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 »

‘With All Your Heart and Soul’ and Single-Tasking

August 23, 2016

This week’s Board of Rabbis of Greater Philadelphia Jewish Exponent Shabbat D’var Torah column: “‘With All Your Heart and Soul’ and Single-Tasking.”  Am I right to guess that there are others out there who face the challenge–to simply do one thing at a time?
–Rabbi Jill Maderer

RS Common Ground Farmers’ Market

August 22, 2016


Important Facts About the Common Ground Farmers’ Market

  1. Well, it’s a farmers market. So that means all of your produce is fresh and local. It also means that you can ask the farmer exactly how it’s grown, so you know you’re not getting a weird pesticide cocktail, or a peach that seventy different people stuffed in their pants as a joke which really ends up being on you.
  2. It’s located in what’s called a “food desert,” which means that it brings fresh produce to an area where people don’t have access to healthy, wholesome, affordable food stores.
  3. It’s also one of the only markets that accepts EBT cards. As a person who has received food assistance, I can tell you that being able to use them at a farmers market would have made a drastic difference in the amount of fresh fruit and vegetables that I bought.
  4. There are demonstrations on how to pickle. FREE demonstrations. No one else is going to teach you how to pickle things for free. No one.
  5. The farmers will know you, and they will remember what you bought, and they will make personalized recommendations. You may think ‘why would I want that?’ but you do want that. Trust me.
  6. If you make an effort to shop at Common Ground, the farmers will stay, and it will continue to bring healthy, affordable options to an area that otherwise has none. You—yes you—will be personally responsible for bringing nutrition to people.

Read the rest of this entry »

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 »


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