The Pulse of Our Congregation December 2010

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

Revelations About Jewish Identity

December 2010 Activities

Rabbi's Message: Rabbi Julie Greenberg

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

LHI Members attend JRF Convention in Newport Beach, California

Countdown to Super Sunday - January 30, 2011

5771 Kol Nidrei Sermon - Peace


Looking Ahead

Mark your Calendars Now!

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,

We are entering an exciting time of self-reflection and action here at the heart of the city. First, our council has approved two new leadership initiatives:

We have formed a task group to inventory systems of voluntary work. As a lay lead congregation with consistent and dedicated volunteers these past twenty years, we need to have a better handle on how-we-do-what-we-do in order to explain it to a new group of leaders. As we grow, it is becoming less functional for me to bring the cake and you the grape juice. We need to better understand and plan our actions. This committee will help us classify these tasks and organize them.

Also, we have invited Rabbi Jeff Eisenstat, our dear friend and Reconstructionist Macher (yiddish for big deal), to join us for a shabbaton and help us understand the spirituality of transition in Synagogue leadership. Rabbi Jeff was the founding Rabbi of Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City, and an important teacher for our seven matriarchs who were Bat Mitzvahed in our early years. We look forward to spending the day with him and motivating ourselves to do this sacred work.

Secondly, in line with these transitional initiatives, I will be sending you a letter before the end of our secular (and tax) year, explaining my intention to change the financial structure of our synagogue. As you have read here, our (very) long term goal is to become a dues-free membership congregation. The next step in this process is to diversify our philanthropy. For the past twelve years, over 20% of our annual budget has been provided through the generosity of one anonymous donor. I am hoping that we can develop donor pledges to spread that function to between ten and twenty donors. I will be asking each of you to make a pledge for each of the next five years, from the heart, to donate within your means, above and beyond your habitual dues contribution. I am hoping that at least ten people reading this newsletter will be willing to contribute over $1000 in each of the next five years, to assure a strong financial transition for our community. Feel free to anticipate this letter, and make a long term pledge to sustain our community.

We are grateful for the sustaining volunteer effort and financial support of our founding members. It is with profound respect that we are carrying forward their vision of an open, tolerant and grown-up version of Judaism that we can all feel good about. Please feel free to e-mail me at if you have any feedback about what is going on here. We are a profoundly healthy organization. I trust you will like the results of the efforts outlined above.

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

P.S. I have invited many of you to become facebook friends of Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City. As of this writing, over 70 of you have joined this facebook group. You can see it here: . This is a significant number of members considering our numbers here in the real world. Our facebook group compares favorably in size to other synagogues in the region. Facebook is an excellent marketing tool for us. If you feel comfortable with it, please consider signing up, inviting friends to join, and using the event function to spread the word to your people.

  • Revelations About Jewish Identity
  • Revelations About Jewish Identity

    "Revelations About Jewish Identity" was discussed by Rabbi Julie in a recent 3-part series. Another series with Rabbi will be presented in the Spring. Look for further announcements.

  • December 2010 Activities
  • Friday, December 3, 2010, 7:30 PM
    Kabbalat Shabbat Service Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square
    Join us as Rabbi Julie leads the Friday night service on the third night of Hannukah.

    Saturday, December 4, 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.

    Sunday, December 5, 2010, 7:30 PM
    Rosh Hodesh Group Women members of LHI and their guests are invited to celebrate our traditional, annual Rosh Hodesh Chanukah get-together for cheer, menorah lights, meaningful exchanges, good food and a gift exchange. Roby Jacobs, 2519 Pine Street, is our gracious host.

    Sunday, December 12, 2010, 11:00 AM
    Bagels & Books
    Featured at this event will be Jewish writers of short stories, from South and Central America. Brunch will precede the stories; the cost is $7. The host is Joan Goldberg at the Kennedy House. Call her at 215-561-5193 to let her know you will be attending.

    Monday, December 13, 2010, 7:00 PM
    Council Meeting
    We'll be meeting at Pat Wisch's, 1919 Walnut (William Penn House) Apt. 1805. All members are invited.

    Friday, December 17, 2010, 6:30 PM
    Friday Night Service/Dinner
    Join us for a 45-minute lay-led service followed by a delicious veggie/dairy pot-luck dinner. Place to be determined; it will be announced on our listerv.

    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,

    In our Lunch and Learn series we just finished exploring issues of Jewish identity and belonging at different historical eras. We analyzed the needs of the people and the response of the religion in each era. We looked at what life was like in biblical times when Judaism meant having ways to reach personal integration and purity by honoring God with the proper sacrifices; we looked at life in medieval times when Judaism meant safety through the creation of communal institutions for protection as an oppressed minority; and we looked at today asking what are the needs of people today and how can our Jewish community respond?

    Reconstructionist Judaism teaches that "Judaism is for the people, not the people for Judaism." In other words, the religion has to be alive and relevant to today's needs. So what are today's needs? Our class identified many yearnings in contemporary America, including the need to be connected and the need to make a contribution. Many Jewish people desire to do these two human endeavors with a Jewish language and a Jewish life rhythm.

    I hope our class discussions will reverberate through the community. Our Council is very active with new leadership emerging and many ideas on the table. This is a place where we are structuring what it means to support Jewish connection and to make possible Jewish contribution. If you'd like to be involved in these exciting plans, please let me know.

    May you enjoy the nights of Hanukkah as we bring increasing light into the world.

    Many blessings,
    Rabbi Julie

  • 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

  • LHI Members attend JRF Convention in Newport Beach, California
  • Bobbi Cohen, Iris Newman, and Evy Simon attended the convention of the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation on November 11-14 in beautiful Newport Beach, CA. Bobbi was a hard-working staff member; Evy and Iris were delegates. The convention was a lot of fun, plus excellent services, workshops and lectures - look for more insights from the workshops in the next issue of this newsletter. The major news was a restructuring. JRF, the organization that works with individual congregations, will be combined with the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC) and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association (RRA), though many details remain to be worked out. Dan Ehrenkrantz, president of RRC, believes the consolidation will strengthen the movement's abilities to flourish as American Jews change their relationship to denominations. The future of the conventions is to be decided later, but we urge you to attend any future ones.

  • 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 Kol Nidrei Sermon - Peace
  • 5771 Kol Nidrei Day Sermon by Rabbi Julie Greenberg


    Long ago in a small eastern European shtetl there lived a Jew named Yankel. Month after month he eked out a meager living, earning barely enough to keep his family alive. Frustrated by his poverty, Yankel began to dream of a richer, fuller life.

    So he started asking friends for suggestions on how he could find a decent occupation that would fulfill his dreams. Soon a consensus developed. Mead is not only a fine drink, claimed his friends, but a great way to make a living. After all, isn't mead served at every bar mitzvah, wedding and festive event? With such a market for spirits, who could go wrong?

    So Yankel began to learn all he could about mead. He inquired of the local innkeepers, he read what he could and day after day he practiced the distilling arts. Finally he was ready to try his mead recipe on his friends.

    He gathered them around, poured them each a glass and invited them to drink to his success. But to his dismay, looking around the room all he saw were strained faces showing distaste with the brew. He lifted his own mug and realized that it tasted flat, almost bitter.

    Dejected, but not defeated, Yankel tried week after week to make a pleasing brew but every week he met with his friends' polite distaste. Yankel knew that in the big city of Kiev there was a great brew master whose reputation was known far and wide. Yankel decided to make the journey to the great city for a consultation.

    Over the course of several days Yankel reviewed the ingredients and procedures with the brewer.

    Finally the brewer said, "Well, I'm not sure what the problem is."

    "Do you mean I came all this way for nothing?" Yankel cried.

    "I'm sorry, " said the brewer and gave Yankel a parting gift of a small jar of honey. "You probably have this at home, but I give it to you anyway for your mead."

    Immediately, Yankel realized why he had been led to Kiev. He thanked the brew master, packed his belongings and headed home. No sooner did he arrive than he began to root through his own pantry. There on a low shelf, overlooked, was a small jar of honey. Yankel scooped up the jar and rushed off to make a fresh batch of mead.

    When the spirits were ready, Yankel again summoned his friends. This time smiles and approval came forth as Yankel and company drained their mugs. From that day forward Yankel's mead delighted his customers far and wide and became the livelihood for himself and his family.

    (Based on Brewing Spirits: A Hassidic Tale in Show Me Your Ways, Rabbi Howard Addison)

    When first hearing this Hassidic tale you might be struck by the simplicity of the message: in the midst of our need, the ingredients for fulfillment are right at hand. Sweetness is no further away than our own pantry.

    But it's interesting that Yankel had to go on a journey of discovery to find that missing ingredient. The honey was always sitting on his shelf, but Yankel had no idea of its significance until he engaged with others who helped him come full circle back home, like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz.

    Spiritual yearning brings us into community where we find the treasures that have always been ours. What is the missing ingredient, the sweet honey, that will pull it all together?

    At the end of many services here, we rise for the Aleynu prayer and I ask "What kind of world are you taking a stand for today? It is a world of ____________" and almost invariably the first word shouted out to finish that sentence is PEACE. Many of you have been with me for this prayer and you can testify, right, that the longing for peace is a primal response.

    But we are missing some ingredient for peace and it's hard to know where to look, both internally for peace of mind, and out in the world, for peace in all the troubled spots of the world. We all want to be Rodef Shalom, or Rodfay Shalom, Seekers of Peace, but getting the exact right recipe is the challenge of a lifetime.

    Last week President Obama held a conference call with Rabbis from all the denominations, from all across the United States. I joined this call to see what the President had to say. He wanted to talk with us about the Peace Talks that are underway between President Netanyahu and Prime Minister Abbas.

    The first meetings had just taken place with a constructive tone and a serious commitment to re-launching negotiations. The leaders are establishing a positive one-on-one relationship and teams of thoughtful peacemakers are providing deep back up on all sides with the United States leading the way.

    Their goal, Obama said, is to create a framework for agreement and then to move through each and every issue until there is a peace agreement. They intend to meet every two weeks for a year to accomplish this. Despite past disappointments, low expectations and huge challenges, he felt that the leaders hold a shared goal: that there be two states living side by side in peace and security. The United States is committed to playing an active and sustaining role in this.

    There are hazards at every step of the way that will test the resolve of these leaders to stay focused on that goal.

    Obama made it clear that he thinks there is the possibility of success and there is also the possibility of failure. He wanted the Rabbis to know that both leaders, Abbas and Netanyahu, have huge political pressures at home and that both will say some unfortunate things for political consumption at home. We can't allow every stupid statement or incident to defeat the process. By keeping our eyes on the prize, the goal of peace, we need to ride up over the tough spots on the way that could pull us into doubt, despair and defeat and stay aligned at all times with the vision we're working towards.

    What Obama was really doing in this phone conversation was calling on the Rabbis of the land to build a climate of support for these peace negotiations.. He wants us to continue to speak in favor of peace, knowing that because the United States will never abandon Israel's security needs, Israel is coming from a position of strength. Obama urged us to give these talks a chance. He said, "Please do not look for reasons they should fail."

    That made me think of how essential the value of Right Speech is in Judaism. It is considered one of the most important Jewish practices. The way we talk about peace in the middle east matters: do we bring a tone of suspicion and a viewpoint that looks to all the hurts and disasters of the past? Or do we emphasize glimmers of possibility, creative problem solving, small steps towards success?

    It is up to us to manifest the truth of these Holy Days, that there is reason for optimism, there is hope for new beginnings. What is the point of these religious days if we can't infuse their message into our actual lives?

    So I call on you in the coming months, as the peace negotiations soar or lurch or muddle forward, to speak of them with your best selves, bringing to bear the true message of this season, change is possible, hope is worthwhile. Without hope, why would we ever try? The outcome is uncertain which is why we need faith.

    There is a window of opportunity, now, for peace. We are the ones creating the climate in this country to support this opportunity. Just as with any relationship, the process of engaging to move towards peace, will test our ability to manage disappointment, to handle compromise, to listen to the Other and to truly keep the vision of peace, with all that it entails, before us.

    Each one of us has a part to play in the success of these peace talks. No, we are not at the negotiating table. We are not diplomats, most of us are not Jewish Israelis or Palestinians and we don't set their agenda. Yet, each one of us is an essential missing ingredient. Each one of us has a choice to build or detract from the momentum of these talks. Jewish voices matter a lot in United Sates politics. Be a Jewish voice for peace. Be the elusive, hidden honey that Yankel needed for his mead.

    Obama ended his conversation with the Rabbis by noting that the call of the Shofar is "urgent, timeless, familiar, distinctive." He inspired us to respond to the call of the shofar by being partners in making peace, by building support for the peace talks. Will you heed the call?

    Shalom, May the Year 5771 be a year of peace for each of you and for all who dwell on earth.

    :: 215-629-1995