The Pulse of Our Congregation January 2007

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

January 2007 Activities

Tu B'Shevat Shabbaton in Fairmount Park

Message from Rabbi

LHI Women Celebrate Rosh Hodesh

Super Sunday Volunteers Needed

January Concerts Feature LHI Cantor/Choir Director

Economy of the Soul: Erev Yom Kippur 5767


Looking Ahead

Here are a few upcoming events you might consider participating in:

Taste of Judaism I

Join Taste of Judaism I, taught by Rabbi Julie, at the Ethical Society on Feb. 14, 21 and 28. Interested? Registration is necessary. Write

Marking Life Cycle Events

Making a financial contribution to Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir is a great way to mark special life events, simchas, yahrzeits, etc. We are happy to send an acknowledgement of your contribution to a designee of your choice. Contributions can be sent to our regular P.O. Box address, or contact Evy Simon, at 215-561-7474 or, if you'd like to have an acknowledgement card sent.

Thank you.

Newsletter Design:

Ilene Hass
Creative Solutions
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Dear Friends of Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City,

Our Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Weekend begins Friday Evening, January 12, at 7:30 PM at the Ethical Society Building. We will host a Kabbalat Shabbat Service,commemorating the Yarzheit of Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel and his friendship with Dr. King. This service will include civil rights era music performed by our choir and other musicians. On Monday, January 15th, we honor Dr. King's birthday with volunteer service as follows:

National Consitution Center
525 Arch Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Start time: 10:00 AM
End Time: 3:00 PM
Description: Volunteers will assist with sewing of blankets for the homeless as well as craft activities for children.

To reserve a spot volunteering: Contact Jackie Deleo at Opportunities are limited.

Michael Meketon, President
Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City

  • January 2007 Activities
    New Years Day

    Ethical Society
    7:00 PM Michael

    Shabbat Service
    Ethical Society
    10:00 AM Lay-led

    Shabbat/MLK Service
    Ethical Society
    7:30 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    Family Torah Group
    Center City area
    (See Details Below)*
    10:00 AM

    MLK Volunteer Service Event
    National Constitution Center
    10:00 AM - 3:00 PM
    (See President's message for details)

    Beginning Hebrew
    Ethical Society
    7:00 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    Shabbat Service
    Ethical Society
    10:00 AM

    Bagels & Books
    11:00 AM
    M. Schlanger

    Shabbat Service
    10:00 AM
    Lay Led

    * Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City's Family Torah Group is meeting this month, January 14, 10AM at a house in the Center City area. The program is for 2 - 5 year-olds; it includes Jewish song, movement, stories, games, values in a lively, fun context. Parents love it! Children love it! If you'd like to join, give us a call: 215-763-4977 or e-mail

    As part of the Kehillah of Center City we are invited to attend all of the events that are sponsored by the Kehillah and our larger community:

    To learn more about these events, check out the link to Center City Kehillah.

    Click here for a complete look at activities for the upcoming two months.
  • Tu B'Shevat Shabbaton in Fairmount Park
  • Join us for SHABBATON IN FAIRMOUNT PARK. This is our second shabbaton at the Chamounix Mansion and a splendid agenda is planned.

    Theme: It's Tu B'Shevat!!

    When: February 3, coffee and bagels served at 9:30AM

    Events: Service at 10 AM with Rabbi Julie and Shir Energy Musical Group; Lunch, catered by Manna; Tu B'Shevat seder; Entertainer Joe Aronson, "Jewish Wit & Humor";
    Concluding with Havdalah service

    Send $50 check to PO Box 15836, Phila PA 19103 by January 15th. Thereafter, cost is $60 Half scholarships are available.

    For more information, contact Beverly at 215-557-3777 or

  • Message from Rabbi
  • Dear Chevre,

    For much of the last decade the organized Jewish community has been in a frenzy about the question of “Jewish continuity.” Will future generations maintain Jewish identity and practice, despite rising interfaith marriage rates and declining birth rates? A focus on Jewish continuity has colored many funding, programming and outreach decisions.

    I have to admit that I have never been very worried about Jewish continuity. Rather than worrying about whether my children and grandchildren will be Jewish, I’d rather spend my time, energy and resources on living and sharing meaningful Judaism in the present. Presumably, what is of value now will be passed on in one way or another; cherished, transformed and passed on again.

    But while I have never been very bothered about questions of Jewish continuity, I do have great concerns about what is happening to Jewish community in a secular land of multiple choices. American culture feeds us a constant barrage of messages about pursuing individual happiness and making individual choices for self-fulfillment. Even in the Jewish world, especially in center city Philadelphia, you can go to this Jewish lecture, or that outreach service, Chabad is in the park and Borders is hosting a Jewish holiday celebration, without ever settling down to belong somewhere.

    The number of Jewish offerings within the radius of a few blocks is astounding. But all that choice obscures the fact that an essential aspect of Judaism is community. And community requires setting down roots, making a commitment, building something together. Community is about giving back at least as much as it is about consuming.

    Belonging to a community is counter-intuitive in American culture. It’s cheaper not to belong. It’s easier not to belong. You “get” just as much by not belonging.

    Or do you? Amazingly, it turns out that a primary route to happiness is to serve the greater good, to be part of something above and beyond the individual self, to care for others, to be part of a community of meaning that transcends your self. But I worry that the variety of Jewish choices and the constant pressure of the secular culture to do it alone, will deny people the deeply worthwhile value of belonging to a Jewish community that calls forth the best they have to give.

    So at this season of secular New Year, let’s re-affirm our Jewish counter-cultural stance: being part of a specific community matters. Giving of yourself and your resources matter. Opening yourself to count and be counted on matter. All of this happens in a context, not of dabbling in this Jewish experience and dabbling in that Jewish experience, but rather in a context of belonging, of saying, Hineni, Here I am. In this day and age, it has been said we are all Jews by choice. Let’s choose Jewish community.

    Happy New Year to All,
    Rabbi Julie

  • LHI Women Celebrate Rosh Hodesh
  • Sunday, December 17th, the Women's Rosh Hodesh was held, the first in many months. Held at Roby Jacobs house, ten members gathered to celebrate Chanukah, light the candles together and share in gift-giving. This was followed by a lovely pot-luck dinner and a good time was had by all. If you are a female member of Leyv Ha-Ir and wish to be notified of future meetings, contact Roby at 215-546-8965.

  • Super Sunday Volunteers Needed
  • Volunteers needed for Super Sunday, February 11th, from 10AM to 2PM. Join the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia at the Hilton Philadelphia City Avenue, to help the phone-a-thon efforts and be part of our Jewish community's most important day of fundraising. Kehillah Center City is funded by Federation. This is a good way to thank them. If interested, call Beverly Hayden at 215-557-3777 or write

  • January Concerts Feature LHI Cantor/Choir Director
  • Our Cantor and Choir Director, Beatrice Beer, will be performing in two concerts in January.

    Wednesday, January 3rd, 2007, 12:30pm-1:30pm The Atlantic Coast Opera, Robert McFarland, General Director, presents: Opera Medley. Church of the Holy Trinity at Rittenhouse Square. Selections by Puccini, Verdi, Ciléa, Beer, etc. Free of charge.

    Tuesday, January 30th, 2007, 12:30pm-1:30pm “From Puccini to Beer” – Béatrice Beer, Soprano, Robert McFarland, Dramatic Baritone, Gloria Collins, Piano. Church of the Holy Trinity at Rittenhouse Square. Free of charge.

  • Economy of the Soul: Erev Yom Kippur 5767
  • Rabbi Julie Greenberg's Erev Yom Kippur 5767 Sermon

    Coming together at this auspicious time for the opening services of this holy Yom Kippur Day, we have the intention of stripping away the material distractions that usually occupy our attention. On YK, no food, no physical pleasures such as bathing or sex, no fancy shoes, no commerce.

    The stark austerity of this day that we are entering reminds us of how much of our daily existence is bound up with material well-being. As the Jewish adage goes, “Ayn Kemach, Ayn Torah. Without flour there is no Torah,” I’m not sure that is really true since many cultures that are poor in material resources are rich in spirituality. Nevertheless, focusing on food, shelter and material needs is a natural human endeavor. Parnassa is the Hebrew word for material livelihood; the need for parnassa is respected and appreciated in our tradition.

    In fact most of the ancient sages worked full time for income in addition to studying and teaching Torah. I guess in those days if you met a water-drawer or a day laborer it was sort of like meeting a waiter or waitress in a restaurant in New York---you just assume these folks are dancers or actors trying to support themselves. It wasn’t until the middle ages that philanthropists began to support the learners of Torah and work was separated from Jewish learning.

    While the world of work is valued in Judaism, we set aside this day of Yom Kippur, THE holiest day of the year, the Shabbat of all Shabbats, to explore a different value. We wrench ourselves out of our ordinary lives and almost force ourselves to pay attention to this other value. This is the value of the soul. On this day we explore a non-material side of reality. We explore the inner world of the soul and the ways that the soul manifests glory in the universe.

    In American culture you could go for years never realizing that you even have a soul. Because the soul is not a commodity. It can’t be bought or sold and it doesn’t produce anything that can be measured or traded. There’s no point in comparing one person’s soul to another’s because that comparison would be irrelevant. You will never see a soul advertised on T.V.

    But tonight we shine a light on the soul and carry a message about its value and its needs into the New Year. So what does Judaism have to teach about the soul?

    Judaism teaches that all souls were created at the beginning of time, a treasury of immortal souls. When Adam, the first human, was created from dust, God breathed into this original human the soul breath of life. Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan notes that the rest of creation was created with speech so it emanates from God’s power, but not God’s essence. Humans are essentially of God. The Quaker motto, “There is that of God in each of us” also expresses the Jewish teaching.

    The Ba’al Shem Tov, a Hassidic master, taught that the soul is a portion of God above. A spark of mashiach, the transformative, redemptive power of God, is contained within each individual soul. Burning within you is a spark of redemption, an incredible resilience and inner power, the potential to transcend.

    In this culture we are novices at understanding the soul. We may be highly regarded professionals in the world of work, or accomplished family members in the world of home, but few of us know much at all about the soul. This knowledge is not nurtured and taught in most places in our lives and may even be denigrated in some.

    I recently read about a conference that took place last November at which the Dalai Lama and some senior Buddhist monks met with a coterie of prestigious western neuro-scientists to dialogue. They had a really hard time finding common ground because they had such different experiences. The western scientists were very interested in studying the uses of meditation to reduce stress. But try as hard as they could, the interpreters couldn’t find a way to communicate the concept of stress to the easterners. They didn’t have a concept of stress or a word for it.

    The scientists spoke of some generic practice that they called “meditation” until one of the contemplative folk pointed out, “One of my teachers described 21 levels of silence---the silence of darkness, luminous silence, where the body becomes filled with light; silence with or without content. There are meditations on compassion, lovingkindness, joy, equanimity. All have many different levels and many different trainings.” When you pay attention to something you develop a vocabulary and insight into its various nuances and subtleties.

    In our own Jewish tradition we have extensive teachings about the life of the soul. It’s not necessary to become a full-time practitioner of Hassidut to draw from the well of this knowledge. It is a spiritual resource that is ours for the taking. For example, these teachings shine through the language in the prayer book. Kabbalah and chassidut teach about five levels of soul. You’ll hear these words used often in our sacred texts.

    Nefesh --- behavior and action

    Ruach ----- emotions, comes from the word for wind, they are real but fleeting

    Neshama ----- my daughter’s Hebrew name, inner self/ Mind, literally means breath

    Chaya ---- unique self, conscious of God connection

    Yehida ----unified soul

    Delving into a study of the soul means exploring each of these levels in each arena of life. Is there integrity in your action, are you congruent in your feelings, what is your frame of mind, how is your God connection and where are you in your being? In each area it is possible to raise your level of soul health through self-reflection and the doing of good deeds. In the life of a congregation time is set aside for this inner work and for its manifestation as repair of the world.

    In the economy of the soul, we celebrate different virtues from those admired in the world of material economics. The impulse of the soul is to reveal Godliness in the world. How do you reveal godliness in the world?

    You help fix what is broken

    You make a point of bringing out the best in others

    You give the best of yourself to the world

    Traditional economics is about scarcity. It is about how to produce and distribute goods assuming that there are always scarce resources. I remember in Economics 101 those little graphs on X and Y axes, plotting the exact point where supply and demand meet and somehow that generates a price.

    The economy of spirituality is about abundance. There is plenty of love, plenty of compassion, plenty of patience, especially if we are conscious of cultivating these virtues. Reconstructionist Judaism teaches as a basic tenet that we live in at least two civilizations. There is nothing wrong with being successful in the economy of material things. In fact, wealth and material comfort are good because they create an even bigger base for the doing of good deeds. But, as Jews and fellow travelers, we have the choice to also excel at the economics of spirituality.

    What qualities of the soul do you want to cultivate this year? Yom Kippur gives us a spaciousness, away from the distractions of every day life to ask this question. Which aspect of the soul do you want to nurture this New Year? To be alive in your body? To reach emotional clarity? To learn new knowledge? To be still and quiet in your being?

    Judaism is a counter-culture that holds open a large space for practicing the economy of the soul. Week after week when Shabbat arrives we have a renewed opportunity to live out the wisdom of Yom Kippur; Yom Kippur gives us the drastic awakening, but Shabbat gives us the weekly infrastructure to actually renew again and again a commitment to the economy of the soul.

    In the prayer service we say Elohay neshama she’natati bi, tehora hee. God the soul you placed in me is pure. We chant that one line but the text goes on to say in translation, “God the soul you placed in me is pure. You created it. You formed it. You breathed it into me. You keep body and soul together. One day you will take my soul from me to restore it to me in life eternal.” This text is actually a teaching about the journey of the soul. The soul is eternal; it is there before we are born and it continues after we die. As our bodies inevitably fail and fade away, our soul re-joins that Great Universal soul, what the eleventh century Spanish poet and philosopher Solomon Ibn Gabirol called “God the Soul of All Souls”. Each individual soul rejoins that Great Beyond. vWe are so much greater than ourselves.

    Fundamentalists would take these teachings and start doing autopsies trying to find the location of the soul. In fact just a few hundred years ago when science and religion were figuring out their different domains, scientists did just that. They took cadavers and weighed them each day to see if they got lighter as the soul progressively separated from the body.

    But we are not talking fundamentalism here. We are talking about the great spiritual teachings that hold us, that uplift us through life. Psalm 42, “Like a deer yearns for water, My Soul thirsts for You, My God.” This day allows us to be in touch with our deepest yearnings, to greet our inner lives, so that we may each manifest our self in a way that heals the world.

    In the world out there, despite a plethora of self-help books and pop psychology, scant attention is really paid to the spiritual side of existence. Do you know what calms you down and makes you feel at –one-ment? Do you know what sooths your friend or partner or committee member and makes them feel whole? Are you curious?

    You are good because God made you.

    You are on this earth because only you can fulfill the mission to be you.

    You are welcome to come water your soul week after week from the well of song, prayer, silence, holy struggle and the doing of good deeds that happen here at the Heart of the City. May we carry the message of Yom Kippur, about the value of the soul, into our everyday lives and may this be a year of spiritual abundance, peace and blessing for all.

    :: 215-629-1995