The Pulse of Our Congregation November 2010

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

New Noon Educational Program

November 2010 Activities

Rabbi's Message: Rabbi Julie Greenberg

Annual Sukkot Celebration

Get a Taste of Limmud with Rabbi Julie

Tikkun Olam / Repair of the World - You Can Make a Difference Here

Movie Night! Woody Allen to Ben Stiller: Interfaith Relationships Portrayed in Film

Discounted Parking for Events at the Ethical Society

Prelude to Yom Kippur Appeal

Countdown to Super Sunday - January 30, 2011

5771 Rosh HaShanah Day Sermon - Jewish and Global


Looking Ahead

Mark your Calendars Now!

The Jewish Reconstructionist Federation is holding its convention in Newport Beach, CA in November 2010. If interested, please visit:

Chanukah celebration Friday, Dec. 3rd, 7:30 PM at Ethical Society

2 Shabbatons will replace our Bi/annual Retreat. They are January 29 and May 22, 2011. Both at beautiful Chamounix Mansion in Fairmount Park. Details to follow.

Find us on Facebook

Be sure to join and visit Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City's Facebook group.p

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 Sue Frank, at, if you'd like to have an acknowledgement card sent.

Thank you.

More Connection to the Heart of the City

One way to stay in touch with the daily workings of Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City is sign on to our listserv. The listserv is a way to share thoughts, concerns, ideas and events of interest to this congregation. In addition, the Rabbi frequently writes brief messages with uplifting tidbits of Jewish insight.

To join the listserv, send your first and last name and e-mail address to Sharon Cooper at Please use the listserv in a respectful way, posting short messages that are likely to be of general interest. We hope you join this internal conversation at the Heart of the City.

Call 215-629-1995 for more information.

Newsletter Design and eMail Marketing:

Ilene Hass
Creative Solutions
for Business Marketing

Dear Friends,

I became President of Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City in November 2005. It has been a good five years for the congregation and for me. Thank you for all of your love and support during this time. I have been grateful for the opportunity to carry forward the vision of our founding members; and to work with Rabbi Julie Greenberg and make this community a safe place to be Jewish in Philadelphia. Our signature value is a willingness to sit with and hear the other person's sincerely held beliefs. We also value Synagogue as a shame-free experience. I am continually delighted when new people visit us during the High Holidays and find our worship style meaningful. We are grateful for the one time visitor and the lifelong member. This moment is fleeting. I'm glad we have spent it together.

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

  • New Noon Educational Program
  • Join Rabbi Julie and our community for a fascinating exploration of "Revelations About Jewish Identity". We will take a Reconstructionist, historical approach to illuminate the meaning of Jewish identity and inclusion in different historical periods.

    What did it mean to belong in Biblical times?
    What did it mean to belong in medieval times?
    How does this heritage affect our decisions about membership, dues, communal responsibility and more, today?

    Informed by our past, we'll be wrestling with essential questions for Judaism's future. Rabbi Julie guides participants through text study and engaging discussion. She warmly welcomes you.

    Held November 1, 8, 15 at noon at the Bellevue Building, 200 S. Broad St., 8th Floor, PREIT office. Coffee, dessert will be provided. Feel free to bring your lunch. THE SPACE IS NOW FILLED; CALL OUR VOICE MAIL, 215-629-1995, TO BE PUT ON A "WAIT LIST"

    ~The Education Committee ~

  • November 2010 Activities
  • Monday, November 1, 2010, 12:00 PM - 1:00PM
    Jewish Identity Class with Rabbi Julie
    Class is now filled. Call our voicemail, 215-629-1995, to be put on "wait list."

    Friday, November 5, 2010, 7:30 PM
    Kabbalat Shabbat Service Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square
    A lovely Friday-night service will be led by Rabbi Julie and the Leyv Ha-Ir Choir. We'll be joined by members of an Interfaith group. In memory of our past member, the Annual Sibyl Cohen Commemorative Lecture will present guest speaker, Cassandra Good, PhD candidate in American History, University of Pennsylvania, who will discuss "Rebecca Gratz, A Jewish Woman in a Christian World".

    Saturday, November 6, 2010, 10:00 AM
    Shabbat Morning Service and Luncheon
    Come join our lay-led service and Torah discussion at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Sq. Stay and shmooze at our veggie/dairy pot-luck lunch.

    Saturday, November 6, 2010, 7:30 PM
    Join the Leyv Ha-Ir group in viewing THE KLEZMATICS: ON HOLY GROUND at the Gershman Y. Call Myrna Schlanger at 856-795-6956 for more details.

    Monday, November 8, 2010, 7:00 PM
    Council Meeting
    We'll be meeting at a member's home. All members are invited.

    Monday, November 8, 2010, 12:00 PM - 1:00PM
    Jewish Identity Class with Rabbi Julie
    Class is now filled. Call our voicemail, 215-629-1995, to be put on "wait list."

    Monday, November 15, 2010, 12:00 PM - 1:00PM
    Jewish Identity Class with Rabbi Julie
    Class is now filled. Call our voicemail, 215-629-1995, to be put on "wait list."

    Friday, November 19, 2010, 7:30 PM
    Friday Night Service/Dinner
    Join us for a 45-minute lay-led service followed by a yummy pot-luck dinner at a congregant's home.

    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,

    Have you ever wondered how we know what part of the Torah to read on a given day? The Torah was divided in ancient times into 54 "portions," each one also known as "the parsha" or "sidra," corresponding to the weeks of the Hebrew calendar. Special additional readings are attached to holidays.

    Each week around the world Jewish communities read more or less the same portion. Some communities divide the portion into three parts, reading one third of it each year and completing the entire Torah in a three year cycle. Reading the entire Torah in one year is called an Annual Cycle; reading the entire Torah over three years is called the Triennial Cycle.

    Torah portions take their names from the first words in the text that are unique to that text. Many prayers in Judaism are also named after their first word. Thus "Breisheet" is the first word in the Torah and it is the name of the first Torah portion. "Barchu" is the first word in the Barchu prayer and the prayer is called by that word.

    In biblical times the whole population of Israel was supposed to come together once every seven years in a "kahel" or large gathering, to hear the Torah. The portion read was Kedoshim, which says "You shall be holy." The Rabbis asked, "Why is this Torah portion so important? It doesn't even include instructions on Shabbat or Kashrut (keeping kosher.)" They answered themselves by deciding that "You shall be holy," encompasses all other aspects of living. They said that one sentence was the essence of the Torah.

    Next time you listen to Torah, see if you can hear that message about living in a holy way resounding through the stories, laws, and rituals of the Torah. In the end, that's the point of it all.

    Rabbi Julie

  • Annual Sukkot Celebration
  • Fifteen Leyv Ha-Ir members and friends gathered in a member's backyard to celebrate Sukkot. Roby Jacobs and Rabbi Julie co-led the service. Thank you, Sue Frank, for opening your beautiful home for this occasion.

  • Get a Taste of Limmud with Rabbi Julie
  • Limmud Philly

    Sunday, November 7 is the Global Day of Jewish Learning. I'm so glad that our own Rabbi Julie Greenberg will be presenting at a Taste of Limmud that day.

    Here are the details:
    At Penn Hillel, 215 S. 39th Street, Philadelphia
    Time: Noon - 2PM

    Noon - 1PM
    Rabbi Julie Greenberg will present "Multiracial Jewish Families/ Multiracial Jewish Communities"

    Rabbi Julie Greenberg, who serves Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City in center city Philadelphia, is part of a multiracial Jewish family and is a Board member of the Jewish Multiracial Network. She is interested in helping open the Jewish community's vision to its full diversity. Come learn about the amazing racial and ethnic range of Jewish families and communities and share your stories, questions, strategies. More info about Rabbi Julie is available at

    1 - 2 PM
    Melvin Metelits will present "Beyond Intellect: The Sacred Work of Transformation. An interactive exploration of the limits of rationality through Torah and Kabbalah".

    Maggid Melvin Metelits is a local Torah teacher and teller of sacred stories.

    More information about LimmudPhilly is available at I hope to see you there!

    Bobbi Cohen

  • Tikkun Olam / Repair of the World - You Can Make a Difference Here
  • Our Tikkun Olam / Repair of the World committee is seeking volunteers who would like to join together to tutor children being served by the People's Emergency Center (PEC). The children face poverty, homelessness and educational challenge.

    Once a week this group will meet with their students. Group members will support each other in reaching out to meet those in need. I plan to orient our tutors with helpful ideas for working effectively with the children. If you'd like to join this group, please be in touch with me.

    Rabbi Julie

  • Movie Night! Woody Allen to Ben Stiller: Interfaith Relationships Portrayed in Film
  • Free Movie Night at the Hiway! Thursday, November 4th, 7PM InterFaithways invites YOU to join us for an evening of wine, conversation and great film! This year, the Fourth Annual InterFaithways Family Shabbat Weekend is bigger than ever with one full week of welcoming programming at over 50 congregations in the area from November 5 - 14, 2010 AND our opening event: "Woody Allen to Ben Stiller: Interfaith Relationships Portrayed in Film."

    The evening will feature a wine and cheese reception, followed by the film montage of specially edited clips from dramas and comedies portraying scenes with interfaith couples.

    Local screenwriter and film professor David J. Greenberg will moderate a panel of local rabbis and interfaith couples who will discuss their reactions to the film.

    When: November 4th, 2010, 7:00 PM
    Location: Hiway Theatre, 212 Old York Road, Jenkintown, PA

  • Discounted Parking for Events at the Ethical Society
  • EZ Park, located at 2101 Chestnut Street in the River West Condo Garage (covered), has offered Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir discounted parking.

    The cost is $6, weekdays after 5PM; Weekends all day for $6. All tickets must be stamped with an Ethical Society Stamp, available at the check-in desk in the Ethical Society lobby.

  • Prelude to Yom Kippur Appeal
  • I received a few requests for copies of my Yiddish pre-appeal speech from Yom Kippur. I didn't write it - I "adapted" it. If you want a translation, ask your Bubby or Zeda. ~ Karen Zeitz

    Prelude to Yom Kippur appeal speech.

    Since it's Yom Kippur, and I'm from S. Philly, I need to get something off my chest. There may be those among you who support including another language as our national language. I for one, am dead set against it! We should preserve the sanctity of the English language.

    To all the shlemiels, nebbishes, nudniks, klutzes, shlubs, shmoes, and nogoodniks that are lurking out there in the crowd, I just wanted to say that I for one, get sentimental when I think about English and it's place in our society. To tell the truth, it makes me fit to plotz. This whole schemer gets me farklempt. When I hear these mavens kvetching about our national language. What chutzpah!

    These shmegeges can tout their schlock about the cultural and linguistic diversity of our country and of English itself, but I, for one, am not buying their shtick. It's all so much bubbemeinstes as far as I'm concerned. I exhort you to be menschen about this and stand up to their fardrayte arguments and mehuggnah farshtunkene assertions. It wouldn't be kosher to do anything else. Remember, when all is said and done, we have English, and they have bubkas!

    This whole myseh is a pain in the tuchas! (last line omitted for decorum on Yom Kippur).

    Karen Zeitz contributed this fragment from her family's dinnerware to our new ark!

  • Countdown to Super Sunday - January 30, 2011
  • One People. One Community. One Campaign. On January 30, 2011, Federation will once again bring together the Greater Philadelphia Jewish community at Jack M. Barrack Hebrew Academy on the Schwartz Campus of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia in Bryn Mawr from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. to make and take calls that raise vital funds for Federation's Annual Campaign - the largest local campaign providing critical funds to Jews in need here in our community, and in Israel and the Former Soviet Union.

    Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir is asking our members to join with Super Sunday 2011. It is a unique experience: a full day of philanthropy and fun for the everyone, including LimmudPhilly learning sessions. For more information, visit or call the Super Sunday hotline - 215.832.0630.

  • 5771 Rosh HaShanah Day Sermon - Jewish and Global
  • 5771 Rosh HaShanah Day Sermon by Rabbi Julie Greenberg

    Jewish and Global

    How many of you make it a habit when you're traveling to try to visit a local synagogue? Let's hear some of the places we have collectively been.

    One of the major issues facing the Jewish people today is how to engage our particular Jewish selves with the global issues of the day. We are human beings on a planet that is suffering, we share in humanity's plight. Especially young adult Jews are demanding a Judaism that is relevant, open, and connected to universal issues of the day. Studies of non-Orthodox young adult Jews in the United States show that these folks are not interested in synagogues or even in any Jewish life that won't permit discussion of all people's human rights, of the need for peace for all people. I am intimately connected to this generation in the form of my own three young adult children and their friends. My heart aches for the Jewish world to rise to the challenge of these young people: bring Judaism into engagement with the needs of the world.

    With these issues on my mind, I recently took my family to Guatemala, the birthland of a couple of my kids. In a very small way I began to forge some exciting connections between Judaism as a resource and Guatemalan projects that are making a difference there. This was the first time back to the birthland for my two children who were born there. It was my fourth visit.

    As you can imagine, this was an emotionally intense experience for each family member. My oldest son Raffi who is a student at Yale, spent 7 weeks there learning Spanish and studying the history of the 36 year civil war. At the end of his time, he wrote a moving reflection about how adopting people from Guatemala was not simply a one-way street, it also meant that we will have a lifelong connection to and responsibility towards Guatemala. The issue of how to be a Jewishly alive family in active relationship with a mostly Christian central American country danced before us.

    For Joey, my 14 year old, and for the rest of us, spending time with his foster mother was very important. I'll tell you the story of this wonderful foster mother. Close to 14 years ago, when I first went to Guatemala to meet my baby, the adoption liaison picked me up at the airport and drove me directly to Joey's foster family. Yoli, the foster mother lives in San Cristobal, about half an hour outside of Guatemala city, in what we would consider a poor neighborhood but there it is considered middle class. Electricity and running water for only some hours of the day, very small amount of space in the home, no toilet.

    When I got to the front door of this foster home, I looked up and saw the Shema written in Hebrew letters on the lintel. Shema Yisrael Adonai Elohaynu, Adonai Ehad. This was in a city of two million Christians. Shocked, I asked my liaison/interpreter, "Why is that there?" "

    Oh, " he said, "They are a Jewish family." When I went inside, Hebrew prayers were hand-painted all over the walls of the home. It turned out that this was a family of Converso Jews who went all the way back to Spain. After the expulsion from Spain in 1492 these Sefardic Jews migrated via Turkey to Central America. For 400 years they lived basically underground as hidden Jews. Just in this generation they have all come out and are proudly Jewish.

    The foster mother had a 26 year-old son, Abdi, who was on the verge of making aliyah to Israel. He was passionate about Judaism. He and I bonded and we've stayed in close touch over these 14 years. He lives in Israel, is more or less fluent in Hebrew, Spanish and English. Our politics are somewhat different as he is a rabid Arab hater but we've managed to be good friends in spite of that.

    This young man, Joey's foster brother named Abdi, introduced me to the main synagogue in Guatemala city. It is surrounded by high walls, barbed wire and armed guards. You need to submit a passport a week in advance to gain admittance. They practice an orthodox style Judaism that does not recognize me as a Rabbi. This congregation deserves credit for keeping Jewish traditions alive against all odds. At first I thought this incredible security was entirely due to fears of attack. But many people informed me otherwise.

    They said it's a class issue. The Converso Jewish community had huge economic success, partly because they were able to capitalize on world-wide networks of Jewish trading partners. With their wealth they ran their synagogue as a private club. They did not want outsiders to gain entrance. So, just as in the joke about the desert island with one Jew and two synagogues because everyone needs a synagogue that they don't go to, there is a second Jewish congregation for the minuscule Jewish community in Guatemala City.

    The second community is formed around Casa Hillel, a progressive congregation with open doors and an enormously welcoming hospitality. The context for religion in Guatemala is that the Catholic Church, while once allied with the conquering Spaniards, has in recent decades been a force for liberation theology. They have lived the value of standing with the poor and have worked for peasant and worker rights and to end poverty. Meanwhile there is lots of imported Protestant evangelicalism with mega churches established by international groups. People who aren't so identified with the poorest of the poor and maybe are more western-oriented are attracted to the Protestant version of Christianity.

    Anyone who doesn't fit in to that bifurcation, radical Catholicism or upwardly mobile Protestantism, stands out as different. For some of those folks who feel a sense of difference and yet are rooted in a culture that values religion, Judaism is very attractive. Because of the class dynamic, Judaism has a social prestige and cachet. Both radical Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism, ironically, are pro-Judaism. So an encouraging and positive climate surrounds people who are interested in becoming Jewish.

    This phenomenon is still a trickle in an overwhelmingly Christian country but a steady stream of people have been converting to Judaism all through Central America. There are groups in Mexico, Costa Rica, El Salvador and Guatemala. Casa Hillel has dozens of active members, many of whom are converts.

    Like so many converts, these folks have a passion for Judaism. They are mostly self-educated. They use the web and any possible resource they can find to learn more about Judaism. They are doing weekly Torah study, full length services, and eagerly engaging with Jewish visitors from around the world. Once a year a Rabbi from Kansas flies in to do life cycle events.

    They warmly welcomed me. They are so hungry for Jewish teaching. I did a hands-on-challah brucha with them, you know, where everyone touches the challah or touches someone who is touching the challah and we say "ha motzi lechem min ha aretz." They were deeply moved and grateful for this ritual. They are surrounded by such a Christian culture that even strongly identified Jews are desperate for Jewish cultural experiences.

    Seeing how meaningful it was for my own multi-racial, Latino-Jewish family to be back in the birthland, an idea began to bubble up inside my head. There are thousands of families in this country formed by adoption from Guatemala. Just as people go to Israel for Bar or Bat Mitzvah, I thought maybe Jewish Guatemalan-American families would like to return to that birthland for Bar or Bat Mitzvah.

    So a new project is a-birthing called Birthland Bar Mitzvah that will allow these families to celebrate Bar or Bat Mitzvah in Guatemala, weaving together all the strands of identity. It's also a way of saying the whole earth is holy, aretz ha kodesh , and you can connect with the holy place where you have roots.

    Another exciting aspect of the Birthland Bar Mitzvah idea is to match privilege with need. In this country there is so much affluence, even at hard times such as these past couple years, and the huge need, even a yearning, is to make a meaningful difference. In that country the gaping needs are for very basic elements of survival. People need shoes, houses, education, basic medical care. Bar and Bat Mitzvah kids usually work on a mitzvah project, with their family's help, and I began to imagine helping to match resources with need for these particular populations.

    I began to network with organizations that are doing good deeds on the ground. One of them is called Mayan Families. It allows privileged people to make a direct difference in the lives of those in need. My family is now sponsoring a child through this project: we were able to visit his family. He has a single Mom with four children who earns a maximum of $2.00 a day by selling food on the street. We took soccer balls for little Jose and his brother to play with. My kids played a lively pick up soccer game with these kids and we watched the joy on Jose's face as he was handed a voucher to buy a pair of shoes so that he could go to school. He also received his first ever backpack to carry school supplies.

    I could imagine facilitating many more connections such as this and connecting with organizations such as American Jewish World Service that also have an advocacy and political component that takes these acts further than one on one helping. The Talmud teaches in Baba Batra "We will come to know God through justice." The Rabbis wanted to operationalize this, what do we need to do? what does it mean to know God through justice? If you had to advise people about how to pursue justice in order to get to know God, what specific actions would you recommend? [community offers ideas]

    The Rabbis ended up praising the giving of tzedakah as a very specific practice that creates justice.

    This Guatemalan experience is a small, personal example of ways that Jews can carry our values onto the global stage, linking our very particular rites of passage with very universal human need.

    There are many other fabulous, creative, Jewish organizations working on this challenge for Jews to link our Jewish identity, commitment and wisdom with these global concerns of humanity. Jewish organizations are working on climate change, biodiversity, disease, world peace, urban housing and employment.

    How to be Jewish in a world where we are all human citizens? To me, this is the question that will make or break the future of the Jewish people because this is the question that this generation of Jewish young adults brings to the table. They are several generations removed from the Holocaust, they are at least a generation removed from the 67 war. They live in a world in which Facebook, instant messaging and 24-hour news feeds make far-away issues quite present. They need to know how to belong in a Jewish world with such pressing human concerns. The thriving of Judaism depends on our engagement with all people.

    In our congregation we can take some steps to foster this belonging. We need to embrace with open arms the human questions people bring into our community. There can be no taboo topics. We have taken the courageous step to partake in an ongoing Jewish Dialogue Group that is teaching us the skills to listen deeply to all points of view. I am so proud that we are able to do this. It makes me hopeful for the future of Judaism.

    I left Guatemala with two visual images: one image is the fortress-like synagogue that excludes and rejects even Jews seeking entrance and the other image is of the open living room that hosted Shabbat for the Casa Hillel community and its guests from all over. I know which image I'd like to align with, both in my heart and in my affiliations.

    I will end with a prayer for all of us that we may find paths to bring the riches of our tradition into the world's greatest places of need. May we express our deep Jewish urge to be partners in healing, in the places that need it most. It is there that Meshiach will be found.

    Thank you and Shana Tovah,

    :: 215-629-1995