A Simple Act of Love May Tip the Balance: Dedication of the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Center

November 11, 2015

Today, our congregants Stephen and Sandra Sheller were honored for their generosity and vision in making the expansion of the 11th Street family Health Center at Drexel University a reality.  Here is the moving speech Sandy delivered:

My heart swells with gratitude and pride for this most beautiful place that is a beacon of healing and hope in this much deserved but often overlooked neighborhood and community. As I stand before this vision that has come to fruition after many years of dreaming and planning, I realize it is so much larger than we ever could have imagined. More than the bricks, mortar, and 17,000 additional square feet of expanded space, is what is, and can now, take place, inside this innovative, patient-centered, and trauma-informed comprehensive health care center. At 11th Street, all of the deeper needs impacting health and well-being in this underserved community are addressed. Read the rest of this entry »

Turning Fate into Destiny with A “Sabbath Lie”

October 31, 2015

challah-lady-1445461668Can you see what this image, created by Anya Ulinich (speaking Sunday at RS) depicts?  A woman dressed in a business suit riding a Shabbat candle-fueled challah! The picture serves as an illustration for Susan Pashman’s column in the Jewish Forward, “My Big Sabbath Lie–And the Joy It Brought.

When Susan Pashman first became a single mother and sole wage-earner, she decided she needed to change careers in order to provide for her 2 sons.  So she went to law school and then secured a position in a prestigious firm.  That’s when she realized another problem: If she was going to work the expected 90-hour week, how would she find the time to provide a loving, caring home for her children?  Just then, Susan witnessed another member of the firm’s incoming cohort, explain to the boss that he was an observant Jew, and needed to leave early on Fridays and stay home on Saturdays, in order to observe the Sabbath.

Ah-hah! Read the rest of this entry »

Confinement Vs. Authenticity on Coming Out Day

October 11, 2015

For parents of grade school children, it is Back to School Night season.  This week, as my husband and I squeezed into the little 4th-grader chairs, we learned from our child’s teacher about a class-bonding activity they experienced.  The children created pictures to represent themselves as they are known to others.  Then they created pictures to represent themselves in a way that is unknown to others.  With great bravery, students presented their hidden selves to the class.  One shared her cerebral palsy, another, his parents’ divorce.  Students felt the support of teachers and classmates as they shared what might be hidden.

Even in the most supportive environment, authentic expression to others — and even just to ourselves —  can be a challenge.  It is natural for human beings to create labels to understand one another.  Yet, all too often these categories limit possibility, even humanity.  This is not new. Read the rest of this entry »

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. http://support.hias.org/site/PageNavigator/AskthePresidenttoTakeBoldLeadershipforSyrianRefugees.html
•    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: http://hiaspa.org/sites/hiaspa.org/files/attachments/hias_pa_donation_full_wish_list_-_2013-24-7.pdf  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 »


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.