Learn with Rhonda Fink-Whitman about Her Advocacy of New Holocaust Education in PA

October 31, 2014

What is your response to the anti-Semitism in our history and in today’s world? Perhaps the most important Jewish response is to begin with learning.  On Sunday, Nov. 9 at 3:00 pm at Rodeph Shalom, in observance of Krystallnacht, Night of the Broken Glass, the series of coordinated attacks against the Jews throughout Germany and Austria on Nov. 9, 1938, we will join together and learn with Rhonda Fink-Whitman author of 94 Maidens and successful advocate for Holocaust education in PA was passed in Pennsylvania recommending that Holocaust education be taught in all public, charter and cyber schools. A trip to Germany uncovered the horrible truth about what happened to her mother during WW II and she felt that it was her responsibility to tell the story as she does in 94 Maidens.  Together, we will deepen our understanding and glean inspiration from her advocacy.

There is no charge so please bring a sweet to be served with tea.  Please rsvp to Julia Erlichman: juliadiane501@gmail.com.  Thank you to the RS Women for bringing us together for this important discussion!

If Worry Comes to Your Heart: Anxiety, Control and Noah

October 25, 2014

Shabbat sermon delivered 10/24/14.  

We just bought our Halloween candy for next week’s trick-or-treaters.  (I haven’t quite finished it yet.).  Bags of mini candy bars take me back:  Do you remember the 80’s, and the freak reports of razor blades in bags of candy?  Suddenly, the world was out to kill America’s children.  No longer could we accept homemade cookies or apples, lest they be poisoned–by my neighbors, in suburban New Jersey!  And no longer could we go home and pop a chocolate bar in our mouths.  No, we had to wait for my mother to pull out the cutting board and the cleaver, and chop through, to check for razor blades, so that we could then enjoy our Kit-kat sawdust.

What do we need in order to feel secure?  How much worry is too much worry?  How do we balance our caution and our trust?   Read the rest of this entry »

Rabbi Kuhn’s Kol Nidre Sermon 5776: “The Hope”

October 23, 2014

Recently, I found a letter that had been written by Emily’s great grandfather to his grandchild, my wife’s mother.  It had been written from Philadelphia in 1922 and told of his family who had lived all together and happy in Odessa for many generations.  In 1900, in the face of pogroms and persecution of the Jews, the family was broken apart and made to move from their home.  Several of the family members emigrated to Palestine and her great-grandfather and the rest of the family came to Philadelphia.  His letter gave me a great deal of insight into the complexities of decision making which have been involved in Jewish immigration patterns down through the ages.

What causes a person to move away from a place where his or her family has lived for generations?  Whatever the reason, whether oppression or a decision to try to improve their lives in some way, the common thread that runs throughout all of our peoples’ wanderings is HOPE.  Hope for a better life, hope for the freedom to live in a land where we could be proud to be Jewish, hope to raise our children as Jews.

Abraham was the role model of Jewish immigration.  Our Torah tells of his feeling the call from God to “Lech l’cha,”  “Go forth from your native land, from your birthplace, from your father’s house to the land that I will show you.” [Gen. 12:1]

And so Judaism was born, as Abraham and Sarah moved from their home in Mesopotamia to the land that would become Eretz Yisrael, the Land of Israel, to dedicate his life to the one God.  And ever since that moment, Judaism has been inextricably tied to the land of Israel. Read the rest of this entry »

Understanding Israel and Engaging Together

October 22, 2014

Learn with us in our new course: Israel Engagement: Past, Culture, and How We Got to Today, starting this Sunday at 10:15 am at RS. We will meet Sundays, October 26-March 15 at Rodeph Shalom; Attend one, many or all; 10:15 am-11:15 am , except where noted as second session or double session until 12:15pm.  Syllabus below.

“For two thousand years, Jews worldwide yearned for a return to Zion, ending every Sedar with “Next year in Jerusalem.”  Read the rest of this entry »

Character Virtues in Everyday Life: Mussar Scholar Alan Morinis Speaks Wed., Oct 22 at 7:00 pm at RS

October 21, 2014

Periodic Table Character

Our actions become our habits; our habits become our character; our character becomes our soul.  Check out this short film The Science of Character to ignite your own process of character development.  To begin to understand what Judaism teaches us about how to treat ourselves and others, and how to elevate our characters–our souls– in the process, (as discussed in my Yom Kippur morning sermon) join us when Mussar scholar Alan Morinis speaks Wed., Oct. 22 at 7:00 pm at RS.  All are welcome.  Thank you to the Dr. Bernard and Rose Susan Hirschhorn Behrend Fund for sponsoring!

Periodic Table of Character Strengths from Tiffany Shlain’s film The Science of Character and letitripple.org

To Just Sit: A Spiritual Mindfulness Message on Yom Kippur Afternoon

October 16, 2014

Were you able to find a seat ok?  You may have noticed that when you enter this early part of the Yom Kippur afternoon service, it’s easy to find a place to sit!  Nestled between the crowds of Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur morning, and the crowds that will soon arrive for Yizkor and Neilah, this afternoon service tends to be our quieter moment of the day.  And yet, here you are.  Perhaps you are drawn here because your family has always made Yom Kippur a full-day experience.  Perhaps you need a place to wait out the fast.  Perhaps you are avoiding slicing tomatoes back at your house, where your family is preparing to host a break-fast. And perhaps you are here, to soak up every last potential opportunity, for introspection on Yom Kippur.

I’d like to consider with you, the role of introspection, in these hours of Yom Kippur, and beyond.  What does it mean, to sit in reflection?   Read the rest of this entry »

Israel, Anti-Semitism Resources Recommended This Yom Kippur

October 14, 2014

To learn more about the complex issues involved in Israel and in global Anti-Semitism, explore these resources recommended at our Yom Kippur afternoon discussion, led by Rick Berkman, National Chair of the American Jewish Committee and past president of RS:

An Insider’s Guide to the Most Important Story on Earth: A former AP correspondent explains how and why reporters get Israel so wrong, and why it matters:   http://tabletmag.com/jewish-news-and-politics/183033/israel-insider-guide

Yair Lapid’s speech in memory of the Holocaust:   http://www.algemeiner.com/2014/08/22/full-transcript-israels-finance-minister-yair-lapid-speech-at-platform-17-in-berlin-in-memory-of-holocaust-victims/

Rabbi Adam Zeff’s Rosh Hashanah sermon, Israel: Moving Beyond Myths:   https://app.box.com/s/veyu2s3oste0wjshpdcv

A History of Israel, Howard Sachar

My Promised Land: The Triumph and Tragedy of Israel, Ari Shavit


RS is Going to Israel

October 7, 2014

Our Reform Movement brought more students to Israel this summer than any other denomination. It’s OUR turn! Discover Israel through a progressive Jewish lens with our Reform Movement’s outstanding travel arm, ARZA World. Travel with Rabbis Kuhn and Maderer and RS to Israel April 18-29 and register before Nov 15!  Info here: http://www.arzaworld.com/cong-rodeph-shalom-israel-trip-2015.aspx

Choosing Our Character: A Yom Kippur Message

October 6, 2014

Delivered Yom Kippur morning by Rabbi Jill Maderer

A woman sits at an airport gate, reading her book and eating a bag of cookies… begins Valerie Cox in her poem, “The Cookie Thief.”  The woman at the airport realizes the man next to her– a stranger– is sticking his hand into her bag and eating her cookies!  How dare he do such a thing?  Her row is called, she boards the airplane, settles into her seat and reaches into her handbag for her book.  And there it is.  Instead of the book, she pulls out her unopened bag of cookies.  The bag at the gate belonged to the man.  He had quietly let her stick her hand into his cookies.  She was the cookie thief!

What was this man’s disposition, that he simply allowed a stranger to share his snack?  And what was this woman’s attitude, that she assumed the worst in someone else?  How much does a response to a small everyday, situation say about who we are?  Jewish tradition teaches that both the large life turning-points and those daily small moments reveal our character, or spiritually we might say, our soul. Read the rest of this entry »