Post-Election Complacency or Anxiety: An Alternative Path in the Stairway to Heaven

December 12, 2016


artwork-797_960_720(delivered by Rabbi Maderer in Shabbat Service 12/9/16)

Years ago when I lived in suburban NJ, there was a break-in in our neighborhood.  We already had a burglar alarm in our house, so we added to the front porch the only extra security measure we could think of: a big dog-food bowl.  We did not have a dog.  But we were going to scare those intruders away!  To make it seem real, we painted onto the bowl the name of our fake dog: Shomer, Hebrew for “guard.” Once guarded by Shomer, in our alarm-shielded house, we proceeded to protect ourselves with a light-timer, for evenings when we were out…

How much worry is too much worry?  Some of our concerns and precautions are well-founded.  But there is a point when our energy is so channeled into the worry that we are at risk of losing our focus and our purpose.  Meanwhile, the anxiety reduces us, to wasted grief.

As we think about our roles in civic life, teaching, parenting, business, politics, it is important to consider: where do I have control and what is beyond my control? 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.


Our Common Home: The Pope’s Encyclical in the Jewish Community

August 8, 2015

by Rabbi Jill Maderer

So… Who is in the box?  Who’s home falls in the Center City travel box when our special guest, the Pope, visits Philadelphia this fall? Me, too.  Although still not complete, this week’s transportation and security update began to feed my hunger for a better understanding about how my family will function, how emergencies will be addressed, and of course, how we are going to get the Jewish community to synagogue.  As complicated as the Pope’s visit will be from a logistical perspective, I am intrigued about how we in the Jewish community, might find meaning in this historical moment. Read the rest of this entry »

We All Have Rivers to Cross: Learning Prayer from our Ancestors

July 13, 2015

Glendasan River, Wicklow MountainsDelivered by Rabbi Jill Maderer this Shabbat...   Thank you to Roberta for your beautiful Torah reading.  When Roberta began to prepare for her Adult B’nei Mitzvah earlier this year, she felt especially draw to chanting Torah.  It was then that her mother reminded her: Roberta’s great-grandfather was a hazzan–a traditional cantor.  This powerful link to her roots — spanning time and space — deepened Roberta’s Torah experience all the more so.

This summer, as we encounter Mishkan HaNefesh, our new High Holy Day Machzor, we are posting a weekly question for your response. This week, we asked: From what person or event in Jewish history or in Jewish tradition do you draw inspiration?  In other words, what are the lessons you learn from Jews of the past?

In Roberta’s case, a teacher of Jewish ritual who was a relative from her own family touched her.  For many, teachers from Jewish history offer connection.  We are not alone in our Jewish quest for meaning. Read the rest of this entry »

Taking Down the Fence

March 13, 2015

This week, we have witnessed the chain-link fence around the congregation come down!  We are not simply taking it down because it’s old or ugly.  We are taking the fence down as we build up our relationships and partnerships within the community and throughout Philadelphia!

Jewish law teaches the one stipulation for a sanctuary design is the inclusion of windows.  Our prayers ought to be informed by what happens in the streets, and how we behave in the street ought to be inspired by our words of prayer.  Our parking lot, our entire property, too, ought to be open to the sidewalks and streets of our neighborhood.  May the fences of our property and the fences in our lives continue to come down.

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 »

The Aisles Are Open: Spiritual Release

September 4, 2014
Last month, a rabbi visiting Camp Harlam Overnight Camp scowled when in the dining hall, he saw the campers banging on tables to the beat of Birkat Hamazon, Grace After Meals.   He missed it.  This rabbi missed the whole point.  He missed the fact that hundreds of campers knew all the words to a very long Hebrew blessing.  He missed the fact that in that moment they were absolutely aware of the connection between eating and gratitude.  He missed the Jewish pride in their eyes as they felt that knowing Hebrew and connecting Jewishly, is cool.  And he missed the spiritual release that was happening for our campers in that dining hall, during Birkat Hamazon and song session.

Read the rest of this entry »

Would You Stop for Beauty?

February 12, 2014

On a cold January morning during rush hour, at a Washington, DC metro station, a man wearing blue jeans, a tee-shirt and a baseball cap takes out his violin and begins to play.  Although the scene looks much like any street performance, it’s actually a stunt.  This is not just any street musician. This is master violinist, Joshua Bell.

A few years ago, The Washington Post invited Joshua Bell to participate in a social experiment.  They wondered: what would commuters do if they encountered exquisite music during their rush to get to work?  Without realizing that they were listening to a one-time child prodigy whose intricate music was being played on an expensive violin, and who just the evening prior had commanded on average $100 a seat at the symphony hall, would people stop for beauty? Read the rest of this entry »

Elul Reflections: Loud Clamoring and Silent Stirring

August 29, 2013

 “The great shofar is sounded, and the still, small voice is heard.”  We read in the Un’taneh Tokef prayer, one of the central prayers of our High Holy Day liturgy, Uv’shofar gadol yitaka, v’kol d’mamah dakah yishama. How do we pay attention to the both the loud and the silent in our lives? What is clamoring loudly for your attention and what is stirring silently within you? In this month of reflection, we attune our souls. We practice listening to the loud and the silent, and we prepare to heed both.  (Please join us as we practice paying attention at weekly Friday 5pm Jewish Meditation, before our Shabbat service).

L’shanah tovah–Your RS Clergy

Celebrate the End of DOMA

June 26, 2013

We do not support LGBT Equality in spite of the fact that we are religious; we support equality because we are religious and understand that we are all created b’tzelem Elohim, in the image of God.  Join us at RS this Friday evening at our 6:00 pm Shabbat service for a Shehecheyanu, our blessing for gratitude, celebrating the Supreme Court decision to strike down DOMA.  Learn more about the the decision in the light of progressive Jewish values, here.