holocaust scholar Doug Cervi, who will be our guest this Sunday, May 1, 10:30am, when he facilitates for us a conversation with a Holocaust survivor and that survivor’s liberator.

Read the rest of this entry »

RS in the URJ Resource Guide

April 27, 2016

Fran Martin’s article on Boomers at Rodeph Shalom was just published in URJ’s A Resource and Discussion Guide to Move Your Congregation Forward.

Boomers in Transition: How Our Synagogue Meets the Needs of New Empty Nesters

It had the makings of a perfect storm.

In 2008, I joined Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia.

That same summer, at a synagogue get-together of BoomeRS – members who gather for social, spiritual, and educational opportunities at Rodeph Shalom and beyond – many in the group realized they all had children who were about to leave for college.

The BoomeRS came up with the idea that Rodeph Shalom ought to offer a discussion series about becoming empty nesters. Although I was a brand new member of the synagogue, the director of community engagement asked me – knowing about my training as a psychologist and my experience working with families – if I would lead a discussion series on “Becoming Empty Nesters.” I loved the idea and before long, we were off and running.


That fall, we scheduled four sessions of the new series, and I created a syllabus to guide the discussions. More than 20 men and women, most of whom did not previously know each other, attended our first session. Throughout the series, we addressed such topics as separation and individuation, effective communication, resilience, and understanding emotions – both our own and others’. Over time, our meetings provided a forum in which members could tell their own stories, not only sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to having a newly empty nest, but also creating unique bonds and connections with each other.

As we approached the end of the series, we heard positive feedback from our participants: Everyone wanted more. We added a fifth session and invited recent graduates and young adults to tell us about their challenges and ways parents could be helpful. As with the earlier meetings, it was the personal stories that connected participants to each other, and ultimately, we agreed to meet monthly for the rest of the year.

We have been meeting ever since.

In 2011, we changed the group’s name to “BoomeRS in Transition,” which more accurately reflected the issues that concerned us. We also conceded that we were part of an inescapable trend: Despite efforts to include everyone from the congregation who wished to join us, we seemed to attract only women. Although we never intended an all-female membership, ultimately, we accepted that we were, in fact, a group of boomer women.

Today, we meet approximately every six weeks from September through May, with one summer gathering at a member’s pool club or shore home. Our membership includes a handful of women who were participants in the original “Becoming Empty Nesters” discussion group, and they are the foundation of our group, but we continue to grow and evolve in myriad ways. Numerous members of our group have taken on leadership roles within the congregation, and we have generated at least one spin-off group, which meets specifically to discuss issues around dealing with aging parents.

In our group, though, the meetings are, as they have always been, a place for people to be heard, to tell their own stories, and to create unique bonds and connections. We have new members who come, meet others, and develop relationships that form the foundation of their membership at Rodeph Shalom. More seasoned synagogue members come to see old friends, and to let us know what is going on in their lives. Although every session is different, we always take time to report on how we’re doing, and no one – whether a first-time attendee or a longtime member – ever leaves feeling alone.

Although initially we set out to create a group for empty nesters, it evolved into a place where both new and seasoned members can make and maintain real and profound connections that allow us to be our truest and best selves. As our group continues to grow and change, we are confident that the wisdom we have gleaned from our past experiences will guide us in creating new opportunities to engage, both with each other and within the larger Rodeph Shalom community.

Fran Martin is a psychologist who has facilitated the Boomers in Transition group at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia, PA, since 2008. She also is a co-chair of community engagement at the congregation.

Read the rest of this entry »

Remembering Refugees at Passover

April 19, 2016

This Passover (Passover celebration resources, here), as we celebrate our exodus from Egypt as refugees seeking freedom in a promised land, let’s also think of the refugees today escaping the horrors of war and oppression and seeking freedom in the United States.  When you come to RS for services, Berkman Mercaz Limud, or the Passover 2nd Night Seder, please remember to bring donations of household goods (no clothing) to RS bins at the foot of the Klehr Stairway, for refugee families who are being resettled in Philadelphia by HIAS PA (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society).  Right now there is a particular need for the following items that the U.S. government requires for every immigrant household:

Manual Can Openers

Tea Kettles

Mixing Spoons

Dishwashing Liquid – new and unopened


Tall Kitchen Trash Bags – 13 gallon

And a special request for HIAS’s after-school program for refugee children:

Oxford Picture Dictionary English-Farsi. Many of the refugee children in the after school program are children of families from Afghanistan who worked for the US government there.  They speak Farsi.

Paperback “I Can Read” books  Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4.  (They are also available at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon.com)




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