What's Happening At Leyv Ha-Ir

Keep your members up to date on your synagogue blog.

Rabbi Julie's May 2022 Letter to the Congregation

posted May 1, 2022, 7:31 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir

May 2022

Dear Chevre,

Happy spring. Pennsylvania has an important primary on Tuesday, May 17. As we partner with God in the work of creating a good world right here on earth, we must engage in the world of politics by actively participating in the upcoming election.

I will be organizing groups of five people at a time to make phone calls to motivate folks to get out and vote. We will schedule the groups at a time convenient for all. This is part of POWER's voter engagement program. Organizers will make sure that you are 100% comfortable with the phone banking system and the script. Please contact me to let me know if this is a mitzvah you'd like to do with me: juliegberg@gmail.com or (215) 843-9592.

And of course, let's encourage our neighbors and family members to vote-by-mail or go to the polls on May 17.

I hope you are enjoying spring at last.

Love to all,

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie's April 2022 Letter to Congregation

posted Apr 3, 2022, 4:29 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir

April 2022 

Dear Chevre,

As we enter our season of liberation, I know many of our hearts are heavy with news from Ukraine. That part of the world holds a special resonance for Jews around the world. The Hassidic movement was born in what is now called Ukraine and some of our ancestors come from there. Fifty-two Hassidic Rebbes are products of that territory, including the Baal Shem Tov, founder of Hassidut, and his students Pinchas of Koretz, Dov Baer the Maggid of Mezerich, Reb Nahum Twersky of Chernobyl, Lev Yitzhak of Berditchev, and more. The burial place of Rebbe Nahman of Bratslav (author of the quote we frequently sing "All the whole wide world is just a narrow bridge...." and much else) is a pilgrimage site to this day.

Our prayers go out to the refugees fleeing from the devastating war zone, and it is heartwarming to see the warm welcome many of them are receiving in Europe. That is how all refugees from any part of the world should be treated: with welcoming shelter, food, clothes and medical care, work permits and respect. We can support the Ukrainians while we also bemoan that some people seem to qualify for compassion while others do not. Let us help make this standard of welcome available to all people fleeing danger or destruction no matter their skin color, language or religion.

Judaism teaches us, especially at this season, that we were strangers in a strange land and we must always welcome the stranger. As we extend this value into more global and universal spaces even beyond our tribe of Jewish kin, I am proud to share this Jewish value of welcome with the world.

Blessings for the runway to Passover, I hope to see you at the Seder!

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie's Spring 2022 Education Series: The Legacy of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi

posted Mar 16, 2022, 3:18 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Mar 22, 2022, 1:06 PM ]

Leyv Ha-Ir's Education Committee welcomes you to participate in Rabbi Julie's Spring 2022 Education Series. Rabbi Julie will be leading a discussion of the life, teachings, and legacy of Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi.

Reb Zalman was a major force of reinvigoration for contemporary Judaism. He was a beloved teacher and guide for decades, serving as the right hand man of the Lubavitcher Rebbe and eventually as a founder of the Jewish Renewal movement. Some members of our congregation knew him personally and all of us are the beneficiaries of his dedication to thriving Jewish community.

The reading material is drawn from Reb Zalman's 2013 book Jewish With Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice. You do not have to buy the book to participate. More information about the book is available here. It can be purchased online at your preferred book seller. Here is a link to it at Bookshop.org (which donates a portion of sale proceeds to local book stores). It is also sold by the famous Powell's Books (link is here) and on Amazon.

Throughout the course, consider these questions:
  • How do you imagine your life would be different without the contributions Reb Zalman made to our part of the Jewish world?
  • What ingredients went into Reb Zalman feeling empowered to boldly renew the Judaism he had inherited?
  • What losses and what blessings do you see in his choices about how and what to lead?

April 10, 2022 - The Life of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi:

In this first session in our series, we will get to know some of the life story of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, situated in historical context. Deeply rooted in the Old World, holocaust survivor, traditional Chassid, Reb Zalman became one of the most innovative Jewish leaders in this country, birthing the Jewish Renewal movement that continues to shape Judaism unto this day. How did he come from where he came and become who he became? Please read the Introduction and first chapter of Judaism with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice. To help prepare for Passover, you are also welcome to watch this wonderful YouTube video of Reb Zalman teaching about Passover.


Passover video   https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=diTXNR4ck8g


May 15, 2022 - The Teachings of Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi:

In the second session in our series, we will look at some of the ways that Reb Zalman took traditional Jewish teachings and practices and infused relevance and meaning into them. He brought Judaism alive for new generations of people living in a very modern world. Please read chapter two in Judaism with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice. You can also  enjoy this wonderful YouTube video on highlights of Jewish Renewal teaching by Reb Zalman.




June 12, 2022 - The Legacy of Reb Zalman:

In the final session in our series we will examine how Reb Zalman traveled around the globe planting seeds of Jewish Renewal. Often in the wake of his workshops, new communities sprang up, they grew connections, a movement was born. We will explore how his legacy is alive and well today. As usual, please bring your questions and reflections to our lively discussion. 

Please read Chapter 4 and Chapter 7 of Judaism with Feeling: A Guide to Meaningful Jewish Practice. You also might be interested in starting early to prepare for the High Holy Days:


High Holy Day video  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pGQrUvBd710&sns=em


You do not have to attend all sessions to participate.

Participation for LHI members is free of charge. We ask non-members to consider making a suggested minimum donation of $18 per person for the series, which you can make through PAYPAL on LHI’s website or by check payable to Leyv Ha-Ir, P.O. Box 15836, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

Information for this and all virtual 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, to request that the remote access information be sent to you the day before each session. 

Rabbi Julie's March 2022 Letter to Congregation

posted Mar 1, 2022, 6:29 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Mar 1, 2022, 6:29 AM ]

March 2022

  Dear Ones,

Here we are in a world at war with so many perils on all fronts. And yet it is the Jewish month of Adar, the month of Purim! This Jewish holiday is designed to teach us, even in the midst of hardship, to have fun, to play, to laugh, to enjoy. 

I am thinking of the Ukrainian-born poet Ilya Kamensky, who wrote the poem "We Lived Happily During the War." It includes the sentence "I took a chair outside and watched the sun." Kamensky is writing self-critically about avoiding horror and avoiding responsibility. But Judaism actually teaches a "both/and" understanding of the nexus between horror and humanity. What keeps us human is sitting in the sun, loving each other, showing up for Shabbat. When Purim rolls around every year, no matter what else is going on, we get to have fun.

So I will share with you an activity that I do every day that gives me a few moments of delightful pleasure. I bet some of you do this same activity: Wordle. Wordle is the same as the old paper and pencil word game Jotto but re-invented in digital form. When the New York Times purchased Wordle for its game suite, participation on the digital platform went up by 11%! A lot of people enjoy Wordle.

When our community gathers for Purim on the evening of March 16, on Zoom, we are going to hear the megillah and we are going to see our annual hilarious Purim schpiel (thank you Karen Zeitz and Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City Purim schpielers) and we are going to do a silly activity based on Wordle. Come one, come all, we are going to have fun!

Love and blessing,

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie's February 2022 Letter to Congregation

posted Feb 1, 2022, 7:52 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Feb 1, 2022, 7:56 AM ]

February 2022

Dear Chevre,

In these dark months of February, I want to share a selection of the beautiful words of Psalm 46. "God is our refuge and strength." What does that mean to you? How do you experience refuge and strength even in the dark, the cold, the pandemic, even with threats to democracy and perhaps personal medical challenges? 

This Psalm, like other wisdom sources in our tradition, also reminds us not to live in fear, no matter what we need to face. Reading these kinds of sources was a way that our ancestors stayed grounded and whole no matter what they had to go through. We also have that resource. I welcome you to use the words of Psalm 46 this month as a grounding practice.

Love to all,

Rabbi Julie

God is our refuge and strength,

A very present help in trouble.

Therefore will we not fear, though the earth do change,

And though the mountains be moved into the heart of the seas;

Though the waters thereof roar and foam,

Though the mountains shake at the swelling thereof.


There is a river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God,

The holiest dwelling-place of the Most High.

God is in the midst of her, she shall not be moved;

God shall help her, at the approach of morning.

Nations were in tumult, kingdoms were moved;

He uttered His voice, the earth melted.

The LORD of hosts is with us;

The God of Jacob is our high tower.


[Footnote: You may wonder why the word Selah is part of this Psalm. It is a traditional form of "Amen" that was used in ancient Jewish women's communities as a communal response and is often used today in connection with an Amen, such as "Amen/Selah."]

Rabbi Julie's January 2022 Letter to Congregation

posted Jan 4, 2022, 3:21 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir

January 2022

Dear Chevre,

Welcome to the secular New Year! I am excited about a series of Reconstructing Judaism sessions taking place between January and May on Israel/Palestine. Many in our community have been hungering for a deeper dive into this complicated topic. Our congregation holds many diverse perspectives on these issues. This will be a place of learning and deeper understanding in a space shaped by dedicated Jewish leaders. I know many of the teachers in the series well and have the highest respect for them. I'm planning to attend as many sessions as I can. You are invited to join in too. I hope many of us will participate.

 When the series is over, I'd love to facilitate an open discussion among our own members so that we can share gleanings and reflections.

 All sessions are 8:00PM - 9:30PM Eastern. There is no charge and all are welcome. More information is below.

 Love to all,

 Rabbi Julie



·    Wednesday, January 12 - Rabbi Rebecca Alpert, “Reconstructionism Without Zionism”

·    Wednesday, January 26 - Sarah Brammer-Shlay, Solomon Hoffman, and Rachel Kipnes, "We Find Ourselves in Tears": A Conversation About Israel/Palestine with Reconstructionist Rabbinical Students"

·    Wednesday, February 9 - Rabbi Brant Rosen, “Decolonizing Jewish Liturgy”

·    Tuesday, February 22 - Rabbi Toba Spitzer, “A New Conversation: A Land for All”

·    Wednesday, March 9 - Rabbi Laurie Zimmerman, “Rethinking Israel Education: Teaching Jewish Kids to Think Critically about Israel/Palestine”

·    Wednesday, March 30 - Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari, “Becoming an Abolitionist: Antiracism and Antizionism”

·    Tuesday, April 12 - Rabbi David Teutsch, “History and Challenge: Reconstructionism, Zionism, and the Two-State Solution”

·    Tuesday, April 26 - Rabbi Brian Walt, “Nakba Denial and Teshuva/Reparations”

·    Wednesday, May 11 - Open Conversation



Leyv Ha-Ir's Winter 2021-2022 Education Series: Voices of the Radical and Creative Jew

posted Dec 13, 2021, 8:56 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Dec 13, 2021, 8:57 AM ]

Reconstructing Judaism is a movement largely driven and shaped by communal values. Each Reconstructionist community marks its distinct take on practice, ritual, and community life, yet all Reconstructionist communities routinely dialogue with the values of social justice, humanism, rationalism, and experimentalism. As a movement, Reconstructing Judaism boasts a mode of Jewish life that is enthusiastically modern, socially progressive, and tirelessly ready to reconstruct in order to revitalize.

In our 2022 Winter Learning Series, Leyv Ha-Ir will host an learning series centered on the study of modern Jewish poets, exploring Reconstructionist values through poetry. Together, we will read the works of Allen Ginsburg, Grace Schulman, Edward Hirsch and David Antin, expanding our appreciation for poetry as a literary mode for Jewish life, while reflecting on our own communal commitments.

All sessions are on Zoom and run from 11:00 AM to 12:15 PM.

Participants are welcome to attend as many sessions as desired. You do not need to attend prior sessions in order to participate. Each session will be offered as a stand-alone lesson, dedicated to group reading and study of poetry, as well as reflection.

Session 1: Social Protest (Sunday, January 23, 2022)

We will begin our series by reading one of the most well-known Jewish American poets of the 20th century, Allen Ginsberg, a literary genius, a cultural force, and political activist. We will delve into Ginsberg’s use of poetry to fight the good fight, to push freedom and liberty into the foreground of American life, and to serve as a voice for social progress and justice.

Session 2: Intellectual Revisionism (Sunday, February 6, 2022)

In our second session, we will read the poetry of Grace Schulman, whose selected works will model for us a Jewish life with emotional depth and without intellectual compromise. By reading Schulman’s writing, we will explore our own reconciling of Jewish ritual with science, God, pluralism, and life in the 21st century. 

Session 3: Humanistic Remembering (Sunday, February 20, 2022)

In this session, we will read the writing of Edward Hirsch and explore the ways Jewish tradition remembers those we have lost. Reconstructionism decries religious life insensitive to human experience, specifically to the sacredness of human stories. By delving into Hirsch’s poetry, we will consider Judaism’s mourning rituals and how poetry and human stories can enhance the way we remember those of our past and present.

Session 4: Radical Innovation (Sunday, March 6, 2022)

Reconstructionism pushes boundaries to help make a better world and to help us understand where a boundary should be. Poetry, too, can push boundaries, helping us understand what poetry is, and who we are as a community of readers and writers of poetry. In this session, we will read the radical writing style of David Antin, and we will be joined by Lonnie Monka, the founder of the grassroots poetry collective, Jerusalism, and the Jewish poetry journal, Halah, to explore the meaning of creative innovation in literary and communal Jewish context.

Ross Weissman
Ross is co-founder of the Basin Seminaries, an educational institute that combines the study of classical religious texts, poetry and the environment, to support the nurturance of ecological conservation and a religiously-grounded contemplative life. A former Kevah educator in Boston, he currently serves on the teaching team of Poetry in America. Ross’ poetry and translations have appeared in Exchanges, Caliban Online, Lunch Ticket, Pusteblume, Mizmor L’David Anthology, and elsewhere. He holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and has completed graduate coursework in Judaic Studies at Bar-Ilan, Harvard, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.


Participation for LHI members is free of charge. We ask non-members to consider making a suggested minimum donation of $18 per person for the series,which you can make through PAYPAL on LHI’s website or by check payable to Leyv Ha-Ir, P.O. Box 15836, Philadelphia, PA 19103.

Information for this and all virtual 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, to request that the remote access information be sent to you the day before each session.

Rabbi Julie's December 2021 Letter to Congregation

posted Dec 1, 2021, 10:56 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir

December 2021

Dear Chevre,

As we move into the lights of Hanukkah at this darkest time of year, I want to share with you a text that moved me. It is from a beraita which is a story about another sacred Jewish story. (Judaism has so many layers of commentary!)

When the community is immersed in suffering, a person may not say: I will go to my home and I will eat and drink, and peace be upon you, my soul ... A person should be distressed together with the community. (Ta'anit 11)

The world faces so many challenges at this time and I am proud of the way so many folks in our community stay connected, stay caring, stay generous beyond their own personal needs. Thank you also for the donations to the Rabbi Discretionary Fund that allows me to contribute in the name of our community to places of need. Together we share both the distress and also the responsibility to stay connected in a hurting world.

And while we are at it, let's also each take in the joy of light, maybe a few potato latkes, a little gelt and even a chance to spin a dreidle. Let's remember to laugh and play and take delight in our fun holidays.

Love and light,

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie's November 2021 Letter to Congregation

posted Nov 1, 2021, 8:16 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Nov 1, 2021, 1:54 PM ]

November 2021

Dear Chevre, 

One of the things I love about congregations in general and about Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City in particular is how we hold the past, present and future all at once. I love having known people in their prime who are now at later stages of the life journey; their history is wrapped into the community's living story and their contributions live on in the continuity of the congregation. I love that we mentor young music directors and often give opportunities to rabbinical students. We invest in the future of Judaism. 

Today in my chevruta (learning dyad -- I've had the same partner for twenty years!) we were looking at a Hasidic teaching about the quote "There is nothing new under the sun." I'm sure you've heard that saying from Ecclesiastes. The teaching was that there is nothing new under the sun, i.e., renewal is not in the realm of material things. Rather, renewal comes from spiritual practices. Therefore, the invitation is to root yourself in the Source.

Rooted in the Source, both memory and imagination become spiritual practices that connect us to our past and help us live into the future. Do you make space in your life for remembering and for imagining? Do you take time to re-read your diary, or write a memoir, or look at old photos or to have a "conversation" with your ancestors? And do you get a chance sometimes to do things imaginative like doodling or singing, water color, fabric art or poetry, or have a "conversation" in which you are the ancestor? 

Let's hear it for finding what is new that is not under the sun!

With love,

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie's October 2021 Letter to Congregation

posted Oct 1, 2021, 7:22 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Oct 1, 2021, 7:23 AM ]

October 2021

 Dear Chevre,

We continue to live into this world of COVID adaptation -- making it work together under unusual circumstances. Our Sukkot celebration was such a special example of experimental meeting of the moment, without giving up our connection or our participation in this fall festival, also known as the "season of our joy."

We celebrated Sukkot in a Zoom room beaming forth from a 12th floor balcony of 1901 JFK Boulevard that had been beautifully decorated by Evy Simon, Lois Master and Bobbi Cohen. When I forgot to bring my own laptop, Lois Master delivered hers. When Bobbi Cohen's computer and mine started to screech with feedback, Bobbi moved inside to continue her Zoom admin support and I led from the other side of the glass door. When the sun glare was so bright that I couldn't see my screen, I moved around on the balcony catching bits of shade. We adapted.

The upshot was an enormously satisfying and meaningful shared experience. We savored the experience of holding the lulav and etrog, we sang Hallel, we shared Torah and, best of all, our community was together, in our own way, for this beautiful holiday. At Leyv Ha-Ir~Heart of the City we will continue to live into this year with the same spirit of creativity and mutual care.

I hope to see you soon in another Zoom room! Aren't we lucky?

With love,

Rabbi Julie

1-10 of 56