“Then They Came for the Jews”

April 28, 2016
downloadI have been horrified and heartbroken to hear hate speech spoken, and worse, accepted without repercussion, in so many circles of American life.  From the anti-Israel and anti-Semitic “scholarship” and responses at my husband’s alma mater, Vassar College, as well as other campuses, to candidates and their followers who scapegoat people of different backgrounds from their own, our society is too slow to see that when someone else’s humanity is sacrificed, so is our own.
Amidst such failures in our world, I am heartened to discover souls who see beyond their own identity, who can lift their eyes to see the humanity in the other.  I am grateful to our congregant Susan Friedenberg for introducing me to Holocaust scholar Doug Cervi, who will be our guest this Sunday, May 1, 10:30am, when he facilitates for us a conversation with a Holocaust survivor and that survivor’s liberator.

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RS in the URJ Resource Guide

April 27, 2016

Fran Martin’s article on Boomers at Rodeph Shalom was just published in URJ’s A Resource and Discussion Guide to Move Your Congregation Forward.

Boomers in Transition: How Our Synagogue Meets the Needs of New Empty Nesters

It had the makings of a perfect storm.

In 2008, I joined Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia.

That same summer, at a synagogue get-together of BoomeRS – members who gather for social, spiritual, and educational opportunities at Rodeph Shalom and beyond – many in the group realized they all had children who were about to leave for college.

The BoomeRS came up with the idea that Rodeph Shalom ought to offer a discussion series about becoming empty nesters. Although I was a brand new member of the synagogue, the director of community engagement asked me – knowing about my training as a psychologist and my experience working with families – if I would lead a discussion series on “Becoming Empty Nesters.” I loved the idea and before long, we were off and running.


That fall, we scheduled four sessions of the new series, and I created a syllabus to guide the discussions. More than 20 men and women, most of whom did not previously know each other, attended our first session. Throughout the series, we addressed such topics as separation and individuation, effective communication, resilience, and understanding emotions – both our own and others’. Over time, our meetings provided a forum in which members could tell their own stories, not only sharing thoughts, feelings, and experiences related to having a newly empty nest, but also creating unique bonds and connections with each other.

As we approached the end of the series, we heard positive feedback from our participants: Everyone wanted more. We added a fifth session and invited recent graduates and young adults to tell us about their challenges and ways parents could be helpful. As with the earlier meetings, it was the personal stories that connected participants to each other, and ultimately, we agreed to meet monthly for the rest of the year.

We have been meeting ever since.

In 2011, we changed the group’s name to “BoomeRS in Transition,” which more accurately reflected the issues that concerned us. We also conceded that we were part of an inescapable trend: Despite efforts to include everyone from the congregation who wished to join us, we seemed to attract only women. Although we never intended an all-female membership, ultimately, we accepted that we were, in fact, a group of boomer women.

Today, we meet approximately every six weeks from September through May, with one summer gathering at a member’s pool club or shore home. Our membership includes a handful of women who were participants in the original “Becoming Empty Nesters” discussion group, and they are the foundation of our group, but we continue to grow and evolve in myriad ways. Numerous members of our group have taken on leadership roles within the congregation, and we have generated at least one spin-off group, which meets specifically to discuss issues around dealing with aging parents.

In our group, though, the meetings are, as they have always been, a place for people to be heard, to tell their own stories, and to create unique bonds and connections. We have new members who come, meet others, and develop relationships that form the foundation of their membership at Rodeph Shalom. More seasoned synagogue members come to see old friends, and to let us know what is going on in their lives. Although every session is different, we always take time to report on how we’re doing, and no one – whether a first-time attendee or a longtime member – ever leaves feeling alone.

Although initially we set out to create a group for empty nesters, it evolved into a place where both new and seasoned members can make and maintain real and profound connections that allow us to be our truest and best selves. As our group continues to grow and change, we are confident that the wisdom we have gleaned from our past experiences will guide us in creating new opportunities to engage, both with each other and within the larger Rodeph Shalom community.

Fran Martin is a psychologist who has facilitated the Boomers in Transition group at Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia, PA, since 2008. She also is a co-chair of community engagement at the congregation.

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Remembering Refugees at Passover

April 19, 2016

This Passover (Passover celebration resources, here), as we celebrate our exodus from Egypt as refugees seeking freedom in a promised land, let’s also think of the refugees today escaping the horrors of war and oppression and seeking freedom in the United States.  When you come to RS for services, Berkman Mercaz Limud, or the Passover 2nd Night Seder, please remember to bring donations of household goods (no clothing) to RS bins at the foot of the Klehr Stairway, for refugee families who are being resettled in Philadelphia by HIAS PA (Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society).  Right now there is a particular need for the following items that the U.S. government requires for every immigrant household:

Manual Can Openers

Tea Kettles

Mixing Spoons

Dishwashing Liquid – new and unopened


Tall Kitchen Trash Bags – 13 gallon

And a special request for HIAS’s after-school program for refugee children:

Oxford Picture Dictionary English-Farsi. Many of the refugee children in the after school program are children of families from Afghanistan who worked for the US government there.  They speak Farsi.

Paperback “I Can Read” books  Levels 1, 2, 3, and 4.  (They are also available at Barnes & Noble or on Amazon.com)



Breaking an Israel Filter Bubble: My Conversation with an Israeli Settler

April 17, 2016

5497134432_9c680ecc8f_nTo what degree do you feel like you live in a bubble of people who are just like you?  How often do you encounter people who challenge your assumptions, stretch your understanding?

In his article, “How 26 Tweets Broke My Filter Bubble,” B.J. May writes “I live in a small town in Middle America. My closest coworkers are all men, all heterosexual, all white.

I had never given this filter bubble much thought, really. But as I increased my consumption of Twitter to better keep up on tech topics, I began to feel uneasy. There were clearly lots of diverse voices in the industry. Women talked about the wage gap, about sexism in the workplace. Black developers posted highly upsetting accounts of bias. People all over my industry were sharing stories of injustice and hatred, of unfair treatment and outright abuse.

I struggled to make sense of it all. I didn’t feel like I had experienced or seen any of these terrible things. Read the rest of this entry »

Passover Resources 2016

April 13, 2016

4489007660_f7efe730ab_nPassover is coming!  Are you looking for resources?  Start to eat down your bread, get your post-it’s ready if you’re preparing a seder, and check these out!  A sweet Pesach to all!

A family-oriented Haggadah, “Now We Are Free“.

The Four Questions, chanted by Cantor Frankel.

Social Justice ideas from HIAS PA, and a Haggadah supplement inspired by their immigration work.

Registration for the RS Second Night Seder.

More Haggadah recommendations for different ages, style, and just for study.

Learn here about the holiday of Passover.

Please add comments with your own resources and creative seder ideas!

Resources on Mental Illness and Addiction

April 11, 2016

Thank you to our RS teen, Ella Komita Moussa, for creating this great resource sheet on mental illness and addiction for our evening with Patrick Kennedy Tues., April 12, 7:00pm!