A community of communities

May 2014

Fri, 05/30/2014 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

On Pesach, we remember the story of the Israelites going from slaves to free people, but we go further than that:  we try to re-experience the transformation from oppression to freedom in our own lives.  On Shavuot, we remember the story of the Israelites receiving the Torah on Mt. Sinai, but we go further than that:  we try to re-experience the giving of Torah and to see how we can bring more Torah into our lives this year.  On Tuesday night, as Shavuot begins, we have an extraordinary opportunity to bring Torah into our lives through a special Tikkun Leyl Shavuot program that we are hosting in cooperation with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Congregation Or Hadash, Mishkan Shalom, P'nai Or, and the Tikkun Olam Chavurah.  The program's theme is "Revelation Through the Arts," and it gives us chances to experience Torah through song, poetry, drama, prayer, text study, movement, and art, with a wonderful array of teachers to guide us throughout the night, from 6:30 PM to 6:00 AM.  Please check out the rich program here, and join us for some or all of the evening.  May we all be enriched by our learning together.

 

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Tue, 05/27/2014 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

When we are working for justice, sometimes we only see tiny, incremental changes that we hope, over time, will add up to wholesale transformation.  But sometimes we experience a wave of change that transforms the landscape in an instant. We experienced such a wave of change this week, as the ruling of a judge suddenly 

established marriage equality in Pennsylvania.  In an instant, we witnessed the beauty of all couples - including many wonderful members of our community - being able to celebrate their love with the full legal recognition and protection of marriage.  In an instant, we saw families overcome years of frustration, hurt, and pain as they were finally recognized by a legal system and a state that had at best ignored them and at worst repeatedly attacked their legitimacy. This is a moment I had not dared to hope would come so soon in Pennsylvania, and I am still filled with awe and joy that justice has prevailed in our state.  But - we still have a long way to go and much work to do.  In context, the prophet Amos exhorts the Israelites to "Let justice roll down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream" (Amos 5:24) in order to criticize those who would focus only on asking God to perfect the world through ritual rather than engaging in the struggle for justice themselves.  Full justice for LGBTQ people is a long way off in a state where an anti-discrimination statute still languishes in our legislature.  We must celebrate and express our joy at the amazing wave of justice we have experienced.  And we must also take strength from all that has been achieved in order to move forward on the road ahead.  May we always feel the rush of the waters of justice carrying us into a more perfect future together. 

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Fri, 05/16/2014 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

This coming week we have two important opportunities to take the values and commitments that we study and discuss out into the larger world around us. 

On Sunday GJC will be participating in the Israel 66 Celebration at Penn's Landing from 12:00 to 5:00 PM.  Our own Melaveh Malkah Band will be playing on the stage from 12:35 to 1:15 PM, and we will also be staffing a GJC booth to spread the message about our distinctive approach to engaging with Israel in way that respects the diverse and multifaceted ways in which Jews connect to this place that is so important to us.  Please stop by! 

On Tuesday, we have the opportunity to vote in the primary election.  There are many important issues on the ballot, including not only the race for governor - which has the potential to affect the dire state of public education in our area - but also, in Philadelphia, a referendum to support a living wage for all workers employed by the city, including those employed by subcontractors.  The GJC Social Action Committee has been working to engage voters around these issues in conjunction with faith communities across the city.  Although we may not all agree on the specifics of candidates and issues, we all have an obligation to think deeply about them and to consider Jewish teachings on the importance of education and the dignity of labor.  And we all have an obligation to do our part by voting and trying to shape the world around us. 

May our prayer and study within our community always inspire us to such action and engagement outside of it.

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Fri, 05/09/2014 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

This coming week we have two important opportunities to take the values and commitments that we study and discuss out into the larger world around us. 

On Sunday GJC will be participating in the Israel 66 Celebration at Penn's Landing from 12:00 to 5:00 PM.  Our own Melaveh Malkah Band will be playing on the stage from 12:35 to 1:15 PM, and we will also be staffing a GJC booth to spread the message about our distinctive approach to engaging with Israel in way that respects the diverse and multifaceted ways in which Jews connect to this place that is so important to us.  Please stop by! 

On Tuesday, we have the opportunity to vote in the primary election.  There are many important issues on the ballot, including not only the race for governor - which has the potential to affect the dire state of public education in our area - but also, in Philadelphia, a referendum to support a living wage for all workers employed by the city, including those employed by subcontractors.  The GJC Social Action Committee has been working to engage voters around these issues in conjunction with faith communities across the city.  Although we may not all agree on the specifics of candidates and issues, we all have an obligation to think deeply about them and to consider Jewish teachings on the importance of education and the dignity of labor.  And we all have an obligation to do our part by voting and trying to shape the world around us. 

May our prayer and study within our community always inspire us to such action and engagement outside of it.

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Fri, 05/02/2014 - 12:00am -- Rabbi

This week, the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations met to consider the request of J Street to join this group that allows for dialogue between the many diverse institutions that make up American Jewish life, from the Zionist Organization of America to Americans for Peace Now, and from the Union of Reform Judaism to the Orthodox Union.  I was proud to see the institutions of the Conservative movement, including both United Synagogue and the Rabbinical Assembly, take strong stands in favor of including J Street in this group (you can read the RA's statement on the issue here).  As both the USCJ and the RA made clear, they took this position not because their members necessarily agree with J Street's positions but because they believe that a more inclusive dialogue between people with diverse views benefits the Jewish people as a whole. This position resonates with our values at GJC, where we consistently uphold the importance of entering into dialogue with those with whom we do not agree as a path toward learning and growth.  Unfortunately, although the Conference of Presidents was created to represent the views of all American Jews, a majority of its members voted against allowing J Street to join. This decision saddens me, as it reflects the deep divides in the American Jewish community that have made it so difficult for us to sit and talk together about important issues.  In light of this unfortunate decision, we must redouble our efforts to enter into dialogue with each other, even over contentious issues.  Our diversity is real and a source of strength.  Inclusion and dialogue, not exclusion and silence, are the only constructive ways forward.

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