The Pulse of Our Congregation November 2007

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

November 2007 Activities

"The Hidden Jews (Conversos) of the Southwest U.S. - A Brunch & Talk

Rabbi's Message: Lamed Vavniks in our Midst

Leyv Ha-Ir Mitzvah Makers

RRC Celebrates 40 Years of Leadership

First Day Rosh HaShana Sermon, 5768
by Rabbi Julie Greenberg

Written for Sibyl Cohen on her Yahrzeit - 11/14/06

"REEL JEWS" premier by LHI Education Committee


Looking Ahead

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.

c 2007 Roy Shenberg

Love by laptop light
Our eyes glow in a magical spell
Better than moonlight
Is the shine from two minds
By Intel

There are those, I suppose,
Who would warn us
Where's the passion
if we just sit ?
We don't need anyone
to inform us
Our love making skills are e-nor-mous
When we need advice---
we Google it.

Love by laptop light
It's love that's so "today"

You, and your laptop
Me, and my laptop
S'what we techies call:

Love by laptop light
Fingers fly 'cross the keys

You, and your laptop
Me, and my laptop
Dance the hotmail tango
Digitally-- Ole' !

Love by the light of a laptop
I yearn to go back in the day
No e-mail, no cellphones
I'd write you lots of love poems

But without a laptop
What would I say?

Newsletter Design and eMail Marketing:

Ilene Hass
Creative Solutions
for Business Marketing

Dear Friends and Members of Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City,

As we experience the Jewish Holiday Doldrums between Sukkot and Hannukah (no holidays for two months!), I would like you to think about your friends at Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City. This is an excellent time to consider membership. Although membership here is less expensive than most other synagogues, becoming a member is a challenging decision. Since we don't require membership in order to attend even the High Holy Days, there is no material benefit to it. Therefore the decision to become a member has to be entirely internally motivated. So what are the internal benefits to membership at Leyv Ha-Ir? Do you support the Rabbinic teaching of Rabbi Julie Greenberg? Is it of value to you that she has a place to provide Rabbinic services as part of structured synagogue life? Does Rabbi Julie or our lay leadership validate for you some sense of what organized Jewish life should be? Do you value our ever-evolving worship style -- our commitment to social action and social justice? Although we are a sensible and modestly budgeted synagogue, there are no guarantees of our ability to sustain ourselves into the future. Your membership dues, donations and volunteer hours keep this community going. Thank you so much for remembering us.

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

  • November 2007 Activities
  • November 3 SATURDAY
    Shabbat Morning Service
    Ethical Society
    10:00 AM

    November 4 SUNDAY
    Conversos of the Southwest
    Member's Home
    10:00 AM

    November 4 SUNDAY
    Choir Rehearsal
    6:30 PM
    Contact Beverly

    November 7 WEDNESDAY
    Council Meeting
    Ethical Society
    7:00 PM

    November 9 FRIDAY
    Kabbalat Shabbat
    Ethical Society
    7:30 PM
    Rabbi Julie

    November 11 SUNDAY
    Family Torah Group, tots ages 3-8
    Fairmount home,
    10:00 AM
    Contact for details

    November 11 SUNDAY
    Reel Jews
    Kennedy House Community Room, 30th Floor
    4:00 PM
    Contact Joan

    November 17 SATURDAY
    Shabbat Morning Service
    Ethical Society
    10:00 AM

    November 18 SUNDAY
    Spirituality Group
    Member's Home
    2:30 PM
    Contact Frann

    November 24 SATURDAY
    Shabbat Morning Service
    10:00 AM

    November 25 SUNDAY
    Choir Rehearsal
    6:30 PM
    Contact Beverly

    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 Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir activities for the upcoming two months.
  • "The Hidden Jews (Conversos) of the Southwest U.S. - A Brunch & Talk
  • The Leyv Ha-Ir Education Committee presents a brunch and talk "The Hidden Jews (Conversos) of the Southwest U.S. November 4, 2007
    11 AM, Kennedy House
    1901 JFK Boulevard, Apt. 2226
    Cost of $5 for brunch
    For more information, call 215-561-5193

  • Rabbi's Message: Lamed Vavniks in our Midst
  • Hello Dear Chevre,

    Talmud teaches that the well being of the world depends on 36 lamed vavniks sharing their kindness and generosity. What is a lamed vavniks ? The word comes from the numerical value of 36: the Hebrew letter lamed equals thirty, the Hebrew letter vahv equals six. These are the "hidden saints" who make the world go round. At every moment, Talmud says, there are 36 human beings sustaining the world with abundant kindness.

    Rabbi Rami Shapiro teaches that we all take turns stepping into and out of these 36 roles. There may be 36 lamed vavniks at a time but every person can have a turn being a lamed vavniks. And I'll add, the Talmud says there are 36 lamed vavniks in the world but we each live in many worlds so let's think of this as a hologram where there are 36 lamed vavniks in each world in our lives.

    Do you see the 36 lamed vavniks in our own congregation? Who are the hidden saints who do the behind-the-scenes caretaking, organizing, cleaning up, visioning? Every time you witness a moment of kindness, support, helpfulness, generosity you are witnessing lamed vavniks action.

    Our tradition puts such huge value on acts of kindness. To think that the entire world is sustained by this effort! The concept of lamed vavniks can inspire each of us to look for hidden potential for kindness within ourselves. There is spiritual value in cultivating this action.

    I look forward to seeing many of you at our Nov. 9 Shabbat service which will include uplifting prayer, song and a presentation by Operation Understanding about Jewish and African American teenagers working together (most likely my son Rafael will be one of the presenters). Also, save the date Dec. 8, 4:00 for a very special Hanukkah celebration at the William Penn House.

    Love and Blessings,
    Rabbi Julie

  • Leyv Ha-Ir Mitzvah Makers
  • Members of the Leyv Ha-Ir community and friends worked together at our Mitzvah Mania project, held at the Ethical Society, on Sunday, October 21. We assembled "hospitality kits" for the homeless, with such items as soap, clean socks, shampoo, body lotion, combs, etc., which were donated by members, hotels, and drug stores. This was our part in Mitzvah Mania, a project of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia.

    --John Mason

    LHI Mitzvah Mania - A Success Thanks to YOU

    Dear Mitzvah Mavins,

    Thank you for all your hard work and donations of supplies (both food and kit supplies) on sunday's Mitzvah Mania-Personal Care Hospitality Kits for the Homeless project. We accomplished a lot in a short was joy to see all of us working together to fill up the bright yellow bags filled with items for the homeless. At last count, we had filled at least 70 grocery bag-sized hospitality kits with gym socks (men and ladies), soaps, travel-size tissues, foot powder, body powder, shampoos, antibacterial towelettes, emery boards, note pads, pens, combs, hand lotion, body lotion, bandaids, and other items that I can't remember at the moment. We also had 2 large bags filled with extra supplies for the shelter's supply shelves for their future use.

    The entire process flowed so quickly and effortlessly that I didn't have time to jot down all the donations volunteers brought in on sunday. Please contact me and let me know what supplies (foods included) you donated on sunday, and previously, so that we can acknowledge your gifts.

    As quickly as the supplies arrived, they rapidly were packaged up. (My turkey sandwich almost got misplaced in one of them...for which I will never stopped being teased!).

    In that small room with a small group (11 LHI members and 5 non-LHI volunteers) we packed the kits, laughed, noshed, met old and new friends, shmoozed, and shlepped the filled boxes to a nearby shelter for the homeless. The director of the shelter was thrilled and amazed...I heard that he even took pictures of the volunteers that brought the supplies.

    Thank you for being good sports and following assembly line directions. We did an excellent job considering that the room was small and there were hundreds of items that had to be sorted and assembled.

    If you were not able to get to the event on sunday, thank you for your mitzvot of planning, praying, working behind the scenes, searching for items to donate, donating items, storing items, making phone calls, and all the other bureaucratic processes that bring such a big project to fruition.

    Sunday's Mitzvah Mania Project was definitely a simcha shel mitzva ...a mitzvah performed with joy.

    --Maria and all the Tikkun Olam Committee

    Tikkun Olam Resignation

    Dear Tikkun Olam friends,

    Congratulations on last Sunday's Hospitality Kits for the Homeless Mitzvah Mania event. From all who emailed or called me about it, I learned that everyone pulled it together so that it was a whopping success. I'm so glad that other mitzvah-oriented people joined you, too. It sounds like all of you had fun and felt great about donating the bags to the church nearby.

    What's also wonderful about all of you is that, basically in just two months, you've produced this event on the tail of previous successful events. The sale of ovens for Darfur, the light bulb sales, the neighborhood fundraiser - all reflect your commitment to seeing that what we envisioned for our committee this year will reach fruition. I look forward to seeing Books Through Bars, Books for Graterford, Martin Luther King Weekend and the Resolution against Gun Violence proceed with the same determination and enthusiasm as you've shown so far.

    Unfortunately, though, I must let you know that I need to resign from my position as Chair of our Tikkun Olam committee. A fluke accident in the spring has temporarily (I hope) affected my health in several ways. At this time, therefore, I must limit all my responsibilities.

    You are a dedicated, creative and compassionate "bunch", with each one having his/her unique talents to contribute. I hope very strongly that each of you will continue with the same enthusiasm and commitment as you've shown.

    Thank you for the honor of being Chair,


  • RRC Celebrates 40 Years of Leadership
  • Join the RRC Saturday, Dec. 8, 2007 in NYC! For more information, contact: Rabbi Daniel Aronson at 215.576.0800 ext. 1144 or

  • First Day Rosh HaShana Sermon, 5768
    by Rabbi Julie Greenberg
  • Growing Our Wisdom

    I mentioned yesterday a vision of using technology to further our message in this House of Prayer---having smart boards on the bimah or enabling the Rabbi to beam text into your I-phone or Blackberry. The pace of technological innovation is mind boggling. Do you remember a time when people did not have answering machines? Remember telephone booths? My 7 year-old saw an old-fashioned dial phone and asked, "Mom, what's that?"

    In the year 2001 my family got cell phones for the first time as our own personal response to 911 - there was just an urge to stay more connected, to know where the kids were at all times. That year we had such trouble remembering to keep the phones charged or to even take them out the door with us. We just hadn't acculturated to the cell phone lifestyle. Now cell phones are an integral part of daily life. Probably many of you have gone through a similar learning curve.

    Experts say that within the next few years technology is fundamentally going to alter our lives as every machine we use will now be connected through wi fi with every other tool in our lives;

    Change in this society in this century is fast-paced and demanding. We spoke last night about leaving our comfort zones to reach toward our God-given potential. In this world, it is almost impossible not to leave your comfort zone when it comes to embracing technology.

    How many of you have struggled recently to learn how to use a new gadget or program? Some people have more aptitude than others in these areas but for all of us it is a challenge to keep up with the technological possibilities before us.

    On a grand societal level, too, fierce weapons of mass destruction and our nation's ability to drop a sophisticated army into a mid-eastern desert confound the human imagination.

    A question that might be on the minds of many people at this season: Does Judaism have any relevance to these modern dilemmas? Are all these holidays and prayers just sentimental trappings?

    After all, the Torah is grounded in an ancient, agricultural society when people literally worshipped by offering their first fruits and choice lambs to feed God. The Rabbis were convinced that the world was about 5,000 years old; that's how we get our dating system and that's why we are entering the year 5768 in the Jewish calendar. The Jewish people believed in a personal, transcendent God who could intervene in human history, who could answer specific personal prayers.

    So much has changed since then. The world has literally gotten bigger and more confusing even as we get more educated, or at least our concept of the world has. We now know that the earth is more than 4.5 billion years old, we know that we are not the center of the universe but rather a small inconsequential planet on the far edge of a galaxy, surrounded by vast vast empty areas of space, dotted by many other galaxies comprising millions of stars. Here on the home planet, the number of choices we have is infinite: you can be a Buddhist, a secular humanist, an atheist, an artist. You can live in Philadelphia or L.A. or on a farm in Idaho.

    So how can Torah possibly have any relevance to us? Why does Judaism matter?

    Probably the single most important question facing human kind is whether we as a human civilization will be able to grow our wisdom, our moral ability, sufficiently to match our enormous technological capability, before we have destroyed life on this planet. Will human kind be able to achieve this inner growth in wisdom and morality?

    The question is on the table and we don't yet know the answer. But we had better muster every resource we possibly can, before global warming, AIDs, human cruelty and ignorance prevail. Apparently, the technological aspects of these challenges are not the biggest challenge on the table. Hard science and social science could most likely be used to achieve solutions to problems of energy, medicine, distribution. But there is a huge obstacle to success. The real challenge is our human ability to communicate, collaborate, care and share. The real challenge has to do with our ability to be wise enough, generous enough, compassionate enough to survive.

    The great prophet Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote in his 1963 Strength to Love, "Our scientific power has outrun our spiritual power. We have guided missiles and misguided men."

    How can Judaism help turn this around? Can Judaism grow us spiritually so that we can respond to the challenges of our times?

    Torah is the saga of human beings trying to live a moral life. Torah and all the years of Jewish teaching that follow call on us to live ethical lives, to grow the inner qualities that will result in right action. Jewish community life is a structured framework for reflecting on, cultivating, developing these moral capabilities.

    Our ancestors struggled with family relationships, with political decisions, with moral dilemmas.

    When a community engages with these texts, it isn't so much the particular story that is so significant, it is the living dialogue, the contemporary quest in community to enact the values that matters. To be part of such an on-going adventure is magnificent. I'm not saying it's always easy----- you may have to get up and go out on a snowy day to be present for your minyan, you may dislike one or another member of your prayer group, you may ever feel over-worked or disappointed and you may be called to leave your comfort zone, the place where you feel most righteous.

    But where else in your life are you going to find an intense focus on ethical living? You are not going to find this in the mall, in corporations, in the academy or on the highways of this land.

    Jewish community is dedicated to supporting you in a quest for right living. We ask questions here about how to live a balanced life, how to help those in need, how to survive the ups and downs of life, how to be a mentsch. These are Jewish questions.

    Jewish community seeks to help you clarify what Paul Farmer, the Harvard-trained doctor whose life is described in Tracy Kidder's book Mountains Beyond Mountains, called AMCs. Farmer advocates action based on "AMCs," or Areas of Moral Clarity." For instance, it is right for human beings to have food and medical care. End of debate.

    Farmer would have liked Rabbi Hillel's famous saying,

    If I am not for myself, who am I?
    If I am only for myself, what am I?
    If not now, when?

    We do live in a vast universe with constantly expanding technological capability. What would happen if each of us devoted as much time, care and attention to growing our wisdom and our right action as we do to mastering new technologies? What if we stretched ourselves to new moral heights just as we are constantly stretching ourselves to new technological competence?

    Each one of us deserves a home where we will be grounded and supported in developing the human capacity to live ethically in this world. One such home, which has open doors and welcoming arms, is Jewish community. We welcome you to make a home here at Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City, not just on these holy days, but throughout the year. Whether you are a member or not-yet a member, your presence bolsters the mission to keep asking important questions, to keep growing the inner qualities within ourselves that make for a better world.

    To conclude on a lighter note, perhaps there are ways that the technological universe can actually inform our moral quest. Rabbi Michael Remson, a Reconstructionist colleague, asked an intriguing question. "If the Book of Life were a computer, how would we be talking about it?" The Book of Life is another name for Torah and it also is the image in our minds during these Holy Days --- that there is a metaphorical Book of Life open in heaven, on which our daily deeds are inscribed and we want to be sealed into this Book of Life for the New Year.

    Based on Remson's idea, here are seven suggestions for the Torah of Computers:

    1. Garbage in/Garbage out

    2. There are different kinds of memory: hard drives, disposable disks, flash drives corresponding to all the kinds of intelligence we know humans have: emotional intelligence, musical or athletic intelligence, academic intelligence, spiritual intelligence

    3. Don't forget to save the good stuff

    4. You can always over-write your mistakes

    5. Avoid virus contamination

    6. Know the real mail from the spam

    7. Remember the system's restorative powers

    May you be inscribed in the Book of Life in this New Year. May you draw deeply from the well of living Torah for inspiration. May you share your gifts to support others in the quest for ethical living. Ken Yehi Ratzon~ Let it be so.

  • Written for Sibyl Cohen on her Yahrzeit - 11/14/06
  • It's so weird when you died,
    Where did all your vibrant energy go???
    that made you so alive,
    so much fun to be with,
    patient, kind, and thoughtful,
    the world needs more people like you,

    your name has not appeared
    on the Obituary page
    of the Jewish Exponent yet,
    so your death is not real to me,
    it's as though your soul did not "pass & go",
    like on the Monopoly board game,
    in my Jewish mind,
    as the European Jews had to pass through
    Ellis Island to get to New York City,
    as my grandmother, Anna Seeger did years ago,
    So your death is still not real to me.

    by Marci Fleet

  • "REEL JEWS" premier by LHI Education Committee

    "REEL JEWS", Films with Jewish Content

    Sunday, November 11, 4 PM
    Kennedy House, 1901 JFK Blvd., 30th floor
    $2.00 charge for popcorn & soda
    For more information call 215-561-5193.

    :: 215-629-1995