The Pulse of Our Congregation February 2007

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

February 2007 Activities

Congratulations JFCS Para-Chaplaincy Graduate!

Message from Rabbi

Sh'ma by Adam Levick

Family Torah Group

Rosi Visits Israel

Leyv Ha-Ir's Spirituality Group

Empty-ing: 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.

by Roy Shenberg

Southern Jews greet you with "SHAL0M, YOU ALL"
South Philly Jews say "YO ! SHALOM!"
For Alaskan Jews it's "HELLO, SHALO-O-O-M!'
Skiing down the hills of frozen Nome

Hot blooded Spanish Sephardis
Flash their heels to "SHALOM OLE!"
Texas Jews don't just say "nu?"
It's "SHALOM-HOWDY" in a big Texas way

All around the globe they know SHALOM is
A greeting of love, peace and goodwill
but the best shalom is the one
when we come home
to the Jewish homeland called Israel

And so I offer Jews this simple phrase
For Kids from one to ninety-two
All though it's been said many times, many ways

Newsletter Design:

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

Happy Tu B'Shevat,

Why do we celebrate trees in February (Tu B'Shevat -- the birthday of the trees)? If we look at the annual cycle of tree life, there is the growth of buds... the return of leaves... flowering... the growth of fruit... the spreading of seeds... the fertilization of the seeds... the sprouting of new tree life. None of this happens in February, not here, not in Israel. What gives? What happens in February?

This time of year, when the trees are still bare and barren, is when the sap begins to rise. It is the beginning before we begin to begin. In spiritual language, its when the tree of life gets created. In day to day life, it is when we begin to become aware. We start to notice the aspects of our lives that we will later identify as problems we need to solve.

I am hoping that this sap is starting to rise in our congregational life. People should start thinking about what is great about Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City; and about what will be great next year, five years from now, and in the next generation. These thoughts should start rising over the next few days like the sap in the trees. Happy Birthday my tree friends.

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

  • February 2007 Activities
    Shabbaton/Tu B'shevat
    Chamounix Mansion
    9:30 AM
    Rabbi Julie

    Council Meeting
    Ethical Society
    7:00 PM

    Family Torah Group
    10:00 AM
    Call 215-629-1995 for more details.

    Taste I Educational Program
    Ethical Society
    7:00 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    Shabbat Services
    Ethical Society
    10:00 AM
    Lay Led

    President's Day

    Taste I Educational Program
    Ethical Society
    7:00 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    Shabbat Services
    10:00 AM
    Lay Led

    Annual Chinese New Year Feast
    Call Evy 215-561-7474 for details.

    Taste I Educational Program
    Ethical Society
    7:00 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    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.
  • Congratulations JFCS Para-Chaplaincy Graduate!
  • Congratulations to Richard Yaskin, who graduated on January 23 from the Jewish Family & Children’s Service’s Para-Chaplaincy Program, which is designed to “bring spirituality, Judaism, Jewish programming and a sense of Jewish community to those who are homebound and institutionalized.” An earlier graduate was Libby Cone, who established a connection with the Jewish residents of a boarding home, to which Richard has been devoted. (An outgrowth of this connection was our grant for bringing some boarding home residents to some services.) Our late member, Susan Singer, also attended this program.

    Mazel Tov, Rich!

  • Message from Rabbi
  • Dear Chevre,

    Someone asked me recently what “chevre” means. It comes from the Hebrew word for friend, “chaver.” (The ch is that special sound in Hebrew that we don’t have in English, it is not “ch” as in chip.) “Chevre” means something like “friendship circle.”

    A congregation, at its best, consists of many inter-locking friendship circles, coming together into a whole. Picture the Olympic rings symbol and then loop the whole chain around into a circle. Something like that would portray a visual image of congregation.

    Ideally, congregations are multi-generational. Funerals and baby-namings each have their place in the community’s life. People of one generation support, nurture and honor people of other generations. In this way, despite personal ups and downs, each individual sees more of the whole picture.

    (I may sound like a CD on repeat, as I have been commenting on multi-generational values as an important aspect of Jewish community again and again; but it’s such an important aspect of Judaism, one that we in Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City are beginning to explore, that the point bears repeating.)

    Mishna says in Pirke Avot 5:25

    • a five-year-old begins Scripture;
    • a ten-year-old begins Mishnah;
    • a thirteen-year-old becomes obliged to observe the commandments;
    • a fifteen-year-old begins the study of Gemara;
    • an eighteen-year-old goes to the marriage canopy;
    • a twenty-year-old begins pursuit [of a livelihood];
    • a thirty-year-old attains full strength;
    • a forty-year-old attains understanding;
    • a fifty-year-old can offer counsel;
    • a sixty-year-old attains seniority;
    • a seventy-year-old attains a ripe old age;
    • an eighty-year-old shows strength;
    • a ninety-year-old becomes stooped over;
    • a hundred-year-old is as if he were dead, passed away and ceased from the world.

    How would you update this life-cycle map for today’s world? At what developmental stage do you place yourself? Are you drawn to people of the same stage or to people of a different stage (there’s obviously no right answer!)? At each stage there are ways to find God within and ways to find God beyond? How do you connect with God in both these dimensions at this stage of your life? How do you see yourself growing into the next stage of your life?

    I hope we’ll be able to talk about all this together.

    With love and blessings,
    Rabbi Julie

  • Sh'ma by Adam Levick
  • It was my first time in Israel. Shabbat had just arrived and, with a mild Spring breeze to my back, I tentatively approached the Wall. I had only recently taken the first tentative steps towards observance and, though I was clearly anticipating a journey filled with joy, meaning, and solidarity, my spiritual life until that day hadn't prepared me for the depth of emotion that took hold of me upon approaching the Gate of Tears.

    I attempted to pray on that mild March evening not to open my heart to the arrival of Shabbat but, rather, to avoid having to take that final step towards the Wall, which would require me to touch, and thus intertwine myself with, the last surviving remnant of the Holy Temple in Jerusalem – a symbol of 4,000 years of faith, joy, and suffering – and wed myself eternally to the struggles, aspirations, and moral pursuits of the Jewish people.

    My mind was racing. The Wall was everywhere, much larger than I had imagined. I looked away, and saw prayer, intense prayer, Davening everywhere. I wanted to join them but the words simply would not come. I turned back, and again stood facing it – large, beautiful, eternal, beyond reach. I considered leaving a note, but at that moment it was as if a question was being asked of me.


    I've taken some important steps, I said. I've tried to overcome my insular tendencies and more fully embrace the Jewish community – my Jewish community. Your ethical commandments increasingly inform and inspire my sense of moral duty; the rituals, traditions, and Mitzvot associated with each week, season, and stage of life, give shape, form, and meaning to my days; our history – in struggle, triumph, and tragedy – provides clarity and resolve in defense of Israel and the democratic values she faithfully upholds. I have finally begun to feel part of "the nation Israel" – one dispersed, diverse, yet unbroken civilization – and fully accept the role I must play in its survival, in our covenant.

    I'm discovering it all anew. Your tradition – which had been patiently awaiting my arrival – is no longer a mystery. Its beauty, wisdom, and sublimation, once so distant and mysterious, are now intimate, relevant, alive – so wonderfully and undeniably real. I know I'm not there yet, that I have much further to travel, but if you continue to be patient, and allow me more time, I'll...


    I took a deep breath, and closed my eyes. I took the final step – but, in some ways, it was merely the first – and gradually lifted my arm. Slowly, deliberately, I moved my hand forward. First my fingers, then my hand – carefully, tenderly – touched the Wall, had reached its destination. I had reached my destination.

    With a gentle spring breeze to my back, I fully opened my eyes to what was in front of me. And, I prayed.

    Sh'ma Y'srael, Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai Echad.

  • Family Torah Group
  • The Family Torah Group, associated with the Leyv Ha-Ir Reconstructionist congregation, meets monthly in member families' homes. Center City families with children ages 2-5 join together for an introduction to Jewish tradition and culture in a relaxed, playgroup setting. A teacher leads the children in a short, fun program using songs, movement, and story-telling, followed by play and conversation. Interfaith families particularly welcome.

    The group meets on the second Sunday of the month from September through May at 10 a.m. The fee is $75/year, payable to Leyv Ha-Ir. Families share monthly hosting responsibilities. For more information, call 215-629-1995.

    The next meetings are February 11 and March 11th.

  • Rosi Visits Israel
  • Rosi Greenberg, the Rabbi's daughter, age 19, is on her first trip to Israel, sponsored by Birthright. She toured many sites in the holy land and stayed on after the tour ended to visit relatives and explore some of the West Bank. It was an eye-opening, amazing visit. Rosi is very much hoping to go back in the near future.

  • Leyv Ha-Ir's Spirituality Group
  • Leyv Ha-ir's Spirituality Group grew out of a need for a deeper exploration of our spiritual selves in a small group setting. With a core group of three, we have been meeting for five years, losing and adding some members along the way--there are currently six of us. We meet monthly and rotate the role of facilitator. We follow a specific format: there is an opening reading of a spiritual nature, followed by silent meditiation. Then each person has a chance to share on the reading and/or an issue with which that person is currently dealing. We go into silent meditation again to focus specifically on what has been shared, with the "kavanah," or intention, of bringing our highest insight for the benefit of one another. Then we give feedback that is hopefully not advice or therapy, but that comes from a place of "prayerfulness." At the conclusion we have a feedback session to discuss what worked and what did not.

    The Spirituality Group is a powerful tool that has enhanced our listening skills, our sense of community and caring, and our ability to cope in difficult and joyous times. If you are interested in being part of a new group, we will be having a demonstration session sometime in the spring. Stay tuned.

    --Karen Zeitz

  • Empty-ing: Yom Kippur 5767
  • Rabbi Julie Greenberg's Yom Kippur 5767 Sermon

    The gates of heaven are open, as in heaven so on earth. Our hearts and minds are open, as on earth so in heaven.

    The image at this time of year is of the huge mythical gates of heaven opening wide for these Ten Days of Awe. Pouring into the heavens is the prayer of each heart, prayers for the most personal concerns like a good night’s sleep, an easy class to teach, a promotion at work, improvement in a relationship to the most global concerns like prayers for world peace, for Israel’s well being, for the well being of mother earth. Prayers of sorrow, prayers of anger, prayers of need, prayers of hope. All these prayers pour through the open gates.

    Into those open gates goes the collective unloading of all that has burdened us. The confession of all the ways we don’t live up to the selves we can be. confusion. doubt, pettiness, sloppiness, whining, avoiding, hoarding, denial. We download, or upload, with honest scrutiny the truth of who we are with our real human limitations and failings. Emptying all this out means we no longer are burdened by carrying all this baggage. We give it over to the heavens, no need to go it alone, carrying so much. The emptying makes space for a freedom to renew ourselves and our world in the New Year.

    Later this month, I am turning fifty ---over the summer I gave myself as a gift the challenge of cleaning out every closet, every shelf, every drawer in my home. I live in a spacious three bedroom apartment but with five kids, and over 20 years of accumulation in this space, it was really hard to persevere. I was so attached to my junk, “My mother gave us this for your two year old birthday,” I’d say to my 15 year old helper, Zoe, as she urged me to chuck everything. With shock and amazement I filled 18 huge black trash bags. It felt awesome. I kept emptying, Zoe at my side urging me on, until we had disposed of 54 huge black trash bags. I felt so liberated.

    We all carry so much stuff.

    There is a story about a palace with hundreds of chambers and of the many keys for the palace doors, but one key opens them all---the ax. There are many kavvanot for the shofar blows, with each blow there is a focused intention, but one key unlocks all the calls--- the cry of the heart, pouring out our truth to those open gates of heaven, empty-ing ourselves of all that burdens our hearts.

    There is a story of the Baal Shem Tov (BST) visiting a village and asking what the Rabbi does on Yom Kippur. “He chants the prayers to a joyful melody,” the people of the village respond. Why? asks the BST. He is told, “it’s like a servant who is cleaning the courtyard of the king. If he loves the king, he’s very happy cleaning refuse from the courtyard and he sings joyful melodies for he is giving pleasure to the king.”

    It may be hard, but as we empty out the gunk on this holy day, sometimes a quiet awareness of joy is uncovered. Clarity. Freedom. It’s our Jewish practice of feng shui. We do an awful lot of hard work to be here---some people have literally been setting up chairs and schlepping prayer books for hours before we open our congregation doors for the service, some people are missing work or had to arrange childcare. We’ve all gone to great lengths to be present for this spiritual work and it isn’t easy. But, the rewards are great.

    As we proceed through this day, the sun begins to set...

    slowly, slowly the gates begin to close.

    The final service of the day, ne’ilah is a time of fervent last prayers, as those metaphorical gates close.

    Of course God is always listening, but at this time of year there is an especially intense period of openness. You can pray whether or not you even believe in God. Because prayer is about the person praying.

    Rabbi Jacob Saphir ha-Levi lived in the nineteenth century. He traveled extensively documenting customs and rituals in Jewish communities and then wrote a book about his journeys. He noted that the following custom was prevalent in many communities.

    People would turn to each other in the House of Prayer on Yom Kippur to bless each other with these words,

    May your prayers be answered and may you be sealed for a good life.

    You can do this as a quiet meditation by yourself or turn to a person next to you. Each take a couple minutes to identify something you want to clear out before these gates of heaven close today. Give it up and away. And when we have done that we’ll share the words of blessing, “May your prayers be answered and may you be sealed for a good life.”

    :: 215-629-1995