The Pulse of Our Congregation October 2009

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

Sukkot Lunch at Project Home

October 2009 Activities

Rabbi's Message: Rabbi Julie Greenberg

October 16: An evening to honor the late SIBYL COHEN

Don't Miss October's Bagels & Books: "The Zookeeper's Wife"

Lunch & Learn - Fall 09 Discussions on "The Prophets"

October 4 Service at the Sukkah!

SAVE THE DATE: Sunday, Nov. 8 - NYC Day Trip to Center for Jewish History

LHI Member participates in International Criminal Court

5770 Rosh HaShanah First Day Sermon
Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City
by Rabbi Julie Greenberg


Looking Ahead

NYC Day Trip to Museum of Jewish History
Save the date: Sunday, November 8, 2009 for a day trip by Boltbus to NYC, includig a private tour of the Museum of Jewish History. See newsletter article for details and registration information.

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 and eMail Marketing:

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

L'Shana Tovah.

I write this message during the week between Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur. As President of a volunteer run Synagogue, these High Holy Days can offer challenges beyond the spiritual. The rewards are great. I thank each of you for making these days so sweet this year. This year, it has been so gratifying to receive your acknowledgment of our efforts to be an open and welcoming synagogue. The newsletter this month offers you some wonderful opportunities to deepen your involvement with us. Please feel free to extend your Holy Days by joining us for these events.

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

  • Sukkot Lunch at Project Home
  • A wonderful opportunity to celebrate Sukkot, our fall harvest festival, with those who provide shelter to the homeless. We have been invited to visit Project Home, 1515 Fairmount Avenue, on Tuesday, October 6th. Let's assemble at their cafe, for a lunch which supports this good work, at 12 noon. A presentation about Project Home will be made about 1 PM. Call our voice mail, 215-629-1995, if you can attend.

  • October 2009 Activities
  • Thursday - October 1 - 2009, 1:00 PM - 3:00 PM
    Council Meeting
    All members of Leyv Ha-Ir are invited to join us at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square.

    Saturday - October 3 - 2009, 10:00 AM
    Shabbat Morning Service
    Join us for a lay-led service back at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square, followed by a dairy/veggie potluck lunch.

    Sunday - October 4 - 2009, 1:00 PM
    Sukkot Service
    Rabbi Julie will lead a service in Sue Frank's sukkah at 2508 Pine Street.

    Tuesday - October 6 - 2009, 12:00 PM
    Visit to Project Home
    During Sukkot, we think of those without shelter. We'll have lunch at Project Home's cafe and learn about their activities.

    Friday - October 16 - 2009, 7:00 PM
    Shabbat Service - Special Speaker
    Our Kabbalat Shabbat service will be led by Rabbi Julie with the Leyv Ha-Ir choir at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square.
    In memory of our dear member, Sibyl Cohen, Rabbi Lori Lefkowitz will speak on Women in Judaism. Please note the earlier time of this service.

    Thursday - October 22 - 2009, 12:00 - 2:00 PM
    "The Prophets" Class
    Rabbi Julie will lead this "Lunch & Learn" at the Bellevue Building, 200 S. Broad, in the PREIT office. Bring your lunch; beverages provided.

    Sunday - October 25 - 2009, 11:00 AM, "Bagels & Books" Brunch
    We'll be discussing "The Zookeeper's Wife" after a delicious brunch. Enjoy an exquisitely composed, absolutely captivating true story about a gentile couple who saved 100's of Jews from Nazi extermination by harboring them as their "guests" in the Warsaw Zoo. The book is "The Zookeeper's Wife", by Diane Ackerman.

    Thursday - October 29 - 2009, 12:00 - 2:00 PM
    "The Prophets" Class
    Rabbi Julie will lead this "Lunch & Learn" at the Bellevue Building, 200 S. Broad, in the PREIT office. Bring your lunch; beverages provided.

    Friday - October 30 - 2009, 6:30 PM, Friday night home serivce & dinner
    Join us for a shortened Kabbalat Shabbat service in a congregant's home, followed by a potluck veggie/dairy meal.

    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.
  • Rabbi's Message: Rabbi Julie Greenberg
  • Dear Chevre,

    What a blessing it has been to usher in the New Year with this wonderful community. So much prayer, song, Torah, love. We're still in the midst of the fall holidays. Next in line is Sukkot, the harvest festival, which will find Jews around the world gathering under the full moon in festive harvest booths. We'll have a service in the sukkah on Sunday, Oct. 4 (details on the calendar) and a special Tikkun Olam/Repair of the World event that same week on Tuesday, Oct. 6.

    One of the themes of Sukkot is the value of shelter and the universal right to have it. We'll be meeting in the cafe run by formerly homeless residents of Project Home at 12:00 on Oct. 6, to support the cafe by buying drinks and sandwiches and at 1:00 we'll meet with a staff person who will educate us about how to respond to homelessness in Philadelphia. I am very much looking forward to this program and hope you'll join me there.

    Beyond that, we're exploring ways to deepen our practice of Jewish ritual this year. Your presence at monthly Council meetings and at the great variety of committees in the congregation is a great way to channel ideas. Also, I am interested in matching up people who want to do peer Torah study. I will provide guidance and recommendations for materials. So talk with me if you'd like to try this. What a terrific way to start a New Year.

    May this be a year of many blessings for you and for the world,

    Rabbi Julie

  • October 16: An evening to honor the late SIBYL COHEN
  • Family, friends, congregants and all others interested are invited to Kabalat Shabbat, Friday, October 16 at 7 PM, as we join together for a rich service led by Rabbi Julie Greenberg, followed by guest speaker Lori Lefkovitz, PhD, Gottesman Professor of Gender & Judaism, Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and Director of Kolot Center for Jewish Women & Gender Studies, who will present on: "Bereshit - Gender, Creation and Creativity".

    This will mark the first Sibyl Cohen Memorial Lecture. Sibyl passed away suddenly on November 1, 2006. She still is very much missed.

    Donations in Sibyl's memory can be sent to our address: Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir ~ Heart of the City, P .O. Box 15836, Philadelphia, PA 19103

  • Don't Miss October's Bagels & Books: "The Zookeeper's Wife"
  • bagels & books

    It's mesmerizing! Enjoy Bagels & Books, Sunday, October 25: 11 AM for our delicious brunch, 12 PM for book discussion. Where? Joan Goldberg's, Kennedy House, 1901 JFK Blvd., #2206. ($7, payable at the door.) Here's Margie Wiener's review:

    "The Zookeeper's Wife: A War Story", by Diane Ackerman, magically transformed me back in time within the walls of the Warsaw Zoo during WWII. It's a true story about a gentile couple whose roles as zookeepers allowed their shared appreciation for animal life & ways of adapting to devise absolutely ingenious ways to feed and protect 300 Jews from execution. Although the Nazis murdered most of their original zoo animals, the couple continued to use the Zoo to hide their human 'guests'. Despite all the horrors, this is a tale of the survival of the human spirit. Ackerman's style is poetic, insightful, at times comical, and thoroughly captivating. It's also for animal lovers. This book is available at the library, major bookstores,, etc."

  • Lunch & Learn - Fall 09 Discussions on "The Prophets"
  • Rabbi Julie Greenberg will be leading us again in a "lunch and learn" discussion. This Fall's series will be about "The Prophets".

    The Jewish prophetic tradition includes powerful and inspiring moral messages, relevant to our own society's challenges. Join us to study the wisdom of our ancestors as we engage in lively exploration of Jewish values and ethical mandates. Rabbi Julie will guide us by presenting a framework for understanding the times and the texts of our prophets. People with all levels of background are welcome.; every voice enriches the discussion.

    The schedule is as follow, all on Thursday afternoons, 12 - 2 PM: October 22, October 29, November 12, November 19. All sessions will be held at the Bellevue Building, 200 S. Broad St., 8th floor, at the offices of PREIT (Pennsylvania Real Estate Investment Trust.) This is a brown-bag event; there is NO CHARGE to attend.

  • October 4 Service at the Sukkah!
  • Come to the Sukkah on Sunday, October 4, 1 PM at 2508 Pine street. Rabbi Julie will be with us. You may want to bring a decoration for the sukkah!! Snacks, drinks, desserts are most welcome. Family and friends are invited too.

  • SAVE THE DATE: Sunday, Nov. 8 - NYC Day Trip to Center for Jewish History
  • Take advantage of a unique day trip! Is it possible for five leading Jewish institutions to display jointly the richness of Jewish heritage that spans the world and across centuries - in one location?

    YES! Come marvel at the collections of:

    1. American Jewish Historical Society
    2. YIVO Institute for Jewish Research (Ashkenazi Jewry)
    3. Leo Baeck Institute (German Jewry)
    4. American Sephardi Federation
    5. Yeshiva University Fine Arts Museum

    Our private group tour is between 11:30 - 3:30 pm (lunch break: 1 - 2:30) on Sunday, Nov. 8th. Individual tour cost? $12. The tour may be cancelled if fewer than 10 people register. However, you must reserve with payment by October 8th . This early deadline provides lead time to reserve our group bus schedule.

    Boltbus offers low cost rates. If you reserve with our group (cost @ $22), we leave Phila. 9 am & return about 6:15 pm. This roundtrip ticket to NYC is nonrefundable. Tour members, however, are free to enjoy flexibility regarding: transportation (Boltbus offers standby one way for $15); lunch (you can eat out with us or bring your own); how long you spend at the museum; and when you leave Philadelphia and return.

    Total daily expenses as outlined above will approximate $50 (including group tour, specific transportation schedule, and food). For the museum tour only, we simply require your $12 deposit (which will be refunded if tour is cancelled).

    Send a check for $12 by Oct. 22 to Myrna Schlanger, 1117 Willowdale Dr., Cherry Hill, NJ 08003. Questions? Call Myrna at 1-856-795-6956.


  • LHI Member participates in International Criminal Court
  • Enid H. Adler will be in The Hague in late November for the International Criminal Court's 8th Assembly of States Parties. She has been a continuously active participant in the NGO Coalition for the International Criminal Court (CICC) since the 1998 Treaty Conference in Rome that created this Court. Enid is a member of the CICC's team for the ongoing deliberations on the Crime of Aggression (COA), the fourth crime to come under the Court's jurisdiction once a definition and other elements will be determined. Recently, she was appointed to the American Bar Association's (ABA) Task Force for the 2010 Review Conference of the International Criminal Court, the first since the court's inception in 1998.

    Following The Hague, Enid along with David will spend Hanukkah in Lyon, France, where she is invited to attend the Barreau de Lyon's annual opening of the Bar year festivities and seminars with bar associations from other European cities. In 1997, Enid as then Chair of the International Law Committee of the Philadelphia Bar Association, and another legal colleague from Philadelphia initiated a legal exchange/twinning program between the Philadelphia Bar Association and the Lyon Bar. As in previous years, she plans to meet with the rabbi of the liberal congregation in Lyon and others.

  • 5770 Rosh HaShanah First Day Sermon
    Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City
    by Rabbi Julie Greenberg
  • Download this sermon as a Microsoft Word document


    As we celebrate the creation of the world, this Rosh HaShanah, I think of a rap song that I hear frequently on the radio. It goes Hey Young World!

    And I think of the lyrics written by a French-Israeli singer-songwriter, Yael Naim. The lyrics, which are part of an ad for a Mac computer, go:

    I'm a new soul/ I came to this strange world/ hoping I could learn a bit about how to give and take./ But since I came here, felt the joy and the fear/ finding myself making every possible mistake./ I'm a young soul/ In this very strange world

    My colleague Rabbi Yael Ridberg pointed out that these lyrics are a modern day piyyut, High Holy Day poetry.

    Young World, Young Soul

    We talk about certain people having "old souls" but actually we are a young species, not very mature. Each one of us plunks down here on earth for a fraction of eternity. We're not experienced at living a life. It's not like you get to live through a life once and then do it again better. This is what ya got.

    Life is challenging. Do you know how to use your precious time on earth in a wise way? Do you know how to soothe yourself? Inspire yourself? Comfort another? Navigate the losses and the new stages? Do you know how to make peace in the Middle East or get every child in Philadelphia a decent high school education?

    We are young, new at this work of being human. We barely know ourselves, let alone know how to interact with others. When we finally glean a bit of experience and wisdom, things change and there's a new challenge.

    As Jewish human beings, one of the ways we manage on this journey of life is by carrying stories that hold and direct us. Some of these stories are the great myths of our people:

    Jacob wrestled with his shadow side; I wrestle with my shadow side. Miriam boldly chose to lead; her courage bolsters mine; David stood up to the giant, I gain strength in facing giant challenges. Writ large in the Torah characters are all the human emotions that we grapple with: passion, jealousy, rage, ambition, love, anger, grief, fear, hope. Like those characters, we each get stuck in narrow places, our own mitzrayim and we each seek a promised land.

    Because we are people of faith, we see meaning in our lives. We express this sense of meaningfulness through stories that frame our behavior, our journeys. We live in the footprints of our Torah ancestors and especially of our personal ancestors, weaving their story lines into our own life stories. It's not just me in isolation, living a life, I am connected to a larger framework of meaning, to a chain of purposeful generations. There's comfort and wisdom in living within a bigger story.

    Members of modern society are impoverished by letting our stories slip from us. Torah study is one of the great exercises of Judaism. It's not just the old text that is relevant, it's what we do together by grappling with the text that matters. Making it our own, delving deeply and wresting meaning for our lives from it. One of my goals for this year is to support people who want to do more Torah study. If you are interested in meeting with one or more of your peers to do regular Torah study, please let me know.

    We're in sad shape when we lose access to our stories. But there's also another pitfall. What happens when the story gets rigid? When reality outgrows the story? The story is never the truth. It is a way of pointing toward the truth, of helping us access the truth, but when the story becomes an obstacle to the truth, how do we change the story?

    Our ancestors had to give up the story that they were doomed to be slaves in Egypt in order to discover freedom on the other side. Choosing stories that call us into the future is a big responsibility.

    Right now, there are two different Creation stories battling for pre-eminence in the world today; these stories affect our daily political discourse. Usually when you talk about Creation people, people think of a polarization between the scientific view and the biblical view but that's not the conflict I'm thinking of. Both sides of the poles I'm about to mention, work with scientific and biblical interpretations. The Bible is a mythic tale about how God set things in motion and evolution is true, all the evidence is there. But there are two diametrically opposed stories about the inner mechanism of all this.

    One story says that creation followed a path of survival of the fittest, with each individual and each species vying for resources and triumphing through aggressive dominance. This story sees evolution as a process that pits one against another in a competitive, zero-sum environment.

    The other story says that evolution is the unfolding of God-essence, not in the sense of a person directing things, but in the sense of momentum in this world toward greater organization, complexity, diversity, and higher consciousness. Cells work together to form organs, organs work together to form higher level, more competent creatures, high level creatures form societies. The evolution from amoeba to sentient being is one of increasing awareness and potential for co-operation, increasing ability to transcend the conditions of the environment, increasing potential to be caring, wise, interdependent. There's a long way to go; we are probably at a very early stage of evolution. We are a young species and yet, the story that frames our existence matters.

    In the debates about health care raging in the news, these two stories of creation are vying one with the other. Is this a dog eat dog world where undocumented immigrants don't deserve health care and neither does anyone else who can't afford it? Or is this a story of inclusiveness and humanity in which our most generous instincts flourish and we are all in this together? What story do we choose?

    Judaism empowers us to choose our stories and to evolve our stories. We are not passive recipients of a static past, but rather active co-creators of the unfolding story. We need the flexibility to renew our stories. I

    have an indestructible pet hermit crab. This hermit crab sheds its exo-skeleton every now and then and it also moves from shell to shell, finding new shells that suit it for a season. This ability to grow into a new self is impressive. Think what would happen if the poor creature were trapped in its original skin? We also don't want to be trapped in our stories. Judaism is brilliant at giving us tools for growing into new selves, new stories.

    The best tool we have is Midrash interpretation or story-making about stories. Typically, the Rabbis would start out with a Torah story and then tease out new meaning from questions they had about the story, or by reading between the lines, or by exploring a contradiction in the story.

    On this day of creation, of new possibility, let's look at what we do to resist a new story. What do we gain and what do we lose from giving up a comfortable story? What are the choices for re-working the story? Where do we go with our big stories?

    We each have stories in our personal lives that could use some refreshing midrash. I cannot tell you how many people in their elder years, talk to me about resisting using a walker or a cane. Their story is, "I'm an able bodied person in the prime of health." That's a wonderful story to carry as long as it works. But the day might come when this proud story, and your increasingly wobbly body are on a collision course. Reality sometimes outgrows the story. A shift in the story might be "and a cane or walker will keep me independent and mobile." As long as the old story is hardening your heart, you aren't able to see past it to the truth that using a walker might be the sanest, most life- affirming choice.

    Other personal stories have to do with the quotient of joy you think you deserve in this world, or with how competent you think you are or aren't. Sometimes our biggest wake up calls come when our own personally-held story crashes into reality. "I am a happily married person in a long-term, stable relationship," until there is an affair and then the story needs to grow to hold the reality, "I am a struggling partner, in relationship, working this out." A huge part of our distress when things don't go the way we wish they would, is the humiliation and shame in the face of our broken story.

    Sometimes a broken story is liberating. I read a story quoted in a book by Jon Cabot-Zinn. A bunch of families vacationed on a lake all summer. The fathers would go to work and the Moms and kids would hang out at the lake. The author remembered that when he was around 9 years old, the lakeside community built a little tool shed near the lake. For some reason, he and his buddies decided to smash this little hut to pieces. They took shovels and axes and destroyed the hut.

    Well of course their vandalism was discovered and they were hauled in to wait for their fathers to return from work. As each father pulled up in his car, the son was ratted out and the fathers would strip off their belts, enraged, and beat their child. Our author waited in terror for his turn. When his father arrived, the father heard what had been done to the hut. In silence he got back into his car and drove away. Several hours passed. Finally he returned with lumber and everything he needed to re-build the hut. The author wrote "That day, I learned that I could trust my father."

    That Dad re-wrote the story of what it means to be a father.

    The stories of the Jewish people also need to evolve and flex. I'm going to look at two places where we could really use a creative new story.

    In the Middle Ages, Jews were treated as second-class citizens, persecuted, expelled, banned, insulted. We developed a wonderful survival story that said, "Well we may live in a ghetto but really we are superior; we are God's chosen people and those filthy goyim, gentiles, don't know anything." This chauvinism found a place in many of our texts. Today it looks like Jewish xenophobia, Jewish prejudice against non-Jews.

    Today, when we live integrated into society where we intermingle, love and learn in an atmosphere of mutual respect, that old story of Jewish superiority and chosen-ness is long past relevant.

    The founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, Dr. Mordecai Kaplan, was so appalled by the numerous claims of chosenness that he excised sentences that expressed that concept from the prayers. That's why in this congregation when people are called up to the Torah for an aliyah, we chant the aliyah prayer using alternative language. We leave out the sentence Asher bahar banu mi kol ha-amim and instead thank God for bringing us close to God's service. (We welcome you to use whatever language you prefer when you come up to the Torah.)

    {As a parentheses: We are here in the Ethical Society building. The Ethical Society was founded by Felix Adler who lived at the same time as Mordecai Kaplan. Felix Adler said he couldn't continue to be Jewish because he couldn't abide by the sentence we say when we lift the Torah "V'zot HaTorah asher sam Moshe lifnay b'nay Yisrael al pee Adonai b'yad Moshe." Here is the Torah that was given to Moses before the people of Israel, by the Word of God and the Hand of Moses."

    Felix Adler left Judaism and founded the Ethical Society over this sentence. When Mordecai Kaplan heard the story, he said, "Why didn't he just change the words?"}

    But we still have work to do in our communities to invite non-Jews into our story, to fully share our beautiful heritage with anyone who is drawn to it. Our old story of chosen-ness persists, encrusting us in a defensive posture that can make our communities un-welcoming to the thousands of people from interfaith backgrounds or in interfaith families who are seeking homes. We need to look back to ancestors such as Abraham and Sarah and Moses and Zipporah who found ways to nurture Judaism even in multi-faith families.

    Here is a second place where we are so ready to help birth a new story. Our people is still emerging from the trauma of near-extinction in the last century, a time of horrific tragedy and human suffering. We will never forget the grief of that onslaught; the holocaust is seared in our memories with scars that will never be erased.

    From that experience and from other historical experiences of our people, we crafted a story that says we are a small, weak and vulnerable minority but we will never again be hurt. Where can we open that story and keep it alive, fresh, developing?

    Given that we definitely have to be vigilant to make sure Jews are safe and able to thrive, is this exclusive story of endangerment still serving us well? Is it helping us live as an ethical, peace-making people? We sometimes seem to be carrying a story that recognizes only two possibilities: victim or aggressor. This is not a story that supports us in the responsible wielding of power. As citizens of the richest, strongest nation on earth, a nation on which Israel, for instance, is significantly dependent, our Jewish positions have clout. We have power to influence our institutions and our representatives about matters that concern peace in the holy land of Israel. We are the Jewish vote. But we may be locked in a story rooted in fear. Let's not diminish our dreams to the size of our terror.

    We need a new, bigger story that empowers us to protect our people AND listen to the needs and interests of the other actors in the story. This fall, I am proud to say, Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City will join with the Ethical Society in sponsoring a Jewish Dialogue Group, facilitated by experienced leaders. People will have a chance to listen and to be heard talking about difficult issues relating to peace in the Middle East.

    We need midrash on the story of the "other" in our tradition. Let's hear stories from the point of view of Hagar, the Egyptian woman who was cast out by our ancestor Sarah. Let's hear stories from the point of view of Esau. Our tradition gives us a process, midrash, for telling the story that is between the lines, for growing the story to meet the needs of the times. Elu v elu divray elohim chayyim, These and these are the words of the living God.

    In this New Year, there are personal stories and political stories that we have outgrown. What stories are you ready to reinterpret, reconstruct for this New Year? What are your old stories and what are your emerging stories? What stories do you need to grow with and grow into? When you were a child you probably had a favorite story. As you grow up how does that story change? I can tell you one thing, the story beckoning you is always bigger than you think it could be. The new story grows you into it; it stretches you into new realms. You shape it and it shapes you.

    Hey Young World, Hey Young Soul, on this day of Rosh HaShanah we celebrate HaYom Harat HaOlam - on this day the world was created. We celebrate creation, development, evolution. We pledge to grow into beautiful creatures, full of potential, created in God's image. We are young, very young, but we are growing ourselves up. There is no better place to do this growing than in community, for instance here in Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City, infused with ethical discussion, many helping hands and the evolving stories that enrich our lives. We welcome you anytime to grow your story with us. Welcome to our New Year, 5770. Welcome to the next chapter of our joint adventure. I'm glad we're in the same story. Shana Tova.

    :: 215-629-1995