A community of communities

April 2014

Fri, 04/25/2014 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

As the years pass, we have an ever-greater obligation to remember both the horror and inhumanity and the courage and dignity that our fellow human beings showed during this awful time in our recent history.  On Sunday, the day designated as Yom HaShoah this year, we will hold our own special program beginning at 9:00 AM in the Charry Lobby, in front of our own Holocaust Memorial Scroll. We will begin with the morning service and then continue with the lighting of the Holocaust memorial candles and special readings and reflections for this solemn day.  We will then be privileged to hear from our member Susan Rothschild, a Holocaust survivor, about her story of survival.  Please make every effort to join us for this important program, as well as the larger Philadelphia community Annual Memorial Ceremony that will be held at 16th Street and Benjamin Franklin Parkway at 1:00 PM the same day.  May the memory of the righteous be a blessing for us all.

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Wed, 04/23/2014 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

Olam chesed yibaneh - I will build this world with love 

                                        (Psalm 89:3, translation by Rabbi Brad Artson) 

We are in the period of Sefirat Ha'Omer, the counting of the forty-nine days from the second day of Passover until the festival of Shavuot. We mark the days between coming out of Egypt until we reenact receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai. This period of wandering in the wilderness is a time ripe for spiritual growth. We are given space in the calendar to sit with the scars of exile and to let healing take hold. Kabbalistic writings link each of the forty-nine days to a unique manifestation of aspects of the Divine that can be found within us and in the world around us. This first week is the week of chesed, love. As we count the Omer, we tap into the flow of lovingkindness and compassion. In a world where there is so much senseless hatred, we remember our great potential to rebuild the world through acts of love. This season, what would it look like to deal with ourselves and one another with an extra measure of love? 

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Mon, 04/14/2014 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

On Shabbat HaGadol, there was a custom among some Jewish communities of baking an extra large challah called the "challah of the poor." Everyone would contribute a bit of flour to prepare the bread. The community would then share the gigantic loaf with those who were living in poverty to enhance their pre-Pesach Shabbat celebration.  Around our seder tables this coming week, as we break the middle matzah, we will remember how our ancestors struggled in Egypt and we will invite all who are hungry to celebrate the holiday with us. We will envision ourselves coming out of Mitzrayyim and reflect on what that means in our day. 

This Passover, our city is on my mind. In Philadelphia, 25% of people currently live below the poverty line. Our public schools are in dire need of resources. Many Philadelphians are stuck in a narrow place of working full-time for wages with which they can't make ends meet. As we share our bread, I encourage us to also do what we can to change the big picture. 

On May 20th there will be a ballot referendum to support a living wage and increased benefits for all workers employed by the city of Philadelphia, including those employed by companies that subcontract within the city. Our GJC Social Action Committee has been working to engage voters for the May 20th election in conjunction with faith communities across the city that are connected to POWER.  One way to get involved is to come out and canvass with fellow GJC members on April 27th and 30th, to talk to neighbors and city residents about fair wages and the education funding struggles in Pennsylvania. I look forward to participating on April 30th. Click here for more information and to sign up

May Pesach inspire us to come together to expand opportunity in our city and and to pursue the freedom for all to work, to learn and to live with dignity.

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Fri, 04/04/2014 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

"By the merit of the righteous women of that generation were the Israelites delivered from Egypt" (Talmud Sotah 11b). 

The Talmud teaches that throughout the story of Passover there are crucial moments when strong, righteous women step forward to enable liberation to take place.  Yocheved makes the courageous decision to give up her baby boy, Moses, in order to save him.  Miriam stands on the shores of the Nile, making sure her baby brother is safe.  Pharaoh's daughter rescues Moses from the river, protects him from Pharaoh, and raises him as a prince of Egypt.  Tziporah saves her husband Moses's life on the trip from Midian back to Egypt.  And as the Israelites celebrate on the far shore of the Sea of Reeds, Miriam leads all the women in song and dance in praise of the miracle of deliverance, a scene imagined in art by our own Betsy Teutsch. 

As we prepare for Passover, we need to consider:  who are the righteous women in our lives who have enabled our liberation and our freedom?  And who are the righteous women of our generation who will lead the way to liberation and freedom, not only for the Jewish people, but also for all who dwell on earth?  By the merit of the righteous women of our generation may we all be delivered from the constriction of Egypt to the expansive freedom yet to come.

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