Climbing into Their Skin: To Cultivate Abundant Kindness

September 26, 2015

delivered by Rabbi Jill Maderer Yom Kippur afternoon    

A man backs his car out of the driveway, and stops short to avoid running into a young boy, riding his skateboard on the sidewalk.  Annoyed, the man drives to the local cafe to pick up his morning coffee, and a woman parks her car in the spot he was eyeing.  Irritated, he walks into the store, only to see he needs to stand on a long line.  When he finally makes it to the front of the line, the person who was standing in front of him, returns to add a cookie to his order.  Exasperated, as if the world around him is irresponsible, incompetent and inconsiderate of his needs, the man sits down to wait for his coffee, and to reflect on how the world is everyone else’s oyster.

At that moment a stranger approaches him, and silently hands him a pair of eyeglasses.  When the man slides the glasses onto his face, his perspective changes.  Through this magical eyewear, the man can view a caption that follows each person in sight. Backtracking through his morning, he starts to see differently. Read the rest of this entry »

From Personal Lives to the Jewish Community in the Wake of the Iran Deal: If We Can Harm, We Can Heal

September 24, 2015


delivered by Rabbi Jill Maderer Yom Kippur morning       

So… Who lives in the Pope traffic box?  Me, too.   Although logistically complicated, I appreciate that this is a momentous occasion, for our Catholic friends and for our city, and I am intrigued about how we in the Jewish community might find meaning in the Pope’s visit.

On this sacred day, we open to atonement, change, repair. Pope Francis serves as an extraordinary model of faith in repair. Read the rest of this entry »

What Are We Doing About the Refugee Crisis?

September 17, 2015

As we watch the horrifying photos and learn of the terrifying plight of the Syrian refugees, we know that we cannot turn away.  As Jews, remembering our people who sought refuge and were turned away before and after the Holocaust, we are moved to act on behalf of others struggling to find refuge.  Our tradition teaches us to “welcome the stranger,” and especially now, as we take an accounting of our souls during the High Holidays, we must ask ourselves, “What can we do to help?”
Not surprisingly, RS is partnering with and the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS) Pennsylvania and already stepping up. Here are several opportunities for us to get involved:
•    Sign a Petition to Admit More Refugees. Since the beginning of this year, the U.S. has taken in only a little over 1,200 of the millions of Syrian refugees displaced by war.  President Obama has just announced that the U.S. will take in an additional 10,000 Syrian refugees in the next year.  We can and should do more.  You can help by signing the HIAS petition asking the President to resettle 100,000 Syrian refugees in the United States.
•    Donate Goods for a Refugee Family. HIAS Pennsylvania is one of a limited number of agencies authorized to work with the U.S. State Department to provide  services, including housing, essential furnishings, food, clothing, orientation, and assistance with access to other social, medical, and employment services for the refugees’ first 90 days in the United States.   HIAS has just been notified that it has been assigned a Syrian refugee family who will be arriving in Philadelphia shortly.  Congregants can help in the resettlement process by donating gently used furniture and household items.  Here is a link to the wish list of items needed:  More information will be posted soon about where to bring items for donation
Read the rest of this entry »

Race and Privilege: A lot of things have changed, a lot of things have not!

September 15, 2015

Picture the scene: Thousands of African-Americans marching in the South for civil rights.  Marching arm in arm, their voices raised in songs of protest.  There are some white allies in the group as well.  Even some Jews and some rabbis.  They are carrying a Torah scroll, a symbol of the Jewish values that compel us to stand with our neighbors and to fight for racial justice and equality.  Setting off from Selma, Alabama, they march together.  Marching to end racial profiling, marching to end discriminatory voting practices, marching to end economic injustice, and marching to end inequality in our public schools.  The year?  No, I am not talking about the civil rights marches of 1965, but rather this very summer, 2015.  50 years on from the original march from Selma to Montgomery, we are still marching.  To quote the rapper, Mos Def, “A lot of things have changed, a lot of things have not!”  The NAACP, along with partners like the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, marched this summer from Selma to Montgomery; but they did not stop there – they kept marching all the way to Washington, DC.  And they arrived today.  Dubbed America’s Journey for Justice, thousands of activists travelled over 860 miles to continue the struggle for racial justice in America.

Just as the Jewish community was integral to the original civil rights movement of the 60’s, we must be present again today.  Just as it was 50 years ago, racism and civil rights are still Jewish issues.  A lot of things have changed, a lot of things have not!

Read the rest of this entry »

High Holy Day Service Options for Families at RS

September 11, 2015

High Holy Days Services for Families with Young Children

Contemporary Multi-generational Morning Services

Requires a “pass”; please contact Catherine Fischer to become a member or prospective member and get a pass.

Rosh Hashanah: Mon., September 14, 8:30 am

Yom Kippur: Wed., September 23, 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
Mon., September 14, 1:30pm
640 Water Works Drive Philadelphia, PA 19130
Cast away your sins with breadcrumbs.  Open to all.

Afternoon Mini-Service for Families

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

Rosh Hashanah: Mon., September 14, 3:00 pm
Yom Kippur: 
Wed., September 23, 8:30 am

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

As If It’s All Happening on An Airplane: Vulnerability and the High Holy Days

August 30, 2015

I believe there are some of you here who are in the dating world, hoping to meet someone special.  I thought of you when I read a recent column by Emma Court in the NY Times called, “A Millenial’s Guide to Kissing.”

It begins: “When a total stranger kissed me under the artificial lights of an airplane cabin somewhere above international waters, my first thought was of the Orthodox woman sitting to my left…The kiss, coming out of nowhere, had turned me into the heroine of a bad romance novel: heart fluttering…those blue fleece blankets had never been so sexy….Between us sprang the kind of instant intimacy fostered by open personalities in tight quarters. We spoke in spurts of our trips and what we had done during the days spent in Israel…

[Once back on the ground], I hugged him a brisk no-nonsense goodbye. We didn’t exchange numbers…… Would things have been different, if one of us had had the courage, to say something other than goodbye before heading to our trains? I only realized later why it had been such an oddly familiar feeling: My generation treats every liaison as if it is happening on an airplane. Our story wasn’t so different, after all. I wonder what we collectively lose as we try so hard not to care. We pretend that it doesn’t matter, that we have time, that because we are young we are invulnerable.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Crowd Sourcing Sermon for August 28

August 24, 2015

What is the point of being in touch with our vulnerability, as Jews are pushed to do during the High Holy Day season?

Encountering the High Holy Day Prayer Book

On Rosh HaShanah it is written;

On the Fast of Yom Kippur it is sealed…

Who will live and who will die;

Who will reach the ripeness of age,

Who will be taken before their time;

Who by fire and who by water…

Who by earthquake and who by plague…

Who will rest and who will wander;

Who will be tranquil and who will be troubled…

I sat in shul for years reading these words before I realized the answer. The answer to each of these questions is “me.” Who will live and who will die? I will. Who at their end and who not at their end? Me. Like every human being, when I die it will be at the right time, and it will also be too soon. Fire, water, earthquake, plague? In my lifetime, I’ve been scorched and drowned, shaken and burdened, wandering and at rest, tranquil and troubled. That has been my life’s journey.

Of course I prefer to deflect this truth. I would much prefer to let the prayers talk about someone else, perhaps the fellow in the next row. It has taken a lifetime to reveal that defense as a lie. The prayer is not about someone else. It’s about me. It is a frightfully succinct summary of my existence. So now I read it again, but in the first person, and it makes me shiver.

I will live and I will die, at the right time and before my time,

I will wander but I might yet find rest,

I will be troubled but I may achieve tranquility.

This is the central truth of the High Holy Days. This is what makes them Yamin Nora’im, days of terror. We are vulnerable.

-Rabbi Edward Feinstein (page 206 Mishkan Hanefesh)


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