The Tower of Babel, Anita Hill, Unchecked Power, and the #MeToo’s of Sexual Harassment

October 21, 2017

We have seen the words, “Me Too” on our computer screens all week long.  In the wake of the most recent sexual harassment reports, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted, write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.  If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”

Hundreds of thousands of women (correction: now 1.5 million), and some men too, have added their voices, posting, “me too.”  Although it is no woman’s responsibility to post about being harassed or assaulted, the wave of “Me Too” responses has been important.  It reminds us that sexual harassment and assault are not products of Hollywood celebrity, some unreal world that has nothing to do with us.  It’s your neighbor posting, “Me Too.’  Actually, most of your female neighbors.  The “Me Too” campaign is giving people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.  And that is a tremendous step.

For, studies show that, most people do not speak up when they experience or witness sexual harassment.  Why such silence?  What are people afraid of?  Losing a job?  Perhaps.  And understandable.  But I believe that most of all, women are trying to protect their dignity– to avoid allowing their character to be put on trial. Read the rest of this entry »


Pull the Next Woman Up*: Eager to Welcome Naomi Chazan

June 25, 2017

Have you seen the new Wonder Woman movie?

I have been thinking about Wonder Woman this week, because of some recent news commentary.  The Israeli Woman who sued El Al airlines for sexism won her landmark case.  She had been told to change her seat because an Orthodox man wanted to ensure that he would not inadvertently be touched by a woman.  The Israeli court found the gender-based seat-changing coercion practice, violates Israel’s anti-discrimination codes.

The woman, Renee Rabinowitz, was represented by the Israel Religious Action Center, the public advocacy and legal arm of the Reform Movement in Israel. The head of the Israel Religious Action Center, Anat Hoffman, described the 83-year old plaintiff Renee Rabinowitz as Wonder Woman.  Funny, because Anat Hoffman might herself be called a Wonder Woman.  From the courtroom to the Women of the Wall, Anat Hoffman has for years advocated for civil rights, women’s rights, state separation from Orthodox authority, and democracy in Israel. Read the rest of this entry »


Reconsecrating Your Covenant with Each Other, My Covenant with You

June 4, 2017

Delivered by Rabbi Maderer Friday night when we offered Renewal of Marriage Vows, and it was also Rabbi Maderer’s first Shabbat as senior rabbi.  

When Cantor Frankel chants the 7 Blessings/the Sheva Brachot in the vows renewal ceremony, we will hear a list of almost every word the Hebrew dictionary knows for joy.  And what a joy it is to celebrate the bond of love and commitment!  The conclusions of the final two of the blessings ask God to cause the couple to rejoice.  Traditionally text says chatan and kallah, groom and bride; we are a community that thankfully includes LGBTQ couples and so we make a change to: reh-im and ahuvim, two words for beloved.  If you listen closely, you will hear that in the 6th blessing, we ask God to cause one beloved and (in Hebrew v’) the other beloved, to rejoice together.  In the 7th blessing, we ask God to cause one beloved with (in Hebrew im) the other beloved to rejoice together.  By the time we reach the 7th blessing, the couple is not only one and the other, but one with the other, bound together in covenant. Read the rest of this entry »


Leia’s Bikini or Rey’s Shmata: Gender Bias in Society and in Us

January 22, 2017

rey-1449242_960_720Princess Leia, actually Carrie Fisher, of blessed memory, recalls an outraged father challenging her, because she agreed to wear the skimpy iron bikini, in the scene with Jabba the Hutt, in The Return of the Jedi movie.  Fisher’s response? A giant slug captured me, and forced me to wear that stupid outfit, and then I killed him, because I didn’t like it. And then I changed my clothes, back stage!

Decades later when the newest episode, The Force Awakens was produced, Fisher observed : the female protagonist Rey shows no cleavage, wears baggie pants, and is essentially wrapped in what we might call, a shmata.  Progress.  Read the rest of this entry »


To Raise Dust with Our Feet: Opening Up Our Definition of Spirituality

December 18, 2016

wrestling-image(delivered by Rabbi Maderer at Shabbat service 12/18/16)  Last week I shared with you a time when I lived in the suburbs and my family overdid it in the area of home security.  I made fun of the way that, even with a burglar alarm in our house, we added to the front porch, an extra security measure: a big dog-food bowl.  Even though we did not have a dog.  I went on to make fun of — and to be clear, I was making fun of my mother– I went on to make fun of the way that, to make it seem real, we painted onto the bowl the name of our fake dog: Shomer, Hebrew for “guard.”

Funny story:  Last week, here in Philadelphia… you guessed it.  My garage was broken into.  Who here believes in karma?

Now, seriously, do you think there is a connection?  One week I am making fun of my mother for over-securing our house all those years ago, and days after I write those words, a break-in.  Coincidence?  Karma?  God? There was a time I would have said: there is no such thing as coincidence.  I believed God influenced the details of our lives.  Yet as my life and rabbinate move forward, I find my response to the world changes:  more questions, less certainty of God’s role, judgment, or expectation. Read the rest of this entry »


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 »


Opening for Daylight: Seeing Difference this Krystallnacht

November 6, 2016

et1Last month, I had the opportunity to watch the movie E.T. as the Philadelphia Orchestra performed the John Williams score live with the screening of the film at the Kimmel Center.  It had been years since I had seen Steven Spielberg’s imaginative masterpiece about a lost alien who is befriended a 10 year old boy.

When I saw the movie as a child, I understood the message to be one of friendship.  Although friendship was still present, this time, I saw something different.  All of these years later, it was clear to me: the movie about the extra-terrestrial is an allegory.  When faced with difference, children are driven by curiosity and love.  Whereas many of the adults in the story see difference, and respond with fear, self-protection and even attack.

What is our inclination when we encounter something outside of ourselves?  Do we open our eyes to see?  Or do we remain covered, protected, in the dark?   Read the rest of this entry »