How to Move the Right Heart at the Right Time

February 27, 2017
Davar Acher By Cantor Erin R. Frankel (as posted on ReformJudaism)

When, in Exodus 25:1-2, Torah tells us “The Eternal One spoke to Moses, saying: Tell the Israelite people to bring Me gifts; you shall accept gifts for Me from every person whose heart is so moved,” the text manages to be both inclusively open and exclusively specific. We tend today to read this invitation as an equalizer; no matter the gift, God will accept it. The most important quality of the gift is the zeal of the giver to share it. But building the Mishkan required specific materials: gold, silver, copper, fine linen, dolphin skins, for example. Any gift not found on this list would not be of much use. Did every Israelite possess something on this list?

Not all gifts are equal in value. Not all materials are central to a project. In making a request of the community, sometimes we are not specific enough about our needs, for fear of offending those who may not feel included. But in valuing willing energy over specific skill, we lose the opportunity to empower those who could rise to lead.

In this opening instruction of the parashah, Torah also clearly struggles with how to word such a request. How does a developing community welcome and include all while also elevating some over others? Did the community really want all gifts or only the ones most relevant to the task?

Perhaps the text hoped to move the heart of the individual who would hear and understand that she had a valuable contribution to make, in material or skill. When the details of a project speak to your particular strengths, you are required to step up and participate. We must be willing, when the call comes, to evaluate ourselves and know when it is our time to lead. Do not fear the display of confidence or bounty. The success of the community relies upon your heart being moved at the right time.

Cantor Erin R. Frankel serves Congregation Rodeph Shalom in Philadelphia.


“Praise God, even if God takes your life”

November 15, 2016

Thank you to RS Board member David Mandell, ScD, for offering these words on the post-election world, gratitude, and a congregational learning opportunity.

“Praise God, even if God takes your life”

I am heartbroken by the results of the presidential election. I alternate between deep mourning and rage. Yesterday morning I expressed my anguish to a colleague from Turkey. She said that she too is disappointed but was not experiencing the same depths of despair that I was. She pointed out that living in the United States is still preferable to the violence and unrest in Turkey. A Russian man told me, “so your party lost? At least you have two parties. And you’re not thrown in jail for not being a member.” Another friend listened in on a phone call with President Obama, who gave us permission to mope for a week, and then have to get back to work. We’ve made a huge difference to the country and if 20% of it gets rolled back, 80% is still left.

In these three moments I felt hope. And driving that hope was gratitude. Read the rest of this entry »

“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.

Read the rest of this entry »

Vote For ARZA

December 19, 2014

Please vote for ARZA in the World Zionist Organization elections to help Reform Judaism on the world Jewish scene.
ARZA is the Association of Reform Zionists of America.  From January 15, 2015 through April 30, 2015, the World Zionist Organization will hold open voting for all Jews to help shape its agenda, including issues affecting both Diaspora Jews and the state of affairs in Israel.  The world Zionist Organization provides a forum for all the world’s Jews to come together and deliberate about critical issues.

Every Jew has the opportunity to vote for the platform that most aligns with their personal views.
A vote for ARZA – Representing Reform Judaism is a vote for:
Women’s Rights and Gender Equality:  We strive to create a world in which gender equality is the rule – where men and women can pray, work and live together as equals deserving of the same respect and honor.
Religious Equality: We envision and work for a society in which all denominations are treated fairly and with respect – and all of us are seen as Jews, regardless of our level of observance.
Regional Security:  Lasting peace, security and stability for Israel, the Palestinians and the Middle East region is possible and although the road may be long, we are building the path to peach every day.

Read the rest of this entry »

What Does It Mean to Be a Zionist?

August 1, 2011

Join Summer Rabbinic Intern Josh Franklin at Lunch and Learn this week, to discuss: What Does It Mean to Be a Zionist? 

Review and continue last week’s discussion:  Zionism, the move toward a physical return of the Jewish people to a homeland, has resonated in the Jewish mind for thousands of years. In this past week’s Lunch and Learn on the origins of Zionism and early Zionist thinkers, we discussed the the common factors that united the ideologues who set the stage for the Zionist movement. We discussed four very different Zionist thinkers: Read the rest of this entry »

Calling Docents for the National Museum of American Jewish History

July 27, 2011

The National Museum of American Jewish History, located right on Independence Mall, offers a select group of individuals a wonderful opportunity to become a docent.  A rigorous and outstanding training program is a highlight of the experience.  For more info:

Grace After Meals: Birkat HaMazon

May 6, 2010

Why is the blessing before a meal so short, and the blessing after, so long? Why don’t we spend the time thanking God before we eat the food? Because, we’re hungry! At our Shavuot Night of Study, we’ll focus our learning on Birkat HaMazon: Grace After Meals.  Want to do some extra preparation?  To review and listen to Birkat HaMazon, click here and choose “Birkat HaMazon, short version” and it’s introduction used on Shabbat: “Shir HaMaalot”  in the right hand column.  Or, just join us for our Night of Study on Tues., May 18, 7:00-9:00 pm.  Biblically, Shavuot celebrates the harvest of the wheat.  So this Shavuot, study the way Jews have, for generations, thanked God for such bounty. We will discuss the meaning and commentary of the Birkat HaMazon/Grace After Meals, and then we will learn how to chant it together.  Join us for this annual tradition of study, as we prepare to receive the Torah once again on Shavuot!

International Terrorism: Past, Present and Future Challenges

February 17, 2010

Professor Stephen Sloan explores terrorism in his publication, which you can review by clicking here: “The Evolution of Terrorism as a Global Test of Wills: A Personal Assessment and Perspective”, a personal narrative of his evolution as a scholar of terrorism.  Professor Sloan’s research has spanned the past four decades, to include a coup attempt in Indonesia to the Oklahoma City bombing. He has stood out as a leading thinker on the domestic terrorism threat, the transformation of the international environment as well as the need for the integration of local and national intelligence.

This and next Sunday morning, February 21 and 28, 10:30-11:30 am, join us at Rodeph Shalom for study with RS member Professor Stephen Sloan in our class “International Terrorism: Past, Present and Future Challenges.”

Carrie Rickey Discusses: Parallels between the Movie, “A Serious Man” and The Book of Job

November 30, 2009
Film has the power to awaken Jewish identity and to raise questions of fate and faith.  We are blessed to have Carrie Rickey, the Philadelphia Inquirer Film Critic, as a member of RS and as a film-discussion leader for Synaplex Shabbat this Friday, Dec. 4.  Join us at 5:30 pm for a nosh and a choice of 2 Shabbat services.  Then engage in a discussion with Carrie Rickey as she explores the provacative new Coen Brothers film, A Serious Man.  Head out to see A Serious Man now, and check out Carrie Rickey’s review.

Zionism vs. Anti Zionism

July 7, 2009

By Rabbi Michael Holzman

I gave a sermon recently that many congregants asked me to post.  I will not summarize the entire thing here except to post one of the essential issues it raised.  The sermon was a response to what I call an Anti Zionism that I find dominates left wing intellectual discussion of Israel.  Read the rest of this entry »