Here are a few upcoming events you might
Taste of Judaism I
Join Taste of Judaism I, taught by Rabbi
the Ethical Society on Feb. 14, 21 and 28.
Interested? Registration is necessary. Write
Marking Life Cycle Events
Making a financial contribution to
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
of your choice. Contributions can be sent to our
regular P.O. Box address, or contact Evy
215-561-7474 or firstname.lastname@example.org, if you'd
have an acknowledgement card sent.
A ''SHALOM POEM"
by Roy Shenberg
Southern Jews greet you with "SHAL0M, YOU
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
For Kids from one to
All though it's been said many
times, many ways
"SHALOM-ALECHEM & SHABBAT SHALOM" to you.
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
FEBRUARY 3 SATURDAY
FEBRUARY 7 WEDNESDAY
FEBRUARY 11 SUNDAY
Family Torah Group
215-629-1995 for more details.
FEBRUARY 14 WEDNESDAY
Taste I Educational Program
FEBRUARY 17 SATURDAY
FEBRUARY 19 MONDAY
FEBRUARY 21 WEDNESDAY
Taste I Educational Program
FEBRUARY 24 SATURDAY
FEBRUARY 25 SUNDAY
Annual Chinese New Year Feast
Call Evy 215-561-7474 for details.
FEBRUARY 28 WEDNESDAY
Taste I Educational Program
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
To learn more about these events,
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
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
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
- an eighteen-year-old goes to the marriage
- a twenty-year-old begins pursuit [of a
- 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
- 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
With love and blessings,
|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
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
children ages 2-5 join together for an
Jewish tradition and culture in a relaxed,
setting. A teacher leads the children in a
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
payable to Leyv Ha-Ir. Families share
responsibilities. For more information, call
The next meetings are February 11 and
|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
|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.
|Empty-ing: Yom Kippur 5767
Rabbi Julie Greenberg's Yom Kippur 5767
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
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.”