No Shame, Just Support: Heart Health with RS Women

January 27, 2016
getheartchecked-infographic     Are you one of those people who loves lists?  To-do lists that live on temporary post-it notes, or bucket lists that endure in your mind?
     Many parts of the Torah involve lists: lists of names in the generations of the Israelite family, lists of materials and measurements in the instructions for the design of the tabernacle, and in this week’s Torah portion, more lists.  Parashat Mishpatim lists many laws that the Israelites need to keep in order to establish an ethical, healthy civilization.
     As I age, I find my trips to the doctor and the articles that catch my eye involve more and more lists about keeping healthy.  Lists of what to do: more steps, more sleep, more arch-support, more weight-bearing exercise, more meditation, more iron, more vegetables.  Lists of what to avoid: smoking, sugar, saturated fat.  Then there are the lists that change with the research of the day: soy? fish? complex carbs? I’m lucky–I am one of those people who appreciates lists.
     But even for us list-lovers, healthy living can be an overwhelming task. I find there are two helpful motivators in my own healthy living, both of which are rooted in Jewish wisdom.
1) Life is sacred.  God gave this body and this life to me and it is my sacred obligation — my mitzvah — to care for it.  This does not mean I need to avoid the pleasure and celebration that comes with chocolate and other delights.  But the sanctity of life does help to drive my sense of moderation.  The highest mitzvah in Judaism is Pekuach nefesh, translated as, to save a life.  But have you ever noticed, that translation is not precise?  The Hebrew for life is chai, as in, l’chaim.  But nefesh means soul.  To save our life is to save our soul.  While other faith traditions may focus on saving the soul in the afterlife, in Judaism, we focus on saving the soul–the life– in the here and now.
2) We are not alone.  The connection of community offers support in many challenges, including the challenge of healthy living.  When I learn about a new approach in yoga or a new healthy recipe, it’s a fun way to remember I am not alone in my efforts.  This is not to say we judge each other.  If I have been looking forward to celebrating with a doughnut, I do not want to have to do so in private.  And if you smoke, the community is not here to judge you.  We are just here to say, when you try to quit, we are behind you.  No shame, just support.
     Next week, Sun., Feb 7 at 10:30am (and yoga at 9:30am) RS Women will offer an important way for our community to deepen our understanding of women’s heart health.  Thank you to Betsy Fiebach for leading this event, to Ellen Simons and the RS Women for sponsoring and to channel 3 medical reporter Stephanie Stahl for moderating!  If you are a woman or if you know a woman, please join us in our effort to bear witness to the fact that life is sacred and that we are not alone.

Striving for Global Religious Pluralism

January 24, 2016

“I am a Muslim and I am so honored to be here in this sanctuary.  This would never happen in my country– visiting the home of an other religion. I will bring these lessons back to my country.”  These were the words of one of our guests at our Friday night service.  It was our honor to welcome the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative on Religious Pluralism and Democracy to RS this Shabbat!  20 outstanding undergraduate student leaders from universities in Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia, Philippines and Myanmar, led by the Dialogue Institute at Temple University and the International Center of Contemporary Education, are exploring U.S. history and society with a special focus on religious pluralism and interfaith dialogue.  Funded by the U.S. State Department, the program strives to send student leaders back to their countries with a vision of and a strategy for pluralism.

“Snow in Jerusalem,” Jerry Mazza

January 23, 2016


Reports the New York Times,
Israeli and Palestinian
children stake out positions
along main roads and rooftops,
wait for the unsuspecting
and cut loose with snowballs. Read the rest of this entry »

Jewish Community Advocacy Successes

January 22, 2016
The Jewish Community Relations Council and Government Affairs groups of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia made great strides in advocacy this year.  Here are 10 of their top successes:  (Pick up the Super Sunday phone call on Feb 21 to show your support!)
     At the state, with the PA Jewish Coalition:
1) Secured a $1 million increase for the State Food Purchase Program, the first increase in 10 years.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rabbi Maderer’s Benediction at Mayoral Inauguration

January 4, 2016

mayor blessing looking downDelivered by Rabbi Jill Maderer, Inauguration of Mayor and City Council, The Academy of Music, 1/4/16.  

Today, we who call God many different names, and we who choose not to call to God at all, we Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu and Buddhist, Philadelphians of diverse neighborhoods, races, sexual orientations and languages – today, we do not take for granted this peaceful transfer of power we call democracy.  Grateful for the past leaders who have renewed our city, and for the incoming leaders who are dedicated to the promise of our city’s future, we rejoice in a Philadelphia whose murals open our hearts, whose culture stimulates our minds, whose food delights our palate, whose diversity inspires our souls and whose history deepens our roots.

This week, the Jewish community read in our sacred text the story of Moses’ call to leadership. Tending the flock in the wilderness, Moses notices the bush that burns, but is not consumed.  When Moses sees that he is standing on holy ground, God charges him to lead the Israelites, saying: “Now go, I am sending you.”  Humble yet courageous, strong yet compassionate, sensitive yet visionary, Moses heeds the call.  He cares for and empowers the poor, uplifts the degraded, and sees dignity in the eyes of every human being.

Holy One of Blessing, as we go forth from this investiture, we ask your blessing on Mayor Kenny, Council President Clarke, our Councilpersons, city commissioners, sheriff, register of wills and members of the judiciary.  As they dedicate themselves to lead our city, to solve our common problems and to lift up all Philadelphians, God we ask you to:

Fortify and inspire our leaders with humility and courage, strength and compassion, sensitivity and vision, that they may care for and empower the poor, uplift the degraded, and see dignity in the eyes of every human being.

Ignite within our leaders fires – fires for justice and for mercy – ignite within them fires that burn, but are not consumed, that their actions may bear witness to the holy ground on which we all stand.