The Pulse of Our Congregation January 2011

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

Marking Life Cycle Events

January 2011 Activities

Rabbi's Message: Rabbi Julie Greenberg

Rosh Hodesh Chanukah Celebration

Career Help is Available

LimmudPhilly Update

Shevat Yahrzeits for Past Leyv Ha-Ir Members

Quotes of the Month

Delicious December Bagels and Books

Countdown to Super Sunday - January 30, 2011



Looking Ahead

Mark your Calendars Now!

2 Shabbatons will replace our Biannual 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

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:

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Dear Friends,

Last summer at our annual meeting, during my president's report, I asked the community to consider the broad scope of our congregation's history, and its impact on each member's life. At the time of our formation, Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City was a small group of seekers, mostly between forty and sixty years old. Now, looking at our core membership, largely between the ages of sixty and eighty, we have an evidence of a successful intervention with a record for creating meaning in the lives of people as the transition from middle age. This meaning, based on Jewish spirituality is embodied by our Shema ritual. We take the time and effort to listen to each other. As a result we enter into caring relationship. We take this relationship outside of synagogue and into our daily lives. It has been our heartfelt intention, these past twenty years, to import this kind of spiritual relationship, based on engagement through listening. To that end, we welcome hundreds of people to our Jewish ritual and community activities throughout the year. We try to remove barriers of entry into this community. We want each visitor to feel safe in our community and access the good meaningful stuff we have been enjoying these twenty years. During these short days of winter, you do not need to feel alone, or that your life is without meaning. Spend more time with us. We believe that it works for you.

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

  • Marking Life Cycle Events
  • Revelations About Jewish Identity

    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 acknowledgment of your contribution to a designee of your choice. The lovely artwork on our acknowledgment cards was designed by our own member/artist Marci Fleet (see illustration). Contributions can be sent to our regular P.O. Box address, or contact Sue Frank, at, if you'd like to have an acknowledgment card sent.

    Thank you.

  • January 2011 Activities
  • Friday, January 7, 2011, 6:30 PM
    Friday Night Service/Dinner
    Join us for a short service and wonderful pot-luck dinner at Evy Simon's home. She resides at the Kennedy House, 1901 Kennedy Blvd., 2818. Call her at 215-561-7474 to let her know what you will be bringing for dinner.

    Saturday, January 8, 2011, 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.

    Monday, January 10, 2011, 7:00 PM
    Council Meeting
    All members are invited to join us at a member's home.

    Friday, January 14, 2011, 7:30 PM
    Martin Luther King, Jr. Shabbat Service Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square
    Join us as Rabbi Julie and the LHI choir lead this Friday night service. We will welcome a guest speaker.

    Saturday, January 29, 2011, 10:00 AM
    Leyv Ha-Ir's Annual Shabbaton Gathering
    At Chamounix Mansion in Fairmount Park.
    Service with Rabbi Julie and LHI's First Rabbi, Jeff Eisenstat.
    A catered lunch and afternoon program with Rabbi Jeff.
    Fee is $50 until Jan 21st; $60 thereafter.
    Friends/Family are most welcome.
    Send checks to Leyv Ha-Ir, PO Box 15836, Phila., PA 19103.
    Contact Beverly Hayden at 215-557-3777 for more information.

    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,

    At this dark, cold time of year there are constantly lights being kindled by the many caring deeds of our community members. Remember the bumper sticker that says something about performing random acts of kindness? Judaism goes beyond the concept of random acts and actually calls for specific practices such as visiting the sick, honoring parents, remembering Shabbat, studying. My yoga teacher says "Your practice takes care of you," and I extend this to our Jewish communal practices of mitzvot, good deeds, which take care of us all.

    Even though, we are all called to do our part of community sustenance and healing the world, not every need that rears its head is the right mitzvah for you. Each of us has the right to be aware of our own gifts, desires and limits. You don't have to say yes to everyone and everything!

    I'm proud of how our community takes seriously the needs of its members and the needs of the greater world. In January look forward to our Martin Luther King, Jr. service which will feature a speaker from HIAS on immigration issues and traditional soul-warming gospel music. Our Passover observances will include a campaign to support local food banks and at Shavuot we'll be collecting books to donate to prisoners in conjunction with Books through Bars. When you are ready to re-kindle your own flame, come join us for Shabbat.

    With love,
    Rabbi Julie

  • Rosh Hodesh Chanukah Celebration
  • It was the 5th night of Chanukah and the candles were lit. The annual Rosh Hodesh Chanukah meeting was held on December 5th; eight members attended, memories/thoughts about this time of year were exchanged and a good meal was had by all.

  • Career Help is Available
  • The JEWISH EDUCATIONAL AND VOCATIONAL SERVICES--JEVS--can give a ton of help if you are looking for a job, any kind of high/low professional or down-to earth position. Individual career consulting, Career assessment, Resume assistance, Job search assistance, Workshops. Call 215-854-1874 or

    Convenient locations in Center City and Northeast Phila.

    Also check out "helping hands" for unemployed or underemployed Jewish individuals under 65 and also their Youth Services.

  • LimmudPhilly Update
  • Registration is now open for LimmudPhilly, with Early Bird pricing in effect through February 4, 2011.

    LimmudPhilly is a citywide learningfest encompassing many aspects of Jewish life. There is serious learning and much fun as well. In addition to learning sessions, you can shop a bookstore and shuk (marketplace), bid on restaurant certificates at a silent auction, and talk with representatives of many Jewish service organizations.

    LimmudPhilly will take place March 4-6, 2011 at the Gershman Y and University of the Arts at Broad & Pine Streets.

    You can learn more, see a partial list of presenters, and register at Hope to see you there!

    Bobbi Cohen

  • Shevat Yahrzeits for Past Leyv Ha-Ir Members
  • ~May their memory serve as a source of inspiration to all who knew and loved them~
    Joan Apple
    Joan Rumberg

  • Quotes of the Month
  • How Poor They Are That Have Not Patience.

    What Wound Did Ever Heal But By Degrees.
    ~William Shakespeare

  • Delicious December Bagels and Books
  • Bagels & Books met in December for short story readings by Myrna Shenberg and Myrna Schlanger. The authors were Central and South American, as was the food. All was prepared by Myrna Schlanger, featured in the photo as she is about to serve her fabulous flan.

  • 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 Yom Kippur Sermon by Rabbi Julie Greenberg


    I started to understand something in a new way recently. It's my own High Holy Day revelation. I was thinking about how our brains have learned through thousands of years of evolution to scan for threats to our survival. We needed to know if the tiger was about to pounce or the beloveds that provided protection and nurturance were about to disappear. I was thinking about how our brains are ever alert for disaster. Not just Jewish brains. All brains.

    "Oh everything's great," and then going into detail about the one thing that isn't great whether it's a hassle with a delivery or a computer glitch or a medical problem. Even when things are going basically well, or even really really well, our brains seek out what isn't okay and dwell on it. We have a human tendency to worry, to feel anxious, to fear isolation, and to scan for the possible problem.

    I was pondering this phenomenon and realized that religion, Judaism in particular, is designed to address this exact human peculiarity. I think all religions probably function in this way but I will focus on Judaism. Judaism is designed to soothe and hold the deficit-seeking brain.

    Judaism gives us axes of connection which I will talk more about. When you feel connected, your brain is less likely to be assessing threats at every juncture, less likely to be hyper-vigilant and reactive. If a tiger were really lurking, and you sensed it because of your terrific brain-based survival skills, your adrenaline would surge, your heart rate would go up, and every muscle and idea would be ready to help you prevail. But if there isn't really a tiger around, it's pretty dysfunctional to be so panicked.

    When we experience losses, great or small, or any other kind of trauma, our brain reads it as threat to survival. And you can't be human without experiencing loss. Life is about loss. The baby loses the safety of the womb, the toddler loses the fulltime connection to a caregiver as she sets forth on her wobbly legs into necessary autonomy; the college kid loses the nest of the family as he goes off to learn, we lose stages of life, we lose loved ones, we lose hopes and dreams that turn out not to be realistic, we often lose our abilities and faculties and eventually inevitably we humans lose life. So at key junctures of our lives, such as when we lose a physical ability, or a loved one, or a dream, we are vulnerable to serious suffering.

    Judaism addresses this reality of human fragility by grounding us in the following dimensions. You know how we pray in the name of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, Sarah, Rebecca, Leah and Rachel again and again? There's a purpose to this. This repetitive litany teaches us that we are embedded in meaningful continuity, in generation to generation. We are connected to our most ancient ancestors and we are a link in the chain to the future of humanity. In traditional Judaism you say the prayers that name these generations three times every single day. That's the amount of reassurance that we are grounded and connected, that our tradition recommends.

    But not only do we call out those generations again and again, we are expected to do so in a minyan, in a community that has a minimum of ten members. The message resounds that you are connected to the past and the future and the purpose of the minyan is that you should feel connected in the moment to other people. So you now have generational connection, current community connection and all this is so that you can experience a transcendent connection with the One. That connection gives you the message We are all a part of the Whole, there is something bigger than your tiny self and you belong to it. You are held in all these dimensions. I picture us being woven into this embrace just as a child is strapped into a car seat with the vertical shoulder straps, the horizontal seat belt, held tightly for the journey of a lifetime.

    These days most of us don't pray three times a day, and most of us don't join a regular minyan and we often have rational doubts about the transcendent connection. Deprived of this spiritual nurturance, the result is often isolation, anxiety, depression, low level despair. I am not saying we can go back to a simple world where religious practices are prescribed. I do think that understanding our tradition in this way is incredibly reassuring because it teaches that we can and should put spiritual supports in place to hold us through life.

    What spiritual resources look like is evolving. Congregations such as Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City are at the forefront of asking these questions and developing creative responses. It is validating to know that my own human pain about change in my life is a universal pain, of course expressed in the unique terms of my particular life circumstances and that humans were designed as religious creatures because we need the soothing, the holding, the grounding, the faith to over ride the negativity of our own brains.

    I began to imagine a world in which every human being, including every member of the Jewish world, was rooted and held in all these dimensions so that we didn't have to focus so much on threat and fear of disaster. I began to imagine what a world would look like if each of us really absorbed the message of the psalms that life is good and we can trust.

    There is evil in the world, there are real threats, sometimes there is a tiger, real or figurative and we do need to be aware and secure. But our over-active, threat-scanning brains may have outlived their usefulness in this respect when what we really need now is a world in which we can see the unity, a world of more compassion and interconnection. If we are over-reading the bad stuff that lurks in reality, we are missing joy and truth and ultimately salvation.

    I'd like to mention two areas that might look different if we approached them, not assuming danger, not overly scanning for threat and possible trauma, but instead if we approached them seeking co-operation and inclusion.

    We've all been hearing a lot about the Mosque, Park51, that is proposed for a site two blocks from Ground Zero in N.Y.C. I'm sure there are many feelings in this room about this subject and a diversity of opinions. The Reconstructionist movement has taken a strong stand in support of those who want to build this Muslim community center. This position is based on an understanding of our own American Jewish history: we came to this country as a religious minority in need of religious freedom.

    As Rabbi Nancy Fuchs Kreimer writes in a much-circulated piece for the Huffington Post, "While individual cases are always full of nuance, the American trajectory is easier to grasp. The story of religious minorities in America is a story of one group after another moving from maligned outsider to part of the multi faith fabric of our country. As Jews, we know about the stumbles along the way. But we also believe the arc of history is inclined toward a more respectful, unified and accepting society. I want to be on the side of the future."

    I think that when we feel a secure, safe sense of our own spiritual abundance, we can offer others our welcome to this land of religious freedom. I do not think it is productive to let our crisis-oriented brains run the show on this issue. Rather than responding to the Muslim proposal with alarm, I hope that spiritually infused brains will respond with an attitude of calm, mutual problem-solving.

    The other area I'd like to touch on today with the hope that exploring this more deeply will become one of the themes of our year together, is the question of what it means to belong to a Jewish community. There is a paradox in Jewish community life that needs to be resolved for us to move forward. It's almost like our arteries are clogged by this dilemma and we have to find a way past the blockage. I am hoping this year we will devote time for study, discussion and creativity around this issue.

    The paradox is that it takes money to sustain Jewish life and yet it is offensive and painful for Jews to have to pay to pray. How do you pay for a Rabbi and for space and for outreach and for community events that involve food and music and a choir director and more without having membership dues that become a barrier to entry? When we approach this issue with fear-based brains that there isn't enough, that some people might want to shirk their share, we stay stuck. But there are bills to be paid and the stakeholders have legitimate concerns about how to keep the whole endeavor going.

    I don't have the solution to this paradox. But it pains me. And I'd like to open this discussion wide this year and to encourage us to approach it with a real commitment to managing our own negative, worried, suspicious, hopeless human brains. I invite you to join in with your ideas and concerns to see whether we can be a community that self-sustains and where all seekers fully belong. Should we abolish membership dues? How would we pay our bills? Let's bring consciousness to exploring this conundrum together.

    Let's be aware that Judaism can serve as a salve for the peculiar human brain. Judaism can help us ride up over our own brain-based limitations so that we can truly accept the blessings of life. When we let our traditions in, we drink deeply from a well that nourishes the spirit, inspires our best selves and brings us together in community.

    Many blessings for a joyful and conscious journey into the New Year.

    :: 215-629-1995