We Are Crossing to the Other Side: Rabbi Maderer’s Message at the Philadelphia Women’s March 2018

January 20, 2018

Rodeph Shalom members at the Women’s March

Shabbat shalom!  Today, I am grateful to gather—we who call God many different names, and we who choose not to call to God at all—I am grateful to gather together with you!

This season, in our sacred text, the Jewish community reads the story of the Exodus from Egypt.

Our redemption story begins with women. Midwives birth our redemption.  Overworked, underpaid; but powerful      and brave.  How do we know redemption has begun?  We see the courage of women.

And our redemption story culminates with women.  When we cross the Sea of Reeds to freedom on the other side,    “Miriam the prophet takes her timbrel in her hand, and all the women go out with her in song.” How do we know redemption has come?  We hear the voice of women.

In our own time, brave women have birthed the next wave of the movement.

Women’s courage and women’s voice are leading; women and men are following in partnership.

We are marching to the other side, and there is no turning back. Read the rest of this entry »

Our Jewish Leadership Responding to #MeToo and Time’s Up​

January 16, 2018

How has this sexual harassment and assault season of “Me Too” and “Time’s Up” had an impact on the way you think about our society, your social and professional circles, and your Jewish community?

It has been important to see high profile men held accountable for the abuse of power manifested in their sexual misconduct.  Yet, with so much reckoning occurring in celebrity circles, I believe we need to be cautious against allowing ourselves to respond as if it were their problem.  Sexual harassment and assault, and the imbalance of gender power which is at the root of it all — for these issues are not about sex, they are about power– is all of our problem.  The imbalance of gender power devalues women and robs men as well as women of choices in their work and in their lives.  It is all of our problem– it’s in our own neighborhood, our own school, our own workplace, our own office, our own desk chair.  We all have growth and learning we need to do in order to take steps to dismantle gender power imbalance. Read the rest of this entry »

Installation: May We Enter in Thanks

November 9, 2017

In the words inscribed on my tallit, taken from Psalms: Pitchu li sha-arey tzedek, avovam odeh-ya/Open for me the gates of righteousness and I will enter in thanks.  As I have stepped through new gates, I enter with profound gratitude. Read the rest of this entry »

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 »

Neighbor is a Moral Concept* (Kol Nidrei 2017)

October 1, 2017

Or zarua latzadik / Light is sown for the righteous**, words we just sang as the introduction to Kol Nidrei. This Yom Kippur, we search for the light of righteousness that it may illumine our path, and the path for generations to come.

Since our last Yom Kippur together, our world feels different.  We have born witness to anti-Semitism and bigotry, meant to keep us from the faith that we have the power to stand in the light.  More emboldened than recent memories of hate.  No longer hiding behind the white hood.  Not limited to the right or left fringes.  White supremacists, have desecrated cemeteries, painted swastikas in our city, threatened our Jewish Community Centers, and just last week created a new online presence #Gasthesynagogue.  And, in 2017 America, armed Nazis stalked a Reform Jewish synagogue in Charlottesville.   According to the Anti-Defamation League, in the first quarter of 2017 anti-semitic incidents in the U.S. surged more than 86%.

What do we do, in the face of heightened Anti-Semitism? Read the rest of this entry »

When do we walk the path together?: Discernment in Establishing Coalitions

August 19, 2017

“See this day, I set before you, bracha uklalah — blessing and curse” (Deut 11:26).  It’s one or the other.  Elie Wiesel taught us: “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. We must take sides.”

We can explore the issues, and learn from those who are different.  But then, ultimately, we must take sides.  The side of blessing or the side of curse.  Commentators say the phrase from God, saying: “I set before you” indicates free will.  It is our choice to make   We need to determine, which is the path of blessing.

I’m filled with gratitude to have seen so many of you on Sunday at the “Vigil for Those Who Stood Against Hate in Charlottesville, and on Wednesday where Rabbi Freedman spoke so powerfully, at the “Philly is Charlottesville: Unmasking Racism” march.  For when it comes to the anti-semitism and bigotry of white supremacy, the issue is not nuanced.  We take sides.  Hate does not require debate.  For we have moral clarity, that we are all created in the image of God, and your presence this week has demonstrated moral leadership.

Even as our congregation takes the clear side against bigotry, we do face some tricky questions about how to be involved, and how not to be involved.  I would like to step back, and to examine with you, some of the complexities I face when we collaborate with other groups, to respond to hate. Read the rest of this entry »

Whoever is in Pain, Lead Him to the Physician*

July 2, 2017

The 7-year old boy’s heart begins to beat faster as he listens to the story of Abraham preparing to sacrifice his son, Isaac.  The boy actually begins to sob with pity for Isaac.  After the service, the rabbi approaches the boy.  “Why were you crying? The rabbi asks, “You know the story; you know that Abraham does not kill Isaac.”  The boy questions the rabbi, “Suppose the angel, had come a second too late?” The rabbi comforts the young boy saying, “angels, do not come late.”

That boy would become the great 20th century scholar, Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, of blessed memory.  Years later, Heschel would still be haunted by the same question: Suppose the angel had come, a second too late!  As an adult, Heschel reflected that, while angels do not come late, human beings sometimes do.  “All of history,” Heschel teaches, “has been a dry run for the moment when we can act like the angel; we must not be late.” Read the rest of this entry »