The Pulse of Our Congregation March 2011

In this Issue

Looking Ahead

March 2011 Activities

Marking Lifecycle Events

Welcoming a Convert

Yahrzeits for Month of Adar

Quote of the Month

Reflections (a work in progress) on Psalm 23


Looking Ahead

Mark your Calendars Now!

Tuesday, April 19th, Annual Second Night Seder, 6 PM, place to be determined.

May 1st, Peace in the Middle East Discussion, 3 PM

May 22, Retreat in Fairmount Park - all play, no work. A fun day for all!

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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.

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Dear Chevre,

At the Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City Shabbaton recently, the people who had planned the event were called to the Torah to be honored with the Blessing of the Tzaddik. For hundreds of years, Tzaddiks were the leaders of their chassids or community followers. They channeled blessings and resources into their communities. In some Hassidic communities this model still flourishes.

There is a beautiful Hassidic teaching that says for most people ordinary days of the week are just ordinary while Shabbat, by contrast, is a special time of joy and abundance. But for the tzaddik, who achieves spiritual elevation through prayer, meditation and acts of righteousness, every single day is Shabbat. For most people, Shabbat is a unique day that pleasures us. Only the tzaddik experiences that pleasing spiritual fulfillment on every single weekday, not just on Shabbat. So then when he or she arrives at the actual day of Shabbat, how is that day different and even more special?

On Shabbat, the tzaddik reaches an even higher level and the tzaddik pleasures Shabbat! The tzaddik emanates the flow or shefa that keeps the world's love, kindness and happiness circulating. What an honor for the tzaddik!

In our Reconstructionist world, we don't designate certain people as "tzaddiks" and others as "disciples." We each own leadership potential and responsibility. When our Shabbaton committee took it upon themselves to plan and prepare a wonderful Shabbat in the woods for their community (delicious food, prayer, music, play) they became our tzaddiks, our leaders. You could say being a tzaddik is a role rather than an identity for us.

The folks who enacted the tzaddik role for our annual Shabbaton received a blessing of spiritual nourishment for nourishing their community. They pleasured Shabbat. Therefore, may they now experience every day as a time to dwell in peace, just as the tzaddiks of old got to experience Shabbat even on weekdays.

If you would like to join the circle of tzaddiks who plan our next Retreat, scheduled for Sunday, May 22, please let me know.

All the best,
Rabbi Julie

  • March 2011 Activities
  • Friday, March 4 - Sunday, March 6, 2011,
    Limmud Programs
    Leyv Ha-Ir suggests you attend Limmud, three days of learning, entertainment and fun at the Gershman Y, Broad & Pine Sts. For more information, go to

    Saturday, March 12, 2011, 10:00 AM
    Shabbat Morning Service
    Join us at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Sq. for our lay-led service and veggie/dairy pot-luck lunch.

    Monday, March 14, 2011, 7:00 PM
    Council Meeting
    All members are invited to join us at Polly Gussman's apartment. Call Polly at 215-568-7346 for more information.

    Friday, March 18, 2011, 6:30 PM
    Friday Night Service/Dinner Co-hosted by Frann Shore and Marsha Hyman
    Join us at the home of Frann Shore, 2401 Pennsylvania Ave., 19-C-51, for our lay-led 45-minute service and delicious veggie/dairy pot-luck dinner. Let Marsha know what you will bring. 610-789-0965.

    Sunday, March 20, 2011, 3:00 PM
    Purim Celebration with Rabbi Julie, Hazan Jack Kessler. Our Purim celebration is always lots of fun. Held at Penn Center House, 1900 JFK Blvd., 2nd floor. Bring a nosh or drink (alcohol is permitted). Friends, family, youngsters are most welcome. Call 215-557-3777 for additional information.

    Friday, March 25, 2011, 7:30 PM
    Kabbalat Shabbat Service Ethical Society, 1906 Rittenhouse Square
    Join us as Rabbi Julie and the LHI Choir lead this Friday night service.

    Sunday, March 27, 2011, 11:00 AM
    Community Room (30th floor),1901 JFK Blvd , Kennedy House
    "An American Treasure" Phil Steel, a Leyv Ha-Ir member, will present a program about his ancestors (including Uriah Levy, who, in 1836, purchased and restored Monticello, home of Thomas Jefferson) and the Jewish community during the first decades of America. His family members arrived in this country before the Revolutionary war; they distinguished themselves by fighting in that war and in the Civil War. Phil has done his research and his story is fascinating, bringing with him oil paintings of some of his relatives, artifacts, and a uniform like the one worn by his great, great, great, great grandfather. This is history brought to life with names, dates, places and anecdotes. This story is told with authority, skill and enthusiasm, making the event a very special occasion. Don't miss it! A fine brunch will be served for $8.00. Call 215-629-1995 to reserve your space.

    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.
  • Marking Lifecycle Events
  • Friends, this is an invitation to keep Leyv Ha-Ir close in your thoughts when you have any occasion to remember someone with a card. Make a donation to your cherished congregation and honor someone you care about at the same time. It might be a note of sympathy, a message of congratulations, a shout-out on a happy occasion. Let me know, and I will gladly send along either one of Marcy Fleet's lovely art cards created for this use, or one I will customize based on your suggestions. I will also try to compose a note that carries your thought to the recipient.

    Please direct checks to our PO Box 15836, Philadelphia PA 19103 and details to me. You can reach me at

    From Sue Frank

  • Welcoming a Convert
  • When I die, and go to the world to come, they will not ask me, Zusya, why were you not Moses. They will ask me: Zusya, why were you not Zusya? (Rabbi Zusya of Hanipol)

    I have spend a fair amount of my adult life on a spiritual journey. After much questioning, investigation and more questioning, I have come to believe that Judaism is my spiritual home.

    I did not come to this decision quickly. Over many months, I have benefited from the knowledge, wisdom and extraordinary insight of Rabbi Julie Greenberg. In our conversations, no topics were off-limits. Of course, we talked extensively about Judaism- its traditions, beliefs, expectations and practices. But we also talked about family, relationships, and all the joys and complexities of life. They were rich conversations and they helped me immeasurably in finding my way to Judaism. While working with Rabbi Greenberg, I also read extensively about Judaism. The book that had the greatest impact was "To Heal a Fractured World" by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks. His message of hope, responsibility and life purpose ("God asks us to do what we can, when we can. We mend the world one life at a time, one act at a time, one day at a time. A single life, said the rabbis, is like a universe.") spoke directly to me in a way that no other book or message ever had. Rabbi Sacks' message was an important turning point. He knew me.

    My Religious Background: I grew up in a Protestant family. My parents were active in the church, and required that my brother and I attend Sunday School and church until I was approximately 13. My parents became disenchanted with many of the teachings of the church at that time, and became much less involved. I ceased attending any religious services for about the next 15 years.

    As I got older, got married ( in a liberal Protestant church) and started a family, I tried very hard to find a place within the tradition confines of Protestantism. I tried all kinds of churches- churches with good preachers, churches with good family programs, and most often, churches that had a "liberal" approach toward the Bible and Christianity. Frankly, it felt like I was trying to find that church, by virtue of its approach, that was as far removed as possible from traditional Christianity. The fundamental issue, which came to me very slowly, over a period of years, was that I did not believe in the foundational tenets of Christianity. The faith to which I was born no long spoke to me. Moreover, over the last decade or so, the individuals who were often identified as "Christian leaders" were individuals that I had absolutely nothing in common with, or whose views I often found repugnant. Nonetheless, for years, I tried to find a place within Christianity, only to feel ultimately it was an attempt to place a square peg in a round hole.

    My Spiritual Journey:

    As I began to explore other religious options, I first looked at Buddhism. I have done yoga and practiced meditation for about the last ten years, and Buddhism was a natural place to explore. There are certain things about Buddhism that I find interesting, but ultimately, I determined it was not for me. The notion of community is important to me in any religious expression, and Buddhism seemed more solitary and focused on the individual. Additionally, much of Buddhism seemed to lack the notion of social consciousness/social justice that is critical to me.

    I then attended a "Taste of Judaism" series of classes given in Center City. The course was lead by Rabbi Greenberg. I found the richness of the discussion to be intoxicating, the willingness to engage in unfettered examination of issues to be wonderful, and I began my conversations with Rabbi Greenberg. I should add that I was not a total stranger to Judaism. I had attended public school in a predominately Jewish community, attended many a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, participated in many Seders, and had always been impressed with the Jewish cultural emphasis on family, education and social responsibility.

    Why Judaism: I find compelling the belief in Judaism of what Rabbi Sacks calls the "ethics of responsibilty"- the idea that God invites us to become his "partners in the work of creation". This, on my best days, is what I aspire to do and be. I find compelling the emphasis more on deeds and less on lock-step recitation of a particular creed. I am attracted to the notion of community within Judaism- the idea that worshipping and serving together meets the needs of both the participating individuals and the larger community. And even though I am not a traditionalist in the ordinary sense of the term, I find attractive the sense of traditionalism in Judaism that has sustained a faith and people through centuries of oppression and persecution.

    But ultimately, as Rabbi Zusya suggests, it is a matter of "Who am I". After all of the conversations, questioning, probing and reading, I am ready to answer that question with the answer "I am Jewish"

  • Yahrzeits for Month of Adar
  • ~~~Yahrzeits for Month of Adar~~~

    Morton Beck, 27 Adar

  • Quote of the Month
  • "The Real Voyage of Discovery Consists, not in Seeking New Landscapes, But in Having New Eyes."

    Marcel Proust

  • Reflections (a work in progress) on Psalm 23
  • My Shepherd
    Lead me to understand the metaphors

    I shall not want
    My soul shall not be lost
    nor hunger for its place

    Repose in Verdant pastures
    Verdant -a promise of future nurture , growth
    and hope

    He restoreth my soul
    I'm home

    He guides me in straight and narrow paths for his name' sake
    The paths are rocky
    but the Spark will be safely lead

    He anoints my head with oil
    A promise, a reminder and a blessing

    Surely goodness and mercy shall pursue me
    Am I running away from goodness and mercy?

    Shall Dwell in His house forever
    My soul's home

    Maria Mackey (2009, 2010)

    :: 215-629-1995