The Clenched Fist or Guiding Hand of Self Judgment

September 30, 2009

by Rabbi Jill Maderer  (Yom Kippur sermon delivered 9/28/09)

Picture an old, bearded rabbi, sitting at the entrance to a Jewish cemetery on Long Island.  In Tony Kushner’s play, Angels in America, Louis, a young man struggling with his soul and his identity, approaches the rabbi and shares, “I’m afraid of the crimes I may commit.”  Rabbi Isador Chemelwitz replies: “Please mister.  I’m a sick old rabbi facing a long drive home to the Bronx.  You want to confess, better you should find a priest.”  Louis insists, “But I’m not a Catholic, I’m a Jew.”  Rabbi Chemelwitz concludes, “Worse luck for you, bubbalah.  Catholics believe in forgiveness.  Jews believe in guilt.” Read the rest of this entry »

Apology: The Time is Now

September 29, 2009

by Rabbi Jill Maderer  (Kol Nidre sermon delivered 9/27/09)

“This evening I let my emotions get the best of me,” Congressman Joe Wilson said in a statement to the press. “While I disagree with the president’s statement, my comments were inappropriate and regrettable. I extend sincere apologies to the president for this lack of civility.” Read the rest of this entry »

It’s In Your Hands: Ethical Speech Online

September 20, 2009

 By Rabbi Jill Maderer  (Rosh Hashanah sermon delivered 9/19/09)

“What’s on your mind?” asks Facebook. “Share and discover what’s happening right now, anywhere in the world,” invites Twitter.  “Broadcast yourself,” challenges Youtube.  Or, as our own Rodeph Shalom blog requests, simply, “Comment”. 

We live in a time when almost everyone carries a smart-phone-organizer-computer-device, and a world of information is at our fingertips, right there, in our hands.  Some of the fastest-growing ways to share that information are the tools of social media or social-networking, that is, the online communications that create a public conversation through the use of interaction, or, comments.  Read the rest of this entry »

The Fruits of Rosh Hashanah

September 18, 2009

By Rabbi Jill Maderer

L’shanah tovah umetukah. We wish each other a good and sweet new year. Typically, we celebrate our hope for a sweet new year by eating apples and honey. But a lesser known tradition identifies a different symbolic fruit for Rosh Hashanah: pomegranates. As delicious as apples and honey are (and I love apple cake!), they are too easy!

Pomegrantes are hard. They require work, perseverance and patience. For every bite of sweetness, we have to suck off the fruit while careful not to swallow the seed. So maybe pomegranates are the more realistic symbol for the new year.  Anyone have a recipe for pomegranate cake?  (Feel free to share High Holy recipes here!) May we do the hard work of life, and may its sweetness be the fruit of our labor. L’shanah tovah umetukah.

In Memoriam: Doris Garrett

September 11, 2009

Mention the name Doris Garrett to any Rodeph Shalom long-time congregant and you will get the same reaction as that expressed by Ivan Gable upon hearing of her death on September 9, 2009:

“Doris Garrett epitomized Rodeph Shalom to many congregants over almost two generations. She was Rabbi Wice’s confidant and represented him ably whenever he was unavailable and a member needed help or advice. She helped prepare brides before their marriages in the sanctuary and was loved by hundreds, if not thousands, of members.”

Read the rest of this entry »

High Holy Day Obligations

September 11, 2009

By Rabbi William Kuhn

Apples and honey are perfect symbols for the beginning of the Jewish New Year, because the sweetness of the apples is intensified by the honey taste and texture, as we pray that our year will be equally as sweet.  Perhaps a more realistic flavor combination would be to pair a tart apple like a McIntosh or a Granny Smith with the honey, as it reflects a more Jewish attitude about life in general.  We know that life is never cloyingly sweet all the time, and it would be naïve for us to pray that our New Year would taste like a big bright Red Delicious apple 100% of the time.  We know that life is complex and filled with challenges, and there is plenty of tartness.  But during our High Holy Days we hope that whatever bitterness may lie ahead for us may be softened and diminished by the sweetness that we hold within our hearts.

Read the rest of this entry »