Returning to the “Empty Nest” after College Drop-off

August 28, 2009

Rabbi Michael G. Holzman

As I drove into the synagogue today, following my usual route down Broad Street, I entered the annual traffic jam called Temple University Drop Off.   What a mess.  But it reminded me of the excitement, anxiety, joy and sadness this day evokes in many families.  It also reminded me of a Jewish text.

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Welcoming You to the High Holy Days

August 26, 2009

Rabbi Jill L. Maderer

At last night’s “Taste of the New Year,” Philadelphia’s wine-tasting and synagogue-matching program for young adults, I met many people who are seeking a congregation.  If you are a young adult (22-40), missed the event but would like an invitation to High Holy Day services (“High Holy Day tickets”) at RS, please contact our Membership Director Catherine Fischer.  Thank you to Deborah Gordon Klehr, Ivy and Matt Olesh for representing RS and inviting so many new-comers to High Holy Day services this year!  We were proud that Deborah was interviewed on KYW during the event!   We look forward to joining together on Rosh Hashanah to celebrate the new year and on Yom Kippur to experience the depths of spiritual connection.  L’shanah tova–a sweet new year.


Fasting for Darfur

August 26, 2009

By Rabbi Michael Holzman

On my door I have a “Stop the Genocide” sticker.  It’s been there for over three years now, and the war in Darfur drags on.   So why am I fasting on what seems like a random day in August 2009 for this cause?  (I do this in conjunction with the Religious Action Center’s rolling clergy fast.)  Why not let it simmer on the back burner where it has been since 2006 when a group of us traveled to DC for the Save Darfur rally?

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Revelation in an Age of Self-Revelation

August 21, 2009

by Rabbi Jill Maderer
     How much do you want to reveal? How much do you want to know? A current debate about social networking gets to the heart about what relationships mean to us.
     The skeptics: Revealing our daily experiences on a newsfeed is self-centered. When we write on a Facebook wall, we are only thinking about what we want to express—we aren’t asking “how was your day?” True, the readers can respond with a comment. But, argue the skeptics, the moment of posting is a self-centered, one-way dialogue. Their second problem, they call “connection without cognition.” Social networks allow us to connect with many circles of friends in a short amount of time, but what is the nature of that connection? And is a relationship built on 140-character tweets, a friendship? Read the rest of this entry »


Welcoming is Not Only a Jewish Thing: We Are Obligated to Do It

August 12, 2009

By Catherine Fischer, Director of Programming and Membership

The Torah, our Jewish guide to living, teaches over and over again, more times than any other mitzvah (commandment), that we are supposed to welcome the stranger (aka a person whom we do not know).  Being welcoming, showing compassion and doing acts of loving kindness are just some of the mitzvot that Jews are instructed to adhere to.

Congregation Rodeph Shalom works hard to live up to our obligation.  Our rabbis, staff, president, lay leadership and every congregant of RS share in this responsibility.  We work together to assess and reassess our efforts so that everyone who walks through our doors is personally welcomed.  Our goal is that no one will ever come into this building and leave unnoticed and unappreciated.

As the High Holy Days approach, we carry our welcome with us.  Many are used to buying High Holy Day tickets to attend services on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.  At Rodeph Shalom, we try to distill the notion of purchasing tickets as we don’t see that as the role of a synagogue.  Rather, we invite our prospective members to come as our guests and become acquainted with our community.  We hope that once they have a chance to get to know us and begin building relationships and memories here, they will want to be part of our community.  Being part of a community is analogous to being part of a family.  A family does not purchase tickets to attend Thanksgiving; however, there is a healthy give and take and a sense of responsibility that one has for another.  Read the rest of this entry »


Open My Lips for Prayer

August 8, 2009

By Rabbi Jill Maderer

This Friday, we continued our Shabbat summer series “Spiritual Power in Prayer” with a text that focuses on the one-line introduction to the Amidah: “O Lord, open my lips and let my mouth declare Your praise.”  The commentary teaches:

“As a person begins to pray, reciting the words: ‘O Lord, open my lips and let my mouth declare Your praise,’ the Presence of God comes into him. Then it is the Presence herself who commands his voice; it is she who speaks the words through him.  One who knows faith that all this happen within him will be overcome with trembling and with awe”  (Your Word is Fire: The Hasidic Masters on Contemplative Prayer, Arthur Green and Barry Holtz.). Read the rest of this entry »


Torah Scroll-Writing Meets Technology…and Meets Women

August 5, 2009

By Rabbi Jill Maderer

For generations and generations, Jewish communities have engaged a sofer (scribe) to pen a Torah scroll.  Each scribe follows extremely specific regulations in order to make the scroll, kosher, or fit.  Although nothing has changed about these regulations, a new initiative is underway, to help make us all more aware of the sofer’s process.  Today’s Inquirer reports on one congregation’s new website that chronicles a sofer’s work on a new scroll. 

What the author of the article does not mention is the fact that there is another Torah-writing innovation of recent times.  The author refers to scribes, as men.  Yet there are at least 2 traditionally-trained female Torah scribes as well!  Female scribes and a scroll-writing website–2 examples of modern ways we can include more people in the world of Torah.