A community of communities

October 2014

Fri, 10/24/2014 - 12:42pm -- Rabbi


Our Torah portion tells the story of the birth of Noah and the special meaning of the name he is given. When Noah is born his father Lamech chooses his name, which means rest or relief, explaining, "This one will provide us with relief from our work and from the toil of our hands, out of the very soil that the Divine placed under a curse." (Genesis 5:28). Midrash teaches that with the birth of Noah, humanity receives the tools we need to produce food from the thorny earth. The arrival of Noah in the world helps to ease the burdens of others. 


This week, as we revisit the story of Noah, I find myself aware of the many hardships we face as human beings and I am filled with a longing for relief. The news is flooded with frightening stories and it can be hard to figure out how to stand in solidarity with those who are suffering around the world. The past few months I have been heartbroken at the loss of life from the Ebola outbreak in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea. At the same time, I find solace in the efforts of those who, in the spirit of Noah, are showing up to provide others with care, calm and relief. 


AJWS (American Jewish World Service) has been supporting the work of grassroots organizations in Liberia to stop the spread of the Ebola virus and to dispel misinformation. One such organization called GRASS (Grassroots Agency for Social Services), pictured to the left, held a training this fall to strengthen the capacity of communities to prevent the transmission of Ebola and to cope in the face of loss. This Shabbat, as people in West Africa, the U.S. and around the world pray for respite from fear and pain, may God grant us the right combination of courage, caution and compassion. May human beings, gifted with creativity, continue to develop the tools we need to bring relief and healing to one another. 

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Mon, 10/20/2014 - 10:00am -- Rabbi


This Shabbat, we will go back to the beginning, reading Parashat B'reshit, and telling the story of the creation of human beings and their adventures in the garden. We will also announce the new month of Heshvan, due to arrive next week. We are blessed in this new year by the presence, leadership and Torah of Rabbi Reena Spicehandler, our Visiting Rabbi. Rabbi Spicehandler will lead our Shabbat morning service this Saturday.

In addition, Rabbi Julie Greenberg will be with us to offer a D'var Torah. Rabbi Julie Greenberg joined GJC almost 30 years ago when she came to RRC. She is in her 15th year as spiritual leader of Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City, in center city Philadelphia and is the recent author of Just Parenting: Building the World One Family at a Time.  Rabbi Greenberg's teaching tomorrow is entitled, "How Spiritual Community Can Save Creation." She will explore the question: "What do we have right here right now that will sustain human life on this earth?"

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Wed, 10/08/2014 - 8:50am -- Rabbi


"A season is set for everything, a time for every experience under heaven. . ." (Ecclesiastes 3:1)


There is a custom of reading Megillat Kohelet, the Book of Ecclesiastes, during the festival of Sukkot. The text follows the voice of Kohelet, son of David, king of Jerusalem, in his search for the significance of life. One of the most well-known sections of the book describes twenty-eight different seasons, times or experiences in the scheme of things. In our study on Shabbat morning, we will look at how various commentators have understood this passage. How do these many seasons such as those of planting and uprooting, and seeking and losing, relate to our individual lives and to the Divine vision for the world as a whole? Our service begins at 10:00 AM in the Charry Sanctuary. Join us for spirited singing and study.


The service will be followed by a community-wide kiddush lunch in the GJC sukkah and a walk in our neighborhood to enjoy dessert in the nearby sukkot of the Shapiro-Mendelsohn and Spear families. We thank them for welcoming the community to their sukkot!


"And you shall rejoice in your festival... and you shall have nothing but joy." (Deuteronomy 16:14, 15)


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Fri, 10/03/2014 - 9:36am -- Rabbi


Israeli flag mosaicI am so grateful to all of you, to the lay leadership of GJC, and to our wonderful staff for making it possible for me and my family to take a sabbatical in Israel in this New Year.  I am leaving on Sunday for Haifa and will be back in July.  I will miss you all and look forward to hearing about everything that will happen this year in my absence.  While I am gone, there are a number of ways for you to keep in touch with me and to keep updated about our adventures in Israel:


  • Blogs:  Cheryl, Zeke, and I are each writing separate blogs about our experiences.  Please follow us!  Here are the links:
  • Facebook & Twitter:
    • You can access my Facebook page (and "Friend" me!) here
    • Follow me on Twitter:  @rabbiadamzeff
  • Skype:  There will be a number of opportunities to Skype with me while I am Israel and to hear about what I and my family are doing firsthand.  The first will be on Sunday, October 19, at 10:00 AM at GJC; check the GJC calendar for other dates.  I look forward to "seeing" you then.

Israel trip:  A group of 18 GJC members is already signed up for the GJC Israel trip in December, which I will lead.  It's not too late for you to join us!  For more information, click here.

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