A community of communities

October 2013

Fri, 11/01/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

As human beings and as Jews, we constantly find ourselves caught between our vision of what the world and our lives in it could be and the reality of what they currently are. The gap between the ideal and the real often causes us pain.  This pain comes to us when we confront the death of someone close to us, an illness that strikes us or one we love, the loss of work or other life changes, or just the injustice of a world that does not conform to what we know it could and should be.  At these times, we need each other's presence and a sacred space in which we can come to terms with our pain.  At GJC, we provide a space for this in our Refuat ha-Nefesh healing service on the first Tuesday of each month in the Charry Sanctuary at 7:00 PM. This one-hour service uses singing, meditation, sharing, and study to help all of us learn to bear the pain and to move toward wholeness and healing.  I invite you to join us.  If you'd like more information, please do be in touch. 

Tags:
Comments: 0
Mon, 10/28/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

In the last few weeks, in the wake of the release of the Pew study on American Judaism, there has been much talk of the changes taking place with the Jewish community at large and in Philadelphia in particular.  Here at GJC, we are no strangers to change.  In fact, I firmly believe that it is our openness to change - fostered by Rabbi Charry and by Rabbis Hahn and Gordon after him - that has allowed us to remain a vital and dynamic community that continues to attract new members and new energy.  In the midst of change, it is important to hold on to the core values that make us who we are.  Again and again, we have identified values like diversity, respect for others, learning, and engagement with the world as core to the GJC community.  How we act out those values has certainly changed since Rabbi Charry's time in ways that might have surprised him but that he would understand.  And we may change yet more in the future.  But as long as we hold tightly to our values, change need not be destabilizing.  Instead it can open up new possibilities for growth in ourselves, new avenues for learning, and new ways to enact Jewish tradition in our time.  May we continue to honor Rabbi  harry's vision,  
and may we continue to be who we are even as we open ourselves to change.  

Tags:
Comments: 0
Mon, 10/21/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

After weeks of immensely costly and damaging inaction and delay, our federal government has finally started working again. Unfortunately, our political system still seems fundamentally broken. The ability to compromise - according to the dictionary, "to settle a dispute by mutual concession" - is currently in very short supply in our national and civic life.  Jewish approaches to dispute resolution frown on hardened, extreme positions and mandate flexibility and openness to each other.  Jewish texts provide clear guidelines about how to move toward compromise through mutual respect, focus on the common good, and acknowledgement of our shared duty to create a more holy and just society.  At Germantown Jewish Centre, we have faced many difficult issues on which members held widely divergent views, but we have been able to use those guidelines to engage with each other and to find a way forward rather than retreating to hard-line positions that block progress.  Now more than ever we need to advocate for that approach in the world outside of our synagogue community.  As a nation, we all need each other to create the path through the difficulties that face us, and we must demand that our political and civic leaders listen to each other and foster in each other the ability to compromise before more damage is done. 

Tags:
Comments: 0
Fri, 10/11/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

In my sermon on Rosh ha-Shanah Day 1, I spoke about the need for us to talk to each other and to listen to each other aboutIsrael.  You can read the text of my talk, as well as other sermons and talks from the High Holidays, by clicking here.  This Sunday at 10:00 AM we begin to put that into practice as we begin a four-week class of "Yet More Tough Social Issues in Israel." The point of this class, led by me and Rabbi Lewis, is for us to learn about and discuss difficult issues facing Israeli society, issues that involve many different points of view and that have no easy solutions.  By engaging with each other over these issues, we open up multiple pathways for us to connect to Israel, which is our ultimate goal, no matter how that connection is shaped or expressed. 

This class is preparing us for our GJC Israel Trip in December 2014, and we want to begin making a list of those who are interested in coming with me on that adventure! You can see the itinerary here.  Please do let me know if you're thinking about the trip, and I'm happy to answer any questions you may have. 

Tags:
Comments: 0
Fri, 10/04/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

This Shabbat marks the beginning of the month of Heshvan, the month without holidays, after so many holidays have been celebrated.  It is also the month, according to tradition, when the great flood of Noah both began and, over a year later, ended.  The story of Noah and the Ark challenges us think about what it means to act ethically, to be a "righteous person," as Noah is called in the Torah.  (I shared some of my thoughts on Noah's righteousness in this week's Jewish Exponent, which you can access here.)  And this month--after all of the holidays have been completed, after we have gone through weeks of introspection, resolutions, commitments, and celebrations--this month challenges us to think about how we are putting all that we have thought about into action in the world.  After the Flood, God realizes that the potential for evil that is implanted inside human beings is as powerful as the potential for good.  Neither of them can be eliminated by fiat or erased by rushing waters. Instead, God must partner with humans in the hope of guiding them to make choices that push the world toward the good.  May we all be up to the challenge. 

Tags:
Comments: 0