What's Happening At Leyv Ha-Ir

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One Book, One Congregation Discussion

posted Jul 1, 2020, 12:21 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Jul 2, 2020, 7:48 AM ]

Join us as we welcome Rabbi Julie Greenberg back from sabbatical.  On Sunday
August 23, 2020 from noon to 1:15 PM, Rabbi Julie will lead us in a discussion on Zoom of our summer reading Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness by Stephen Mitchell.

In Joseph and the Way of Forgiveness, Mitchell takes the ancient biblical story of Joseph, which is the longest narrative in the Torah, and finds profound meaning for today.  Tolstoy called Joseph's journey"the most beautiful story in the world."  One critic described Mitchell's book as "a unique and special kind of masterpiece.”   Mitchell’s retelling, coming from the perspective of a renowned teacher of mindfulness,will surprise us with new understanding of our ancestors and of our choices today.  The book reads as a novel so if you like novels, this one promises to be engaging, innovative and illuminating.

Information for this and all online events will automatically be sent to LHI members.  If non-members would like to participate, please email us at info@leyvhair.org, or call us at 215-629-1995, for the remote access information.

Rabbi Dayle's July 2020 Letter to Congregation

posted Jul 1, 2020, 12:13 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Jul 1, 2020, 12:26 PM ]

Dearest Leyv Ha-Ir-niks,

This is my last newsletter message to you as your Interim Rabbi. What a year it’s been! We could not have imagined when we met at the High Holy Days that we would be three months into a global pandemic, that we would be gathering not with hugs and collective singing and shared refreshments, but in virtual spaces on Zoom! We could not have imagined that we would stay home to stay safe, and that we as a city and nation would be grappling with the toxic costs of racism and injustice.

I was reminiscing this week about that painful time in early March when we had to decide whether to hold Kabbalat Shabbat at the Ethical Society, and whether to cancel our planned Purim celebration and Pesach Seder. It was not clear then how we would go forward. There was so much loss and uncertainty. But somehow, we all migrated to “Zoom land,” and we discovered that we could connect to each other in our weekly SHAMANU sessions, and that we could raise our spirits and connect with the Divine and with our people in our monthly Kabbalat Shabbat services. We even managed to have meaningful learning in our spring education series, sadly minus the brunch!

You have all shown flexibility, patience and grit in this challenging time.

In this week’s Torah portion, Hukkat, the children of Israel find themselves without water. They are parched, frustrated, and hopeless. They rail against Moses and God, saying, “Why have you brought our holy community into this wilderness—so that we and our animals will die here? And why did you bring us up from Egypt to this awful place, where there is no grain or figs or pomegranates? There is not even water to drink!” (20:4-5)

God instructs Moses to take his staff, and to speak to a rock, and water will flow from it. Moses is furious at his faithless people and stung by their criticism. He says, “Listen you rebels, shall we get water for you from this rock?” and he angrily strikes the rock. Water does flow, but God is enraged that Moses has not followed orders. Later in the parashah, when the people are again in need of water, Moses sings to a rock and water emerges.

As we live through this time of fear, uncertainty and loss, we can probably relate to our people’s impatience and anger in the wilderness. How many of us have fervently wished that this would all be over already? How many of us wish we could go back to January, when we knew nothing of this terrible plague we are facing? The Torah calls us to patience, to appreciate the goodness we do experience, and to find new ways to get what we need.

I pray that we at Leyv Ha-Ir, as a community, will continue to support one another in finding blessing amid the challenges of this time, that we will quell our anger and act out of love, and that we will continue to find new ways to meet our needs and those of the people around us.

I look forward to the learning, prayer and observances ahead in the coming month.

With blessings for shalvah-tranquility,

Rabbi Dayle

REMOTE LEARNING: Rabbi Dayle's Summer 2020/5780 Education Series - Life Story Midrash: Our Stories as a Map for Transformation

posted Jun 3, 2020, 5:42 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Jun 12, 2020, 2:16 PM ]

LHI's Education Committee is pleased to present Rabbi Dayle Friedman's remote Summer Education Series. Over the course of three sessions, Rabbi Dayle will lead a discussion on the topic
Life Story Midrash: Our Life as a Map For Transformation

Life review is a natural and generative part of growing older. Sociologist Sara Lightfoot-Lawrence says “Our stories are our only map” for the journey beyond midlife.  Through our stories, we can come to recognize tender places, unfinished business, and yearnings that can transform our lives going forward. Re-framing our stories can guide us and heal us.  As Fred Luskin says, “we can always rewrite the stories we carry around.”

In this series, we will investigate the interpretive process of Midrash, the rabbis’ approach to finding meaning in the stories from our sacred text. We’ll sample some key questions Midrash uses in expounding a text, and then we’ll each apply these questions to a story from our lives. We’ll write and re-write our story in order to glean lessons from our pasts and directions for our futures.

Please note: the stories from our lives that we work on will be kept private. We will share reflections only about the process and the lessons we learn.

Session I – June 28: Life Review: A Tool for Spiritual Healing

Reading: Selections from Rachel Naomi Remen, Kitchen Table Wisdom: Stories That Heal, pp. xxi-xlii, 26-31, 314-17.

Session II: July 12:  The Midrashic Process: Digging for Meaning

Reading: Dayle A. Friedman, “The Journey of Later Life: Moses as Our Guide,” in Midrash and Medicine: Healing Body and Soul in Jewish Interpretive Tradition. Jewish Lights: 2011 (pdf).

Session III: July 26:  Making Own Life Story Midrash

Registration is required and the cost is $10 per session. 

Zoom access information and reading material will be sent to registrants.

All are welcome.  You need not attend all sessions to participate.  Here are the registration links:

June 28 - Session I Registration:  http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=at4mmpbab&oeidk=a07eh4ujb16fb7de45c

July 12 - Session II Registration:  http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=at4mmpbab&oeidk=a07eh4ukusk052c2a7a

July 26 - Session III Registration:  http://events.constantcontact.com/register/event?llr=at4mmpbab&oeidk=a07eh4ukuund650d033

Rabbi Dayle's June 2020 Letter to Congregation

posted Jun 1, 2020, 3:00 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Jun 1, 2020, 3:40 PM ]

Dearest members of the beloved Leyv Ha-Ir community,

I write to you on the festival of Shavuot, the time of the Giving of the Torah. On this holiday, we relive that dramatic and powerful moment at the foot of Mt. Sinai. Interestingly, although the holiday is called the time of GIVING the Torah, our commanded action is to RECEIVE the Torah. Traditions for this time include studying Torah all night, or at least until the skies open up at midnight, reading the Ten Commandments from the Torah, and eating dairy foods, because the Torah is compared to milk in its life-giving capacity (except for those who are lactose intolerant!).

Receiving Torah, however, is not a one- or two-day a year affair. We receive Torah every time we read from the sacred scroll, every time we study a Jewish text, and, in the broadest sense, every time we open our hearts to learn from the Torah that is revealed to us each day of our lives. This is why the blessing after reading the Torah acknowledges the Divine who “has given us the Torah of truth and implanted within us eternal life.” We close the blessing with the words, “Blessed is the Eternal, who IS GIVING us the Torah.”

So, the act of revelation is a continuous process. Our very lives are a process of uncovering life-giving truth. May we open our hearts to the Torah that is awaiting us in every day we are alive, and may we, in our sacred community, witness and learn from one another’s precious wisdom.

With blessings for inspiration and health,

 Rabbi Dayle

Rabbi Dayle's May 2020 Letter to Congregation

posted May 5, 2020, 3:24 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Jun 1, 2020, 3:40 PM ]

Dearest Leyv Ha-Ir Hevre (friends),

I write this message amid unimaginable conditions: we have all been confined to our homes for five weeks; our lives have become circumscribed; we have missed trips, cultural events, and family visits; we have faced fear and danger, and some of us have personally combated the feared COVID-19 virus; we have not gathered in person in two months.

How are we to maintain our equilibrium in this time of challenge? It is so easy to sink into discouragement, sadness, even despair. One answer is clearly to maintain and deepen our connection to each other, as we share virtual prayer, study and gatherings with the Leyv Ha-Ir community.  We will keep doing this!

I want to suggest an additional response, one hinted at by this week’s Torah portion, Kedoshim (holiness). This parashat contains many varied commandments aimed at fostering sanctity in our lives.  Some are ethical in nature, some ritual. Among the commandments are these two:

·    Love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Eternal. (Leviticus 19:18)

·    Love the stranger as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt. I the eternal am your God. (Leviticus 19:34)

Two observations about these mitzvot/commandments. First, a central path toward living a life of sanctity is through loving others.  Second, in each of these verses, we are reminded of God’s relationship with us.  What is the connection?  It would seem that when we love others, whether the closest person to us, or the one most remote or different from us, we are in relationship with the Divine.  As Martin Buber taught, when we are in real relationship, God is present.

What can these verses teach us about surviving and thriving in the age of Coronavirus? We are obligated to turn our attention, and our hearts, beyond ourselves.  We are all experiencing loss and difficulty in this crisis, but we are not the only ones.  Right here in our city, those who were teetering on the edge of economic insecurity have been catapulted into dire need.  Those who are still working in the most essential jobs in food distribution, transportation, and healthcare, are imperiling their lives and their families every time they go to work.

We can transform our experience by directing our love, prayers and resources toward those most in need.  As we all know, when we practice empathy, we are not alone, and we are making a difference.

For those of you able to make a financial contribution, please consider these local efforts:

Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s COVID-19 Emergency Fund

Philabundance’s emergency food distribution initiative

Fuel the Fight Philly, a great project which creates work for restaurant workers and provides meals for healthcare workers

I pray we will find health, strength and resilience, and that this crisis may open our hearts to each other, and to all who are suffering.

Bivracha—in blessing,

Rabbi Dayle

The Shamanu Sessions

posted Mar 17, 2020, 3:45 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Jun 12, 2020, 2:10 PM ]

Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir invites all members to join for the Shamanu Sessions.

Every Wednesday through July, Rabbi Dayle will offer a brief teaching, and we will have a chance to share our experiences in this extraordinary time.

Starting August 5, LHI member Amy Trachtenberg will be our facilitator.  Amy will offer a brief kavanah/intention to prompt heartened sharing of our experiences.

They start at 11 AM and run for about 45 minutes.

The sessions are available through Zoom.  Information for this and all virtual events will automatically be sent to members.

Here is a YouTube video on how to connect to a Zoom meeting, for those who have not done it before:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vFhAEoCF7jg.

REMOTE LEARNING: Rabbi Dayle's Spring 2020/5780 Education Series

posted Mar 8, 2020, 3:45 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Apr 7, 2020, 5:25 PM ]

The LHI Education Committee presents Rabbi Dayle Friedman's spring 2020 Education Series. Join us for an engaging discussion led by Rabbi Dayle on the very important topic: Grit and Grace - A Spiritual Framework For Growing Old.

“Aging is not for sissies,” Bette Davis famously observed. More and more of us are blessed with the gift of increased longevity—more years, more adventures, and more challenges, as well. Together we will explore tools and perspectives from Jewish tradition as well as our own experiences, to help us grow deeper, wiser and more resilient as we grow beyond midlife.

Session I: March 22, 2020 – From Brokenness to Repair: A Spiritual Vision For the Path Beyond Midlife

Drawing on the Kabbalistic creation myth, we’ll consider the ways that we are continually beginning again, and how each stage of aging provides an opportunity for birth out of brokenness. We will explore the constant choice between seeking sparks of goodness and holiness or succumbing to darkness in the wake of loss and change.

Suggested Reading:  Dayle Friedman. Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older: Finding Your Grit and Grace Beyond Midlife. Jewish Lights Publishing. 2015, pp. 3-13.

Session II: April 19, 2020 – Doing Our Own Work of Tikkun/Repair

We will investigate how we can approach unfinished business of the past so that we can approach the future with open hearts. We will look at practices for finding forgiveness and healing regrets, so that we can clear the way to be available for new callings

Suggested Reading:  Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older, pp. 71-76.

Session III: May 3, 2020 – Answering the Call: Becoming True Elders

We will look into the role of elder in traditional Judaism, and how we might reclaim this for our lives and time. We’ll explore how we can discern our own elder callings, as mentors, peacemakers, activists, and models.

Suggested Reading:  Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older, pp. 113-122

Jewish Wisdom for Growing Older
is available on Amazon here.  Reading is suggested, not a requirement for attending the classes.

You need not attend all sessions to participate.


Information for this and all virtual events will automatically be sent to members. If non-members would like to participate, please email us at info@leyvhair.org, or call us at 215-629-1995, for the remote access information.

No RSVP required.  No charge to call in.

Rabbi Dayle's April 2020 Letter to the Congregation

posted Mar 1, 2020, 10:26 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Apr 1, 2020, 6:47 AM ]

Dear Leyv Ha-Ir hevre (friends),

It is hard to believe that Pesach is coming so soon. In this time of quarantine and social isolation, with Coronavirus hovering menacingly around us and our dear ones, it certainly feels like we are in Mitzrayim/Egypt/the narrow place. It is a bit challenging to imagine that we will be leaving Egypt together, at least ritually, on April 9, with our Virtual Community Seder.

It is likely that the externals of our reality will not have greatly changed by then. We will undoubtedly still be on lockdown in our homes, unable to do so many things we had previously taken for granted, and still be watching the grip of Coronavirus intensifying on our nation and the world. But…we will nonetheless leave Egypt together.

Like our ancestors who found themselves celebrating Pesach in shtetls besieged by pogroms, in urban ghettos immersed in poverty and want, in concentration camps as well as in times of plenty and ease, we will go forth from Egypt. We will commemorate enslavement and redemption, suffering and relief. We will sing and eat and remember. We’ll remember that at our people’s moment of hopeless despair, with Pharoah’s army behind us and the wide sea ahead, a way opened, and we were saved.

We will treasure our freedom, which is great even when restricted, our tradition, and our community. We will take comfort and hope from this narrative of hope. And we will sing Dayenu: it will be enough.

I look forward to dancing out of Egypt with you as we join virtually for our congregational Seder, and I wish you a zissen Pesach, a sweet and liberating and healthy Passover.

In blessing and affection,

Rabbi Dayle

Rabbi Dayle's March 2020 Letter to the Congregation

posted Mar 1, 2020, 10:06 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Mar 1, 2020, 10:12 AM ]

March 2020-Adar 5780

Dear Leyv Ha-Ir hevre (friends),

This month on the Hebrew calendar is Adar, which is the subject of a very special rabbinic saying: “Once Adar arrives, we increase our joy” – mi-shenichnas Adar marbim b’simcha. This teaching could be simply a description, but my sense is that it is an imperative. We are obligated to cultivate joy in this month because of what we learn from the story of Purim, which falls on the 14th of Adar.

On its face, Purim seems to be a kind of Mardi Gras, inviting silliness, disguise, noisemaking and even intoxication. Beneath all of that, however, is a deep and comforting message. The Purim story is, at base, about transformation, or, in Hebrew, v’nahafoch hu “it was reversed.” The Jewish people are rescued from persecution by Mordechai and Esther. Mordechai and Esther cease being closeted Jews (their names are taken from Persian deities, Marduk and Astarte) and instead courageously stand up and bring “light, joy and preciousness” to the Jewish people. Esther is transformed from a passive sex object to an empowered person with a voice and inner worth and strength.

This message of transformation is more powerful than ever in our challenging times. Amid darkness and injustice, we are reminded that things don’t stay the way they are. We are inspired by Mordechai and Esther to find our own voices, to live with hope, to say NO to injustice, and to foster transformation and repair of our broken world. And, I would suggest, cultivating joy is a critical bolster to the work of transformation. I encourage all of us to find opportunities of delight—in the small moments of our lives, in special treats, and in the richness of our community.

I am looking forward to celebrating Purim with the Leyv Ha-Ir community on Sunday, March 15. We will engage in revelry and take courage from the deepest teachings of the holiday.

I’m excited to lead Kabbalat Shabbat on March 13, when our worship will be enhanced by the accompaniment of jazz pianist, Peter Simpkins, Team Shira and drumming by Sue Frank.

Finally, I hope you will join us for the first session of our upcoming education series, Grit and Grace, on Sunday, March 22. We will explore Jewish tools for growing wiser and deeper as we grow older.

May your Adar be filled with joy.

With abundant blessing,

Rabbi Dayle

Sunday Series Salon: Center City Before Moses

posted Feb 9, 2020, 9:36 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Feb 24, 2020, 12:15 PM ]

Come join us on Sunday, March 8, 2020, for LHI Education Committee's Sunday Salon Series.  We are delighted that at this salon, Kenneth D. Frank, M.D., husband of Leyv Ha-Ir member Sue Frank, will present Center City Before Moses

In 1931 workers digging a subway tunnel at 8th and Locust Streets discovered subterranean tree stumps that were more than 36,000 years old. The stumps were buried 38 feet underground, and the wood was well preserved. The trees were bald cypress, a southern species whose native range does not extend this far north. How scientists cracked the mystery of this discovery is an intriguing tale. The story offers clues to Center City’s prehistoric past and potential future.

Kenneth D. Frank, M.D. is a retired physician with a life-long interest in natural history. He has recently focused on the ecology of Center City, and in 2015 published a magnificent book titled Ecology of Center City, Philadelphia which examines the flora and fauna just beyond our front stoops, and elucidates in a most approachable way Center City’s dynamic and resilient ecology.

It promises to be a very enlightening session.  

Very light noshes will be served. 

RSVP BY THURSDAY, MARCH 5, 2020.  SEATING IS LIMITED TO 18 PEOPLE.  Please contact Beverly by email at hayden15@verizon.net or at 215-557-3777 to RSVP and for her address.

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