The Pulse of Our Congregation November 2011

In this Issue

Looking Ahead!

Year End Contribution

LHI Calendar December 2011

Rabbi's Message

LHI Winter Shabbaton - Mark Your Calendar Now!

Save December 10, 2011 for Taste of Limmud

Bagels and Books

POWER Center City Cluster Meeting


Quote of the Month

December Yahrzeits

Selkie New Year

Rabbi Julie's Rosh Hashana First Day 5772 Sermon


Looking Ahead!


Friday, Jan. 13th, 7:30 PM: Annual observance of the birthday of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Saturday, Jan. 28th, Annual Shabbaton (see article in newsletter)

You can get all of the latest information about upcoming Leyv Ha-Ir services and other events on our web based calendar. Events are posted through June, 2012. Many thanks to Iris Newman for maintaining this calendar for us!

Marking Lifecycle Events

Please remember Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City when you have any occasion to send a greeting card to someone. While we are happy to receive contributions in any amount, for a minimum $10 contribution we will gladly send one of Marci Fleet's lovely art cards created for this purpose to the recipient of your choice.

Make a donation to your congregation and honor someone you care about at the same time. It might be a note of sympathy, a message of congratulations, get well, or a shout-out on a happy occasion. Sue Frank will gladly send along either one of Marci's cards, or one she will customize one based on your suggestions. Sue will also compose a note that carries your thought to the recipient.

Please use the new contribution form on our website, which contains the mailing address for your contribution, PO Box 15836, Philadelphia PA 19103. You can also reach Sue at 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.

Find us on Facebook

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

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

At this season of giving thanks, we at Leyv Ha-Ir have lots to be thankful for:
a. Our excellent Rabbi Julie.....
b. Jessi and the oft-rehearsing members of our choir...
c. The many, many people who came to our High Holy Day services...
d. The Ethical Society for having the space for us...
e. "New" leadership using technology to improve our processes...
f. Lovely Friday night and holiday services...
g. Our valiant minyanaires...
h. Unsung heroes who work behind the scenes...
i. Our new members and those who renewed...
j. And the blessings of life, liberty and our society...
k. And much, much more...

We hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday and look forward to seeing you at an upcoming event in December!

Bobbi, Susan, Iris and Patricia
Your Leyv Ha-Ir Executive Committee

  • Year End Contribution
  • A special note from your treasurer: Contributions are welcome all year round, but now is a good time to make one and take full advantage of tax deduction for 2011. Remember: no contribution is too small... or too big!

    Thank you,

  • LHI Calendar December 2011
  • Saturday, December 3, 2011, 10:00 AM
    Shabbat Morning Service Join us at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square, for a lay-led service, Torah discussion, and veggie potluck lunch.


    Sunday, December 4, 2011, 11:00 AM
    One Book, One Congregation

    Book Discussion with Rabbi Julie. Please register in advance at 215-629-1995 or


    Friday, December 9, 2011, 6:30PM
    Home Shabbat dinner/service
    At Laura Jacobs'. Please call or email Laura to let her know what you will bring, or call us at 215-629-1995 for more information..


    Monday, December 12, 2011, 7PM - 9PM
    Council Meeting
    All members are invited to join us at us at a congregant's home. Please call us at 215-629-1995 if you need the location.


    Friday, December 23, 2011, 7:30 PM
    Hanukkah Celebration and Friday night service
    We'll light the fourth Hanukkah candle and have a special service. Rabbi Julie and the LHI choir will lead. We'll be at the Ethical Society, 1906 S. Rittenhouse Square.


    Tuesday, December 27, 2011, 6:30 PM
    Women's Rosh Hodesh Group
    Our Hanukkah program will be at Roby Jacobs'. Women members of LHI and their guests are invited to celebrate our traditional, annual ROSH HODESH HANUKKAH get-together for good cheer, menorah lights, and supper.

    There will be a pollyana exchange of gifts of about $10.

    Call 215-629-1995 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 upcoming activities.
  • Rabbi's Message
  • Dear Chevre,

    As the days get shorter and the world gets darker, are you ready-ing for the lights of Hanukkah? I'd like to share a teaching from Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi about the Hanukkah lights.

    He teaches that miracles inherent in every day life used to be most apparent in the physical building of the ancient Temple. When the Temple was destroyed that heightened awareness transferred from the place of the Temple place to the time of the holy days such as Shabbat and Yom Kippur. In this era, the place of intense consciousness has moved from place and time to self. Each one of us is capable of seeing through the mundane to the sparkling amazingness of the universe.

    At the darkest time of year, the Hanukkah light is there to awaken us to the miracle of every day life that can be hidden behind stress, anxiety and worldly demands. I recently heard a spiritual teacher quoted on NPR saying something like, "Some people think walking on water is a miracle. Some people think flying is a miracle. The real miracle is being alive." Our Hanukkah light illuminates this truth.

    Many Blessings,

    Rabbi Julie

  • LHI Winter Shabbaton - Mark Your Calendar Now!
  • Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir's Winter Shabbaton will be held JANUARY 28, 2012 at Chamounix Mansion in Fairmount Park. This special meeting will include the Director of Beta Israel of North America (BINA) who will discuss Ethiopian-Jewish cultural heritage and promoting understanding of its traditions and history.

    Featuring: a morning Shabbat service, led by Rabbi Julie, followed by an authentic Ethiopian lunch, followed by our speaker.

    A flyer will be mailed out shortly to all members with all of the details. Nonmembers are invited as well. Call or email us if you are interested.


  • Save December 10, 2011 for Taste of Limmud
  • Date: Saturday, December 10, 2011

    Time: 6:30pm - 11:00pm

    Location: National Museum of American Jewish History, 101 South Independence Mall East (5th & Market Streets), Philadelphia, PA 19106

    Our theme for this event is Everything Old is New Again

    LimmudPhilly is excited to partner with the National Museum of American Jewish History for a Taste of Limmud. Taste of Limmud is a great way to get that wonderful Limmud feeling, experience what Limmud feels like, and learn something new and different, all in one evening. The event also provides a new way to visit the museum! Leyv Ha-Ir is a proud partner of LimmudPhilly.

    This promises to be an amazing evening, starting with a unique Havdallah experience, followed by some wonderful Limmud-style learning! Enjoy the museum too.

    Confirmed presenters include:
    * Matthew Bar of Bible Raps
    * (Our very own) Jessi Roemer & Eve Friedman - Jewish musicians extraordinaire
    * Deborah Hirsch - Jewmba master
    * Menachem Daum - Documentary film-maker
    * and more!

    The price for the evening, including a jazz, wine and dessert closing session, is $18 for early-birds (up to and including November 30th) and museum members, $25 regular rate. Register here by scrolling down to Taste of Limmud now!

    Find out more about LimmudPhilly, volunteer, sign up for our email list, or donate at You can also email them at or call 267.235.4083.

    Thank you,
    Bobbi Cohen

  • Bagels and Books
  • The last Bagels and Books was a wonderful event, with 5 LHI members enacting interviews with famous Jewish notibles. Beverly Sills, Gene Wilder, Barry Levenson, Joan Rivers and Fran Dreisher's lives were spelled out for us and how Judiasm's culture impacted their lives.

  • POWER Center City Cluster Meeting
  • By John O. Mason

    Members of Leyv Ha-Ir took part in a meeting of the Center City cluster of POWER, held at St Paul's Baptist Church, 10th and Wallace streets, on Monday, November 21, 2011.

    Participants were greeted by the Reverend Leslie Callahan, pastor of St. Paul's; Charles Brown, a deacon of the church, led them in a community-building exercise, where everyone told someone what they were good at.

    Wesley Lathrop, one of the activists for POWER, spoke of one of POWER's main issues, unemployment, focusing on the upcoming expansion of Philadelphia International Airport, which is to be the second-largest expansion project for an airport in the nation. $6.2 billion, from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), revenue bonds and passenger facility charges, will be allocated for this project, which is expected to last 13 years and create 3,000 construction jobs. It was POWER's job, said Lathrop, to make sure people in the communities benefited from this project, by hiring unemployed workers.

    We have to, Lathrop added, use our leverage with City Council in how they decide on land acquisition and the sale of bonds, since the City government owns the airport, not an independent authority. The City government would negotiate with the airlines, the building and construction trades unions, and UPS; POWER, along with community groups, environmental groups, and unions, would work to persuade City Council to see that neighborhoods benefited.

    The City would sign a Community Benefit Agreement, a form of contract, with community groups for that purpose. The member congregations of POWER, said Lathrop, would educate their congregants about this issue. POWER would follow the model of efforts by community groups in Los Angeles to affect the construction of Los Angeles International Airport

  • Chesed
  • Chesed...what does that mean? At Leyv Ha-Ir it means "acts of loving kindness" -- and that's what our Chesed committee tries to do for our members who may be in need of a visit at a hospital or at home, a trip to the grocery store for someone who is not able to perform daily functions, being accompanied to or from a medical appointment or event, or something else not mentioned. So...if you are in need, why not contact Rabbi Julie or Pat Wisch (215-563-1894 or and let them find a way to provide CHESED for you!! .

  • Quote of the Month
  • Though no one can go back in time and make a brand new start, anyone can start from now and make a brand new ending.

    - anonymous

  • December Yahrzeits
  • May This Soul be Bound in the Book of Eternal Life

    Susan Singer

  • Selkie New Year
  • Below is a dvar torah that Leyv Ha-Ir member Sue Frank delivered on the second day of Rosh Hashanah. Sue is an ordained Rabbi from Reconstructionist Rabinnical College.

    Hello, Leyv Ha'Ir! Shanah Tovah!

    I'm Sue Frank and I am enjoying the invitation to speak to you for a few minutes. I'd like to address the vexed and fascinating topic of "Selkies and the Jewish Question."

    What is a selkie? Good question! I might just be one, so I'm a good person to ask. Selkies (or silkies) are creatures who live in the oceans as seals, but can come up onto dry land and take human form.

    They may be found mostly in the northern islands of Scotland, the Orkneys and Hebrides, but also show up along Irish, Welsh, English and Norwegian shores. I say I might be one because I come from Scottish folk on my father's side and Norwegian on my mother's.

    Wherever selkies occur, they are said to have intermingled with the people of their regions, and so founded clans and families where their unique traits live on, however dimly remembered or acknowledged. But if you have an affinity for seals or are drawn to the water, chances are good--that you have a selkie heritage.

    I grew up in the village of Woods Hole on Cape Cod. One of Cape Cod's great charms is that its beaches are visited by seals, mostly harbor seals and Atlantic grey seals.

    My father was director of the government fisheries research laboratory in Woods Hole. One of his most successful projects was the creation of an aquarium for visitors where people could inspect the variety of animals who live in the nearby waters. It includes a pool where two rescued harbor seals frolic.

    I never tire of watching them. Like most seals, they have large eyes which meet your gaze, comical slug-shaped bodies heavily padded with blubber, whiskery faces with mouths set in a perpetual smile. They play a lot.

    They are curious in a friendly way you meet in very few wild animals. They are almost never bite people although they have good strong teeth for eating the squid and fish that are the staples of their diet.

    They seem to carry no grudge against humans for the long, brutal exploitation they and their kind suffered, being hunted for pelts and lamp oil. Praise be, that is now mostly a sad, bad dream.

    Turning for a moment to this time and place, our Jewish New Year, I feel again the refreshment of renewing the year in this season, in autumn. It means more to me than the chilly January new year of our secular lives. The academic year opens all over the known world, summer loses her stifling grip on Philadelphia--and the Atlantic grey seals are hauling out of their ocean environs onto beaches to give birth to their pups. Autumn--not spring time!

    The pups emerge and sing with their mothers to form a unique bond. They nurse until they grow to survival girth and learn to swim. (They have to be carefully taught!) and before you know it, are heading out into the freezing North Atlantic waters to take up the oceanic phase of their lives. So little time to prepare, but nature has seen to their survival in sufficient numbers to keep the seal tribes thriving.

    A Jewish child is born in the shtetl. He has very little time to learn his aleph-bet. He is hardly weaned before he is tossed into what the rabbis called the Sea of Torah and the Ocean of Talmud. It might be a cold splash going in, but there is the richest of nourishment there.

    Like the seals, Jews have a long history with those who would harm them. I recently saw a documentary film about Scholem Aleichem, the beloved Yiddish writer of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. (It is called "Laughing in the Darkness.")

    Scholem Aleichem was born in a shtetl in the Russian Pale of Settlement and began life as a heder (beginner Hebrew religious school, like a madrasa) student. But once he was weaned, it soon became clear that he was a sort of selkie. He possessed the magical powers needed to travel between his birthworld, the closed-off Pale, and the secular urban world of Czarist Russia. He could shed his cap and tzizit (much as the selkie coming ashore might shed his or her seal coat) and take on the form of a citizen of the world. He could tell his stories and send his children into the danger to continue the hair-raising adventure of living between the tides.

    So maybe all of us Jews are selkies of a sort, moving between the sea of Jewishness and the land of world citizenship, bringing the genius of our Jewish values to bear on the challenging surround of our environment, wherever we find ourselves.

    Please take with you my hopes that you will be inscribed--AND SEALED! for a sweet new year.

  • Rabbi Julie's Rosh Hashana First Day 5772 Sermon
  • Riding the Chariot

    Drawing on imagery from the prophet Ezekial, I spoke last night about opening up a place between the old year and the new year, a place of potential, a place of promise, in which each one of us can renew our spirit and revive the deadness of dry bones that rattle within us. Ezekial also imagined a fiery chariot, pulled by angels, a home for God. In today's talk I want to reflect on what it would mean for us to ride this chariot together.

    The chariot we are on is full of prayer and Torah and community at this time of year, a chariot of replenishment for those brittle bones. It's not a tragedy that we get depleted, discouraged, beaten down. Bone gets the signal to renew itself when the byproducts of bone-breakdown reignite the spark of growth. Muscle is the same way---only when you stress muscle does it get stronger. Taking this time to reflect and re-focus for this New Year, to address the places of depletion and hopelessness, is the first step in the renewal ride for not only our bones but for our selves.

    One thing that I want to talk about is that on this ride, you are not alone. This is not a solitary mission for you to solve the problems of meaning and joy and connection all by yourself. These challenges are modern, insidious challenges that eat away at all of us. I would be shocked if there were a single person in this room who has never experienced isolation, despair, the loneliness of grief.

    The idea of the individual self, sole and self-sufficient, is both a modern idea and a particularly American idea. It is deeply imbued within each of us, this feeling that I don't want to ask too much of others, I don't want to be dependent, I myself really need to figure this out or I am not worthy, respectable, lovable.

    Here's where we are lucky that we as Jews and fellow travelers belong to more than one civilization. Most of us here are thoroughly American and that is one civilization. But drawing on the resource of Judaism gives us the wealth of another civilization. In Judaism the concept of interdependence is essential.

    I'd like to share with you a Jewish story that illustrates this theme.

    Long ago in a town in Israel, there lived a water bearer who owned two large pots; each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck. One of the pots had a crack in it, while the other pot was flawless and always delivered a full portion of water.

    At the end of the long walk from the stream, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

    For a full two years this went on daily, with the bearer delivering only one and a half pots full of water. Of course, the full pot was proud of its accomplishments, fully discharging its daily responsibilities. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it was able to accomplish only half of what it had been made to do.

    Perceiving itself to be a bitter failure, the cracked pot spoke to the water bearer one day by the stream,"I am ashamed of myself---this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house."

    The bearer said to the pot, "Did you notice that there were flowers only on your side of the path, but not on the other pot's side? That's because I have always known about your 'flaw' and I planted flower seeds on your side of the path and every day while we walked back and forth, you've watered them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house!"

    In a living community, often one person's need is another person's opportunity to serve. In my neighborhood I'm on a Jewish community listserv and this listserv is just an amazing experience of interconnection. Over the summer, my family was going out of town and I needed someone to take care of the guinea pigs. I was thinking, "Oh boy, am I going to have to arrange for pet sitters and pay for this?" I put a request over the listserv and several families wrote back saying, "We'd love to have the guinea pigs. My children would get great pleasure from taking care of them." Also recently I put onto the listserv something about my quest for a baking teacher for my eleven year-old Mozi. It turned out that many people thought it would be wonderfully fun to bake with my daughter. Then someone was looking for housing for the people organizing Obama's state campaign and I was able to offer a room for them. You just never know where one person's need might be another person's joy.

    I've worked with people who cared for sick beloveds, sometimes in agonizingly difficult circumstances. Some observers would say, "It would be a blessing for so-and-so to die," but when plony finally did die, there was a gaping hole in the life of the caregiver. So much identity and meaning and blessing had come from the care-giving role, hard as it was, that the loss of that opportunity to care was huge. One of the greatest sadnesses of modern times, one that comes from societies being fragmented and complicated, is being deprived of opportunities to care.

    In nature, there are times for receiving and times for giving - the flower seed absorbs the sun, the rain, the nutrients from the earth, then it blossoms forth, somewhere in there it shares food for insects and birds. To everything there is a season.

    Similarly there are seasons of a life. What season are you in? What era is this for you? Is this an era of need or an era of plenty? What combination of those two is this for you?

    The Kabbalistic image of the world is that God's shefa or abundance flows down into the world, and humans lift it back up through good deeds and prayer, so that there is a constant cycle of goodness in the universe. Where are you right now in that cycle? Are you able to be a giver and a receiver? Do you need to make a tikkun, a correction, to adjust the balance of giving and receiving?

    Rabbi Dayle Friedman writes about this in her brilliant work on Judaism and ageing. As people age, one spiritual challenge is to be a gracious and willing receiver of help. She quotes Maggie Kuhn, the founder of the Grey Panthers, who said that the dichotomy is not DEPENDENT versus INDEPENDENT. We are all inter-dependent. A spiritual task that faces all of us is to be as good at receiving help as we are at giving it, remembering that whenever we are able there is always opportunity to re-fill the universe with good deeds.

    Jewish spirituality stands in contrast to the American idealization of independence. Jewish spirituality, maybe all spirituality, is about being part of the whole, belonging, having a place. In this way Jewish culture or civilization is a counter-culture that speaks back to American values. Another story, (adapted):

    A woman whose husband had died came to a Tzaddik and poured out her heart to him. In her distraught state, she described how her loss had robbed her of all peace of mind, and how she didn't even feel comforted by her friends who couldn't possibly know what she was going through. She was struggling with terrible anguish.

    After listening closely, the Tzaddik advised the woman to bake a cake-but only to use ingredients gathered from people in her town who had never experienced pain and loss. Truly seeking solace, the woman went from house to house but found that she was unable to find a single house where there was no pain or suffering. One home had a sick child, the next one had no income, the next had had a fire. As she went from house to house she actually found herself comforting others who were having a hard time, and taking a cup of tea or breaking bread with them. She was unable to find any people who had never experienced pain or loss, but she did collect ingredients, a little butter here, an egg or two there, sort of like in Stone Soup, and was able to bake a cake.

    That night, exhausted but fulfilled from her efforts, she returned to the Tzaddik, wondering if she should be feeling disappointed at her failure to find pure ingredients, untouched by pain or loss. As she approached his study, and saw him, through the window, studying Torah, she realized that in her very "failure" was the remedy. She realized that she had not been singled out for punishment, but rather that loss is part of the fate of all mortals. She was able, once again, to envision a future state of peace, and to accept comfort from well-intentioned friends who also had their own difficulties, symbolized by the cake which she shared in the shul the next day.

    We value giving back when you are able and it is your turn. This year amazing gifts of time, talent and treasure flowed into this community, sustaining it. We appreciate every idea and every contribution of energy. Someone saw the need for more High Holy Day prayer books and wrote a check for over 30 new machzors. Someone saw a congregant who needed rides to and from the hospital and arranged to help with that transportation. Someone devotes many hours to managing our membership list.

    From the abundance of caring in our own small community, our giving needs to overflow to sustain our larger community. That giving will rebound to fill our lives with connection and meaning. This year our major social justice initiative in Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City is to participate in a tremendously exciting new project in Philadelphia called POWER, Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Re-build. POWER is a network of religious institutions and other interested people who are turning individual pain about lack of health care, unemployment, poor educational options, into public policy to make things better. I will be very involved in this work and I hope you'll join me.

    The prophet Ezekial imagined a chariot rising toward God. I think our chariot today is the vehicle of caring community. This chariot reminds us that we are not alone; that we are each interconnected, interdependent, called to give and to receive.

    Are you ready to ride that chariot into the New Year? Are you willing to let Judaism challenge your Self, embrace you, need you, uplift you? We are here to ride the chariot with you.

    Welcome to the New Year. Shanah Tovah.

    :: 215-629-1995