Tochecha: The Courage to Give Honest Criticism

October 3, 2017

Anyone notice that stunning tapestry in the lobby when they walked in this morning? How could you not?! The tapestry was hand stitched in 1972 by a group of 49 women at the congregation, led by Evelyn Keyser, and recently restored through the generous support of RS Women. When I first walked in and saw it, I noticed the beauty, the bright burst of color, the craftsmanship. But what really wowed me were the words. At the top, it says, “Ohev shalom v’rodeph shalom – Love peace and pursue peace.” These same words appear on our new addition, looking out on Broad Street. This quote, from Pirkei Avot (Ethics of our Ancestors) was written almost 2000 years ago and still remains at our core today.

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High Holy Day Services for Families with Young Children

September 6, 2017

We invite you and your children to celebrate the High Holy Days with us this year. See the service schedule for Families with Young Children. L’Shana Tovah!

High Holy Day Services for Families with Young Children

Contemporary “Multi-generational” Morning Services:
Requires a “pass;” please contact Catherine Fischer (cfischer@rodephshalom.org).

Rosh Hashanah: Thursday, September 21, 8:30 am
Yom Kippur: Saturday, September 30, 8:30 am

A full service for adults with a family-friendly atmosphere for children of all ages. Clergy, congregational choir, and guitar lead accessible music, encouraging participants to join in. Designed for all ages, the informality provides a comfortable setting for families with young children, and there are activities for the children during the sermon.

Tashlich Service at Fairmount Waterworks:
Thursday, September 21, 1:30pm
640 Water Works Drive Philadelphia, PA 19130
Join us as we cast away our sins with breadcrumbs. This service is open to all.

Afternoon Mini-Service for Families:
Open to the community; no pass needed, please just bring photo ID for security.

Rosh Hashanah: Thursday, September 21, 3:00 pm
Yom Kippur: Saturday, September 30, 1:30 pm
A very brief service for families with very young children.


Do Not Remain Indifferent

September 5, 2017

This week’s Torah portion, Ki Teitzei, contains quite a few seemingly random, disconnected commandments. One especially striking commandment found in this week’s portion is:

If you happen to come upon a bird’s nest along the way, in any tree or on the ground, with young ones or eggs, and the mother sitting on the young or on the eggs, you shall not take the mother with the young; you shall certainly let the mother go, but the young you may take for yourself, in order that it may be well with you and that you may prolong your days. (Deuteronomy 22:6-7)

Most commentators believe this commandment is an important statement against animal cruelty, akin to the prohibition of boiling a kid in it’s mothers milk. Also, modern scholars point to an early ecological message of sustainability in this passage. However, there is another powerful message that our rabbis draw from this text in the Talmud; it lays the foundation for tale of Judaism first apostate, Rabbi Elisha Ben Abuya.

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Tochecha: How We Rebuke

August 9, 2017

Picture the scene: The Israelites have been wandering for 40 years in the desert and are finally on the banks of the Jordan river just mere miles from the Holy Land. Moses, knowing that his time as their leader is coming to end, offers one final speech to his people. This not-so-short speech, which is basically the entire book of Deuteronomy, is a look back at their shared history and words of advice for their future. Specifically in this first portion of Deuteronomy, D’varim, Moses does not mince words and offers a harsh rebuke of his people. He says:

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Breaking Bread on Broad: Helping Our Community by Jeremy Schmidt, congregant

July 18, 2017

One woman and her reticent seven year old child came in because she saw the chalk and balloons from the street. We invited her in, and gave her daughter a meal, and after she devoured a bagel, we gave her more. The way they ate said they hadn’t eaten in a while. When I told her she could have more, her eyes brightened. Then, we sat and played Penny Pack with the deck of cards, and then the teen leaders taught her Rummy, which I had taught them. She asked her young daughter to decide whether she wants to stay for a bit. After some food in her belly, the daughter was more social and said, “I’ve made my decision.” Then she pulled up a chair next to me. We sat and played the card game that her mother had been playing with the interns. I invited both of them into the library, and had her take books to read for herself, or for her child. She said under her breath, “thank God, this program exists, something positive like this exists, because I would have gone somewhere else I shouldn’t have gone today.
But I’m here.” I welcomed her back and said the doors are always open.

A Latino family came in clutching a flyer that I had passed out at Spring Garden Elementary, and the hands of two kids. The parents didn’t speak any English. We had the interns effortlessly include the kids and involve them in their games. I speak Spanish, so I managed to learn from the parents that they were just on their way to receive social security benefits and figured they’d stop in for the kids’ breakfast before a long day. Eric, the chairperson of Breaking Bread on Broad, put on Bachata music, and the parents’ faces morphed from a glazed-over look to two happy smiles.


Breaking Bread on Broad

June 14, 2017

Have you ever seen the hashtag #firstworldproblems? A simple google search brings up some great ones like:

The struggle of finding storage for 20 bottles of champagne #firstworldproblems

I got really tan this weekend and now my concealer is too light!!!

My dog won’t eat that chip I dropped, so now I have to pick it up.

When it takes 6 weeks for the new iphone to come in #firstworldproblems

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Loving the stranger: My trip to Abu Dhabi

May 7, 2017

Have you ever gotten one of those emails that said something like, “A Nigerian prince wants to send you $10,000 dollars; just send your bank account information and social security number…”

About 6 weeks ago, we got a call to the office here at RS that Sheikh Abdullah bin Bayyah of Abu Dhabi wanted to invite one of our clergy to be his guest in the United Arab Emirates and we had until the end of the day to let him know! We were sure it was a scam… But just in case it wasn’t, I did a little research, followed up, and made a few calls.  As you might have seen from my Facebook updates, it definitely was not a scam and with the unwavering support of our clergy and most importantly Laurel, I agreed to go. At around 2pm this afternoon, I returned from three of the most profoundly transformative days of my life. I want to share with you tonight of few of the powerful lessons that I learned. But first, a little background:

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