The Pulse of Our Congregation November 2008

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

Chesed Committee Revival

November 2008 Activities

Message from Rabbi Julie

Exploring Judiasm Class - Come learn with us!

Todah Raba (Great Thanks)

Ways to Save Money

Shakin' Sukkot at Leyv Ha-Ir

Rosh HaShana 5769 Sermon by Rabbi Julie Greenberg


Looking Ahead

Sunday, Dec. 7th
11 AM-1 PM. "Bagels and Books" A portion of her own book, "War on the Margins", read by Libby Cone, author.

Monday, Dec. 8th
Noon, "Bible Stories for Grown-Ups" with Rabbi Julie. Bellevue, 8th floor

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.

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Hi Friends,

This letter is the first time I've been able to talk with you all since the High Holidays. I am so grateful that we are able to worship together as a sacred community. The energy you bring to our little synagogue is tremendous.

One of the questions I ask when I feel down is what if these are the good old days? What if memories of these relationships are what will sustain me in the future? How then do I change my orientation to the present? What do I need to do?

We are in a constant state of change, as individuals, as a country, as a world, and even as a little synagogue. It is not our choice whether to change, but how to change.

I have been thinking about the D'var Torah offered by our friend Pat Wisch in which she interpreted one of my favorite verses of Torah:

"It is not in the heavens, that you should say, who will go up and get it so we can see it. Neither is it beyond the sea, that you will say who will cross the sea to get it for us. No the thing is very close to you, in your mouth and in your heart for you to observe it."

Pat interpreted that piece of Torah to say that there is no such thing as I can't -- only I won't. She challenged us to have a vision for ourselves and our lives.

I think that is good Torah to start the year off,

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

  • Chesed Committee Revival
  • We have a new chairperson for our Chesed (Caring) Committee. Pat Wisch is a gifted therapist with a background in social work. In her "retirement" years, she travels to troubled spots such as New Orleans after hurricane Katrina, to listen and to support people in need. She is now renewing the congregation's Chesed Committee.

    At the Heart of the City, the Leyv Ha-Ir Chesed Committee reaches out to those in need. Maybe it's a comforting shoulder, a ride, a pot of soup, some advice or a Shabbat invitation...the Chesed Committee organizes, coordinates and provides help when possible. If you have resources or skills to offer, please connect with Pat at

    Rabbi Julie will also be offering support to this essential committee.

  • November 2008 Activities
  • Sat - Nov 01 - 2008, 10:00 AM
    Shabbat Morning Service
    Our service, Torah discussion and pot-luck lunch will take place at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square.

    Thu - Nov 06 - 2008, 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
    Council Meeting
    At the Ethical Society

    Fri - Nov 07 - 2008, 7:30 PM
    Kabbalat Shabbat Service
    Join us as we welcome the Sabbath Bride, with Rabbi Julie Greenberg. Rabbi will speak about interfaith matters.

    Mon - Nov 10 - 2008, 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
    "Lunch & Learn" with Rabbi Julie
    "Bible Stories for Grown-ups" with Rabbi Julie Greenberg, who will discuss "Judah and Tamar", an intriguing story. At the Bellevue, Broad & Walnut Streets, 8th floor. Reservations are a MUST - call 215-629-1995. Lunch provided.

    Sun - Nov 16 - 2008, 1:00 AM
    "Bagels & Books"
    Discussion and brunch at Joanne's, 1901 Walnut Street, 16F. Cost is $7. Call 215-629-1995 for more details.

    Fri - Nov 21 - 2008, 7:00 PM
    Shabbat home services and pot-luck dinner. Rabbi Julie will weave one of her wonderful stories. We'll be at Beverly's home, #1209, 1900 JFK Blvd. Contact Beverly at 215-557-3777 or to let her know what you're bringing for the veggie/dairy potluck.

    Mon - Nov 24 - 2008, 12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
    "Lunch & Learn" with Rabbi Julie
    "Bible Stories for Grown-ups" with Rabbi Julie Greenberg continues. Rabbi Julie will discuss "Jeptha's Daughter", a story of loyalty and sacrifice in war time. At the Bellevue, Broad & Walnut Streets, 8th Floor. Reservations are a MUST - call 215-629-1995. Lunch provided.

    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.
  • Message from Rabbi Julie
  • Dear Chevre,

    At this time of financial distress and uncertainty, let's remember all the many blessings in life that are free. A small sample: love, friendship, nature, music, prayer, ideas, stretching, laughter, learning,meditation, silence, sleep, good deeds......what would you add to this list? Our sages taught that we should each offer 100 prayers of gratitude a day. Especially during hard times, what a great way to focus on what is amazing in our lives.

    With love and blessings,
    Rabbi Julie

    Read more from Rabbi Julie
  • Exploring Judiasm Class - Come learn with us!
  • Interested in learning more about Judaism?

    Are you curious about Jewish holidays, values, theology or customs?

    Do you wonder about the meaning of mitzvot or tzedakah or shabbat?

    Interested in renewing connection to Judaism?

    Interested in possible conversion to Judaism?

    Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City is offering a program called Exploring Judaism, in partnership with our sister Reconstructionist Jewish congregation Beth Israel. Weekly classes are held Wednesday nights at 7:30 in Media, Pa, with Rabbi Helen Plotkin. It's not too late to join.

    Once a month the group will also meet locally with Rabbi Julie Greenberg. We are looking for a volunteer co-ordinator to help arrange carpools. To register, please sign up with BOTH places by calling 610-368-4065 AND 215-629-1995. We're excited about this year-long, in-depth exploration of Jewish history, values, holidays and wisdom.

  • Todah Raba (Great Thanks)
  • Thank you for the outpouring of generosity to Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City during our recent holy days. Special thanks to those of you who have taken the big step of becoming members. It is energy, ideas and funding from many, many people that sustain this community into its future. For those of you who schlepped chairs and prayer books to those of you who prepared D'var Torahs (Torah Talks) and to those who wrote checks and to those who served challah, apples and honey...we all make this happen together. Thanks for doing your part to grow Jewish community.

  • Ways to Save Money
  • A well-informed car buyer is a car salesman's worst nightmare. Visit, created by a former car salesman turned consumer advocate. His knowledge is invaluable.

    Hope you don't have large or complicated medical bills. If you do, there is help available to assist you with them;, Alliance of Claims Assistance Professionals and, Medical Billing Advocates of America.

    Want a free copy of your credit report? Go to And if you want your FICO score as well, you can get it at (through the link above) for less than $6.00.

  • Shakin' Sukkot at Leyv Ha-Ir
  • Our Sukkot Service, held on the balcony of a Center City apartment. There were about 20 attendees, all anxious to shake the lulav and estrog.

  • Rosh HaShana 5769 Sermon by Rabbi Julie Greenberg
  • I'd like to share a midrash, a story about a Torah story.

    After the first day of creation, the angels clustered around God and asked "Is it finished? Is it finished?"

    There was a second and third and fourth and fifth day of creation. The earth and the heavens, the light and the dark, the plants and the growing things and each of the animals were created.

    After each day, the angels continued to ask, "Is it finished? Is it finished?"

    On the sixth day, God created human beings.

    "Is it finished? Is it finished?"

    "Ask my partners, " God said.

    The idea that humans are partners with God in the work of creation is a powerful theological underpinning to the outpouring of creativity in our lives: some of us physically create new lives (parents often marvel to me, looking at their child, "It's such a miracle that we created this other person"), some of us create human beings by raising up children or students, some of us create community here in this shul and in so many other contexts, some of us create jobs, homes, funding, healing, knowledge, enjoyment, art, friendship. The other side of this partnership is that God partners with us: that God is with us as we work, learn, love and live our lives.

    This particular season in this country, our holy work of God-partnering involves engaging with a major election. We are approaching the time for a huge choice about the future of this country. It is our own secular Yom HaDin. Yom Kippur is called Yom HaDin, Day of Judgement. This year in this nation many of us will be called to stand on our conscience alone in the voting booth but in good company with millions of other Americans.

    What does it mean to vote as a Jew? What does Judaism have to do with citizenship? Can Judaism inform your voting choices?

    Historically, Jewish voting participation in this country has been among the highest of all ethnic groups. Jews make up only 2% of the American population but account for more than 2% of voters. There is an entire literature on Jewish political thought and behavior that seeks to understand Jewish voting. One idea, discussed by Steven Windmueller, about why Jews participate at such a high rate, is that Jews over the centuries have been the victims of political systems and therefore have learned to influence political and social ideas.

    Post World War II, two issues have been considered core Jewish issues: support for Israel and separation of church and state. These days there is less agreement within the Jewish world around these issues. There is diversity of opinion about how best to support Israel - for instance, focusing on short term security or focusing on justice and peace that could lead to long-term security? Less and less is there a Jewish party line about the one and only right American policy toward Israel, even among strong supporters of Israel.

    There is also less agreement about separation of church and state. The Orthodox Jewish world has particularly shifted toward supporting school vouchers for day school.

    Jewish voters have overwhelmingly supported platforms that protect the most needy and marginal members of society. This pattern has held true even as the collective level of Jewish economic privilege has gone up and up. Typically the more wealthy voters are, the less they vote to share that wealth with those in need. The Jewish pattern has been notably different, especially on the national level.

    Some analysts say that this is because of our biblical prophetic roots where we repeatedly learn to take care of the orphan and the widow and to leave the corners of the field to feed those in need; others say it could be because our own recent ancestors were immigrant workers and in voting we remember from whence we came.

    Why people vote the way they vote, is incredibly complex and hard to untangle. But let's move deeper into questioning what Judaism has to offer as you prepare to vote. Let's look at some possible motivations for deciding how to vote.


    Preference, which can sometimes be the same as your interests


    Identity politics comes from the natural human tendency to bond with people who look and act like you. I'm sure many of us have walked into a room and counted how many Jews are there. Or looked at an office list and noted the Jewish names. At a highschool awards ceremony, the only two Jewish kids in the class won just about every award. Afterwards, the Dad of one of those students turned to the parent of the other and said, "The Jews did very well today."

    It's human instinct to connect with your own. On an emotional level there's nothing wrong with that. In fact those emotional ties become building blocks for society. But as a motivation for voting, identity politics is problematic.

    Identity politics says, "I'm black, I'll vote for a black person." "I'm a woman, I'll vote for a woman," "I'm Jewish, I'll vote for a Jew." Identity politics divides human beings into "us" and "them." Us is like me, and them is not like me. Us deserves good things and them doesn't. Like many of you, I personally feel insulted when a candidate assumes I will vote a certain way because of my skin color or gender or religion.

    Examples of identity politics, include the hockey Mom image playing out on both sides of this election. Really whether or not you are a hockey Mama says nothing at all about your view on the war in Iraq, the bailout of Wall St. or universal healthcare. Similarly, just because you know I am Jewish, you don't have any information about whether I prefer to have U.S. foreign aid devoted to the Israeli military for self-defense or rather to economic development that would bring Arabs and Jews into co-operative projects.

    Identity politics is the basis for other inappropriate political comments: We have heard "those thinkers in Washington", we've heard Ivy League bashing we've heard about people who cling to their religion in small towns. All of these are stereotypes that should not fuel decisions about how to vote.

    Besides identity, a second motivation for voting is preference. My preference is often, but not always, based on self-interest. Preference politics allow me to express what I want and it's an important basis for democracy. Preference politics sometimes lead to interesting coalitions. Very diverse groups can share the same interest or preference. For instance, right wing evangelicals and Jews banding together to defend Israel.

    A third possible motivation for voting is values. What Jewish values might inform Jewish votes? Daniel Elazar identifies two core Jewish values that form the basis for democracy:

    * We are all created equal by God in God's image. This is not to say that we are equal in intelligence or in mental health or in talent but we are all equally worthy and equally deserve to fulfill our potential.

    * Love your neighbor as yourself - - - v'ahvatah re-eycha camocha. Our religion inspires us to take into account people beyond our own small kinship circle. The very concept of "beyond" has developed through the generations in Judaism to include more and more people.

    It's not easy to move from a broad value to a policy position yet the focus of our attention is more morally inclusive when we do so. Wrestling with translating values into politics definitely lifts us above identity and preference politics. Values based decision-making keeps asking questions such as "What is best for the common good? How can we ensure that everyone has the basic necessities for dignified human life? If I were looking at this situation through God's eyes, how would I vote?"

    Plenty of pundits, pollsters and politicians are talking with you at this time about the current events of this unfolding election. On this Holy Day I want to hone in on the spirituality of the election. The High Holy Days are about inner work. What is the internal cheshbon ha-nefesh, accounting of the soul,that needs to happen in relation to this election?

    One spiritual task is for each of us to seek the root motivation of our voting decisions and to vote as a citizen not as a partisan, to think well about the whole, including the ones who are less fortunate. The spiritual challenge is to rise beyond identity and personal preference and to aspire to the higher ideals of our values.

    Another spiritual task is to help heal the great political divides in this country, especially between Red and Blue, by treating all people, no matter what their opinions and beliefs, with human respect.

    Rural America, middle America, small-town America, working class America are enraged by the condescension, judgment, smugness and arrogance of big city intellectuals.

    When we look inside do we have some work to do to clean up that elitism? People don't have to agree with each other on the issues but we are wounding each other's souls to be so contemptuous of different life styles, education levels, and concerns. It's so easy to dismiss people with whom we disagree as stupid and uncaring. I mind when other people dehumanize me but I have to ask am I doing the same to them?

    You might ask, "But what if those people aren't asking themselves the same questions? What if they don't care about my concerns?" That doesn't matter. You can only do your own inner work. You can't develop someone else's morality, only your own. It's the same as in any relationship: you can't write the script for the other person, the only self you can grow is your own. These Holy Days are about each one of us clearing out whatever keeps us from being our best selves.

    The Book of Life is open, ready for us to inscribe our names into it. As partners with God we are called to use our best judgment in choosing life: life for ourselves, our loved ones, life for our neighbors and for children in Africa, life for the planet.

    May these Holy Days give each of us the time for re-directing our focus, like the pointer on a compass, towards the values that matter.

    May you be inscribed in this Book of Life for a New Year of hope, of sharing and of growing into the best of our humanity. Shana Tovah.

    Read more sermons by Rabbi Julie
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