- Book Group: People of the Book
- Interfaith Hospitality Network
- Israel Garden
- Israeli Dancing
- Parshat HaShavua B'Ivrit
- Softball Team
People of the Book
GJC's Jewish Book Reading Group meets at 7:15pm on the second Tuesday of each month at GJC's Quitman Library. We read fiction and nonfiction books of Jewish interest written mostly, but not solely, by Jewish writers and chosen by the group. Volunteer group members lead the discussion.
For book listings from past years, please see People of the Book Archives.
The GJC Choir is an all-volunteer group of singers that performs at High Holiday services and at other holiday celebrations, programs, and community events throughout the year. Directed by Rabbi Zeff, the choir sings a mix of traditional liturgical pieces, contemporary music, and new compositions, many written especially for the group. The choir rehearses on Wednesday nights from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, and rehearsals are always full of laughter as well as singing and learning. The choir season begins with weekly rehearsals for the High Holidays in the summer and stretches through the High Holidays to Hanukah and beyond, ending with our ever-popular Purimspiel performance in early spring.
We are always happy to welcome new members! If you are interested in joining the choir, please contact Rabbi Zeff at [email protected] or 215-844-1507 x18.
GJC is part of a network of a dozen congregations in Northwest Philadelphia, that take turns hosting temporarily homeless families while they look for permanent homes.
The Northwest Philadelphia Interfaith Hospitality Network (NPIHN) provides temporary family and child-centered shelter for homeless families in the calm and comforting setting of our Northwest-area churches and synagogues, hosted by nurturing congregational volunteers. Staffed by a full-time family services director, NPIHN offers counseling and life-skills training to all guests at the YWCA day center in Germantown. Each year NPIHN helps approximately 20 families transition to permanent housing and to a life of self-sufficiency. We are proud that our guests call us "the shelter that's not like a shelter."
GJC has been hosting guest families for the last 10 years. We host the overnight guests in our Religious School classrooms three times a year, for two weeks each rotation. Two GJC hosts stay in the building at all times when our guests are with us. More than 100 synagogue members are active in the program as volunteers.
People can get involved in many ways. Volunteers can shop, cook, serve meals, stay overnight, play with children, spend 3-hour shifts on weekends, and help to move guests in and out of the building.
Interested in learning more? Contact GJC's IHN coordinator Milt Cohen at (215) 247-6186 or [email protected].
Our Israel Garden specializes in plants mentioned in the Bible, the Talmud, and other Jewish sources, along with other plants that grow in Israel.
Below are some answers to frequently asked questions about the garden. To find out more about the Israel Garden or to volunteer to work in the garden, please contact Corri Gottesman at [email protected].
You can also stay up to date on what's happening in the garden by liking the Israel Garden Facebook page.
Where is the Israel Garden? The Israel Garden is tucked behind the building on the hill above Lincoln Drive. Looking up at the synagogue from Lincoln Drive at the imposing representation of the Ten Commandments high up on the wall, the Israel Garden starts just below and winds around to the right on three terraces of the hill. You can get to the garden by walking around the building from the playground or by walking through the building. Signs for the garden will lead you to the back door near the stairwell between the Hebrew School wing and the sanctuary. Depending on the weather, you may want to walk out and sit on the bench for a few minutes before going on to services or the Little Shop or wherever else you may be going. Sitting and reflecting and enjoying the plants are some of the uses for which the Israel Garden was intended.
What is the Israel Garden for? The garden is for people to sit in, walk in, and enjoy. It is also for those who want to actually see the plants they have read about in the Bible and the Talmud. Seeing the growing plants can help us connect with the historical land of Israel and the stories about the land. The garden can add an earth-connected dimension to our observance of mitzvot. Getting to know the plants growing in the garden may enrich our study. One of our gardeners, reading in Psalms about the wicked, who are "like chaff that wind blows away," realized from her experience gathering wheat in the Israel Garden that the chaff does not separate from the grain without human intervention. The image in the Psalm became for her not vaguely agricultural but specifically, and richly, about harvest.
In the Bible, the first thing Noah did after surviving the flood was to plant a vineyard. When we started the Israel Garden, one of the first things we did was to build the grape arbor and plant the grape vines. Our Hebrew School students have harvested and made juice from these grapes, and we have used the juice for kiddush on Rosh Hashanah. We now have all seven species (shivat haminim) of plants the Bible mentions to illustrate the fertility of the land of Israel: figs, dates, grapes, pomegranate, wheat, barley, and olives. We also have the four species used for sukkot: date palm, myrtle, willow, and etrog.
Using something from plants we have grown to do mitzvot, such as celebrating kiddush from grape juice from the grapes we grew, or celebrating havdalah by smelling the rosemary we grew, makes it more special – one way to beautify the mitzvot.
How can Israeli plants grow in our climate? Aren't the winters too cold here?
Many of our plants are hardy enough to survive the winter. For example, the grape and clematis vines, and the cherry, almond, and willow trees lose their leaves in the fall, go dormant, and come back to active growth in the spring. Some plants need some extra help. The fig bushes were planted in the shelter of a wall where they get protection from the wind. In the fall, a burlap shelter is wrapped around them and filled with leaves. Our pomegranate, date palm, and olive trees, as well as the myrtle bushes, grow in large pots that spend the warm months in the garden and the cold months in a member's greenhouse.
What are some of the experiences our Hebrew School students have had in the garden?
- Making grape juice for Rosh Hashanah for our congregational kiddush.
- Harvesting sorghum to decorate the succah.
- Making an omer journal: planting in the garden and then observing the growth of the plants throughout the counting of the omer.
- Presenting the first fruits of the garden on Shavuot as part of a consecration ceremony.
- Sitting together with their families under the grape arbor when Honi the circlemaker made a surprise visit! Honi described how he makes grape juice for the holidays.
- Playing a scavenger hunt with their families on Sukkot, trying to find all the seven species of the land of Israel and the four species of sukkot.
Does the Israel Garden have programs for other people besides the Hebrew School students? Yes.
- Newly married couples have gone out to the garden to break their fast together after the wedding and before the reception.
- Thirty people attended an "Erev Shel Shoshanim," a night of song and storytelling in the garden, one August evening.
- For Rosh Hodesh Sivan, a Rosh Hodesh group walked through the wheat and barley fields and harvested some wheat and barley as part of their Rosh Hodesh ritual.
- There are tours of the garden on the first night of Shavuot, when it is the custom to stay up all night studying Torah (tikkun leil Shavuot). Between study sessions, or during them if you find yourself dozing off, you can visit the garden. It is one of the best times to visit – the garden is in its spring glory, the weather is likely to be warm, and you might catch a glimpse of Ruth walking through the barley field nearby to go visit Boaz.
How did the Israel Garden get started? About ten years ago, a few congregants envisioned a garden with plants from Israel that would let people connect with the land of Israel and the stories in the Bible. The garden continues to grow.
Who are the gardeners of the Israel Garden? Volunteers of all ages plant new plants, deal with the weeds, harvest the crops, protect the plants for the winter, and dream of new plants and projects to try out. Hebrew School students are an important part of the garden crew, and Jay Furman, age ninety plus, is one of our mainstays, keeping the garden green and the gardeners inspired.
The Germantown Jewish Centre Israeli dance group meets virtually ever Sunday morning from 10:00am to 12:30pm from September through June. Under the guidance of an experienced teacher, the sessions begin with instruction and review before moving on to intermediate level dances. It is an informal, friendly group, and always welcomes new dancers! $5 per session.
**Special Summer Hours (July 13 - August 10): Wednesday evenings from 7:00pm - 9:00pm**
For more information contact [email protected] or 215-844-1507, Ext 19.
Once a month (usually the first Saturday) a group of GJC congregants meets in the Quitman Library at 11am to discuss the weekly Torah portion entirely in Hebrew.
GJC participates in the Delaware Valley Synagogue League (DVSL), a summer softball league that includes 21 teams from 17 Conservative, Reconstructionist and Reform synagogues (and one Jewish funeral home), all loca
ted on the north and west side of the Schuylkill River. There is also a second league for synagogues on the other side of the Schuylkill. The DVSL is divided into two divisions.
We play in the West, which includes eight teams from Montgomery County and two from Philadelphia. The East Division includes five teams from Montgomery County, four from Bucks County, one from Northeast Philadelphia, and the funeral home. Each team plays 16 games from the beginning of April through the end of July, followed by several rounds of playoffs, until a champion is crowned.
As would be expected of a team from Germantown Jewish Centre, we are one of the few teams that fields a co-ed lineup. Our goal is to have fun while representing GJC. The DVSL is a very competitive league, which is a modified fast pitch league. While this is only our fourth year of participation, we are progressing and becoming more successful each year.
The members of our team, which is supported by the GJC Men's Club, represent a cross section of GJC membership and constituencies, including the Charry Sanctuary, Dorshei Derekh and Minyan Masorti davening groups, the Early Childhood Program, the Religious School, the clergy, the Board of Directors, various committees, and, of course, the Men's Club. Additionally, some close relatives of team members are also active in the Women's Club. Our team members include educators, healthcare professionals, Jewish communal workers, attorneys, college students and recent college graduates in various professions. We also have more current and future rabbis than any other team in the league.
Team members during the 2011 season include Dan Berdugo, Dan Berman, Rabbi Kevin Bernstein, Sophia Bernstein, Bonnie Buyum, Akiva Dworkin, Tracy Feldstein-Gardner, Ari Fish, Eli Fish, Joel Fish, Josh Hirsch, Jake Kriger, Ben Kripke, Joe Kripke, Ned Kripke, Curt Pontz, Michael Posner, Ben Sacks, Jeffrey Shoulson, Andy Ufberg, Steven Wade, Ivan Wolnek and Rabbi Adam Zeff.
We wish the GJC Softball Team continued success and enjoyment of our national pastime! While the 2011 roster is full, you may contact team co-captains Joel Fish or Ned Kripke if you are interested in participating in the future. --Photo by llie Seid