A community of communities

November 2013

Fri, 11/22/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

"God created the human being in God's image; in the image of God was the human being created; male and female God created them" [Genesis 1:27] 

The Torah is very clear about the origin of humanity. It makes two major points.  First, all human beings are works of God, made in God's image.  Second, God creates humans to be different from each other - the diversity of humanity is God's plan.   In light of this clear statement in the Torah, the current state of law in our country is immoral and untenable.  In Pennsylvania, employees can still be fired simply for being lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender.  Across our country, discrimination against people for who they are is legal in an alarming number of states. Even more shocking, some religious leaders have argued that religious liberty is somehow endangered by proposed bans on discrimination on the national and state levels.  So let's be very clear:  Jewish tradition demands that every human being be treated with dignity and respect, and Jewish law goes out of its way to protect those whom others might shun or mistreat.  We are not required to love everyone or to agree with them on every issue.  But we are required to demand equality and justice for all of humanity. That's a religious position that we need to make sure is represented in the public sphere, even as debate over legislative remedies for discrimination goes on.

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Fri, 11/15/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

This weekend we mark Stefan Presser's eighth yahrzeit with a memorial Shabbat program organized by Minyan Dorshei Derekh focusing on the how to address the continuing problem of gun violence in our community and in our country.  Stefan was a remarkable and tireless advocate for balance between individual rights and liberties and the public good.  In his professional life as the legal director of the Pennsylvania ACLU for 21 years and in his personal life as part of the GJC community, Stefan embodied sensitivity to suffering of his fellow human beings and our obligation to stand with them that will always remain a model for us to follow.  I am honored to give the d'var Torah this Shabbat in the Dorshei Derekh service, and I am grateful to those who have organized this event and to the speakers who will address this important topic for us.  May Stefan's memory always remain a blessing to this community. 

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Fri, 11/08/2013 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

"When you are asked in the world to come, 'What was your work?' and you answer: 'I fed the hungry,' you will be told: 'This is the gate of the Lord, enter into it, you who have fed the hungry'" (Midrash to Psalm 118:17).  

As the ancient sages teach, feeding the hungry is holy work.  Although we have wonderful local non-profits like Philabundance and the Jewish Relief Agency that play an important role, the primary way that we feed the hungry is through paying taxes to fund government programs that address hunger in our country on a large scale.  We know that in recent years over 45 million Americans have relied on the SNAP program (formerly Food Stamps), including people in need in our own community.  In addition to millions of children, seniors, and the disabled, these people also include many low-paid working adults who do not earn a living wage and need the modest help that the SNAP program provides to supplement the food they can afford to buy.  Now, once again, that very modest help is threatened by budgets proposed in Congress that would slash the SNAP program - the most efficient and effective anti-hunger and anti-poverty program we have - by billions or even tens of billions of dollars.  This is literally taking food from the mouths of the hungry, and it will take a terrible human toll.  As heirs to an ancient tradition of concern for the hungry, we have an obligation to raise our voices and demand that the hungry be fed in our nation, in our name.  For more information and a way to contact legislators on this issue, please click through to the Jewish Council on Public Affairs website here.

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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. 

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