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Rabbi Julie's March 2021 Letter to Congregation

posted Mar 2, 2021, 9:19 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir

March 2021

Dear Chevre,

If spring is a-springing, Passover must be around the corner. As I write this, with snow and ice still on the ground, feel spring in the air and hear the birds' mating calls. So it must be time for spring cleaning.

How many of you have used some of your COVID isolation time to clean out closets, drawers, boxes or files? Our De-clutter Group continues to lead the way on these orderings and in this season we can all join in the practice. Whether you call it spring cleaning or Passover cleaning, the action of cleaning our physical spaces is intended to mirror and inspire an inner spiritual cleansing. 

So what would you like to cast out as inner chametz or puffed up leaven on this runway to Pesach? For some of us this has been a time of awakening to and rejecting the default assumption that White is right. For some of us, we are getting more conscious of disability access issues and of building a world where everyone truly belongs. What is your inner cleansing going to look like this year?

It's time to find your (possibly symbolic) candle and feather and route out all the dust bunnies inside and out. Then we will be ready for our joyful Passover seder.

All good,

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie's Spring 2021 Education Series: Reconstructing Judaism - Tradition and Change

posted Feb 7, 2021, 1:12 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Feb 8, 2021, 8:18 AM ]

Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir ~Heart of the City~ is part of the dynamic movement called Reconstructing Judaism. Our guiding principle, based on the teachings of founder Dr. Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, is that "Judaism is an evolving civilization."  We inherit the past and we create the future.  How does this work in practice? What does it really look like to be part of this denomination? Rabbi Julie Greenberg will be guiding us on a journey into the heart of Reconstructing Judaism. 
 
For on-going reference, you might want to purchase the three volume Guide to Jewish Practice by Dr. Rabbi David Teutsch.  It is available from the Reconstructionist Press.

Sessions are on Sunday April 11, Sunday April 25 and Sunday May 2, from Noon to 1:15PM.

You need not 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 will be sent to you the day before each session.

Session I - Sunday, April 11:  What Does Reconstructing Judaism Mean In the World of Today?

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. wrote about the "fierce urgency of now."  We live in a world of great distress and suffering.  How can an ancient religious tradition be relevant to contemporary struggles and experience?  Can a four thousand year old tradition really provide nourishment and guidance for today's crises of loneliness, isolation, climate, white supremacy and extreme economic inequality?How does our denomination, Reconstructing Judaism, face the "fierce urgency of now?" 


Session II - Sunday, April 25:  Bringing God into the Present: A Case Study in Reconstructing a Jewish Relationship

Let's look at an example of Jewish teachings that our Reconstructing Judaism communities are renewing in this generation. In Biblical imagery, God is a supernatural character in the story who is sometimes fierce, sometimes kind, and who doesn't make sense to many modern Jews. What are we doing with God today in our thriving Reconstructing Judaism congregations?

Session III - Sunday, May 2:  How Do We Balance Tradition and Innovation, Diversity and Unity?

We in Reconstructing Judaism are a big, pluralistic tent and yet we also stand for certain values. We disagree within the network of Reconstructing Judaism communities about some issues and yet we have sustained a movement based on respect, inclusion and moving towards justice. How does Reconstructing Judaism manage diversity about how closely to cleave to tradition? What can we create and still be Jewish? How can we unite across lines of difference? We will explore how our movement navigated a divisive issue in the 1980s, the integration of LGBTQ Jews into Judaism. Explore the Reconstructing Judaism website to see what draws you in (link below.) Where do you see yourself in this movement? What more would you like to learn?

         Assigned Reading:   The Reconstructing Judaism Website


Rabbi Julie's February 2021 Letter to Congregation

posted Feb 1, 2021, 7:38 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Feb 1, 2021, 7:40 AM ]

February 2021

Dear Chevre,
 
Days ago our calendars marked the Jewish holiday of Tu B'shvat, often known as the Birthday of the Trees. In this era, we have a new understanding of trees as the lungs of the world. If we imagine Self as World, these are our very own lungs! Can you imagine a bigger sense of Self that encompasses all of nature? We have been trained to think of ourselves as isolated individuals, but really, we are truly interdependent with a whole web of life. Judaism expresses this idea in our central Shema prayer "God is one."
 
I am also thinking of the wonderful story of Honi, an old man in ancient Israel who was planting a tree one day when a young fellow approached him. "Why are you planting that tree when you won't live to see it grown?"
 
"Ah," said Honi, "I am planting this tree not for myself but for future generations."
 
At the stages of life that many of us have reached, aren't we now planting for future generations? We are sustaining life-giving spiritual traditions, caring practices, teachings and congregation structures, not just for ourselves but also for generations to come. In my own life I feel more and more drawn to teaching, mentoring, training, planting seeds in others who will carry on the work. So glad to be doing this holy planting together.

Happy Tu B'shvat,

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie's January 2021 Letter to Congregation

posted Jan 3, 2021, 10:52 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir

January 2021

Dear Ones,

We are entering a new secular year at last. What a year 2020 has been, a year that has called on each of us to respond to a pandemic, racial justice reckoning, lapses of our elected leaders and economic crisis. Meanwhile, in the Jewish world during these last few weeks, we have been finishing the book of Genesis, which we finally conclude this week with the Torah portion Vayechi: "And he lived..." Then we move in the first week of the new year into our book of liberation, Exodus.

Aren't we ready for some life affirmation and some liberation? Luckily this month we will see more and more people being vaccinated and we will have a new president. The daylight is getting more abundant; soon signs of spring will emerge. So things are looking up.

Nevertheless, we will still need to hunker down for many more months with excellent COVID protection practices, including the strong community support that sustains our members. Thank you to all who show up for Shamanu, for services, for learning sessions, for committee and Council meetings. We are holding each other through these difficult times. Your participation means so much to your co-congregants and to me.

With gratitude,

Rabbi Julie

Winter Education Series: Tensions of Religious Life in the Jewish Experience - A Poetic Exploration

posted Dec 9, 2020, 10:22 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Jan 31, 2021, 10:19 AM ]

Leyv Ha-Ir's Education Committee is pleased to present our Winter Education Series, led by educator and poet, Ross Weissman. 

Throughout the centuries, Jews have used poetry to sing praise, to ponder evil, to shout souls’ desire, and to dwell in the profane of the day-to-day. Poems tell stories-- Jewish stories -- and they capture the richness and complexity of Jewish experience, intellect, and spirit. 

In this series, we will explore Jewish religious life through the reading of American and Israeli poetry. We will delve into the contemporary writing of Orthodox and Reconstructionist rabbis; professors and community leaders; Hebrew and English speakers.  We will unravel the layers of human and cultural complexity held within their poems: the tensions, ambivalences, and paradoxes of Jewish life and religious thought. 

While each poem tells a story, it can also reveal aspects of our own experience and narrative. In each session, we will read the work of a different contemporary poet, paying special attention to the art, the religious commentary within, and its resonance with our lives.

You need not attend all sessions to participate.  

Reading material, including poems to be discussed, will be distributed before each session.

Sessions run 1 hour, 15 minutes every two weeks:  Tuesday January 19, 2021; Wednesday February 3, 2021; Wednesday February 17, 2021; and Wednesday March 3, 2021.

Session I:  "Loneliness" - Tuesday January 19, 2021:

While Jewish religious life is deeply communal, it is oft-experienced alone. This is in part due to the nature of people’s inner and private lives, but also due to social tension and pressure that drive people to hide parts of themselves. In this lesson, we will explore the work of Israeli writer Elhanan Nir, and his poetic exploration of religious loneliness in the modern world.

Session II:  "Conversation Not Submission" - Wednesday February 3, 2021

Jewish tradition engages in recurring dialogue with those that came before. We recall memories of those passed, and we read and reread texts that have been studied for generations. While these sources can be stabilizing in offering a steadying comfort, they can also simply be one voice to consider amongst the multitudes-- akin to the reconstructionist principle of “a vote, not a veto.” In this session we will explore the poetry of Israeli poet Linda Zisquit, to step into some of her experiential and theological conversations. 

Session III:  "Insider and Outsider" - Wednesday February 17, 2021

For many, religious life is not static. It waxes and wanes in intensity, in traditional commitments and curiosities. David Caplan writes frequently about the Baal Teshuva experience-- the process of a deepening religious commitment in Jewish life. While religious life can change incrementally and subtly, often a Baal Teshuva’s experience can be marked by sharp contrasts to one’s life prior. In this session, we will explore Caplan’s poetic rendering of one’s simultaneous inspiration and alienation from community and theology -- with a special focus  on 20th century hassidus.

Session IV:  "Middle-ways" - Wednesday March 3, 2021

Reconstructionist Judaism speaks of living in two civilizations -- this can be a conscious or unconscious activity. This session will explore a middle-path, living in a Jewish reality and American one, with poet and Rabbi Josh Bolton. This session will include an appearance of the guest Rabbi and poet, with an accompanying poetry reading.



Ross Weissman is a life-long educator and student of poetry, currently serving on the teaching team of Poetry in America. His poetry and translations have appeared in Exchanges,Caliban Online, Lunch Ticket, Pusteblume, Mizmor L’ David Anthology, and elsewhere. Ross holds a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education, where he also served as a Teaching Fellow in classes on human development. He 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 2020 Letter to Congregation

posted Dec 1, 2020, 8:19 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir

December 2020

Dear Chevre/Community,

Recently I spoke with our community about living in Deep Time. We imagined geologic or cosmic time: the autobiography of a rock, the life of a star. By expanding the frame around our own experience right now, we hold whatever is true now in a bigger way. Anxiety and depression rates are highest for people in their teens and twenties, likely because people in those age groups have less of a life frame to hold current experience. There truly is wisdom that comes with age and perspective. You've lived through a lot and that can help you cope with this moment. We also spoke about the importance of savoring the small moments even in very hard times. 

Now we have another invitation to use a Deep Time frame even as we savor the moment. We're entering a long, hard winter with cold weather and a raging pandemic outside. Hanukkah will be very different this year. We won't gather in person to light the hanukkiot or share delicious latkes. But we will get through this. In the meantime, let's be awake for moments of joy, of light, of connection. For many people God is another name for this eternal interconnection of All: "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. .." Psalm 46:1-3.

I hope to see you with your own candles to light on December 11 for Hanukkah. We will fill the Zoom room with multiple lights connecting all of our home sanctuaries. Let there be light!

Love and Blessing,

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie's November 2020 Letter to Congregation

posted Nov 2, 2020, 9:52 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir

November 2020

Dear Chevre/Community,

It is so good to be part of a caring community of faith in these unsettled times. We continue to show up (virtually) together, to reach out to those in need, and to celebrate the sacred cycle of our year. I count as some of the blessings in my life the grounding and guidance of Judaism and the strength of our community at the Heart of the City.

With so much uncertainty about the election and its aftermath, it is time also to pivot our gaze outward. I hope most of us have already voted -- if not, I'll echo Bobbi Cohen and Susan Thompson in suggesting that you go to the polls early and be prepared to wait until you get to vote on Election Day, November 3rd. We also have to be ready to protect the vote after the election.

There will be opportunities for everyone to be involved in this from home. Please pay close attention to our listserv in the aftermath of the election as this is where we will share information about how you can help protect the vote, if it turns out that this is needed. Our listserv is such a valuable place of connection. 

Let's help every vote count!

Love and Blessing to All,

Rabbi Julie

Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir, Heart of the City

www.leyvhair.org

info@leyvhair.org

215-629-1995

Rabbi Julie's October 2020 Letter to Congregation

posted Oct 1, 2020, 10:21 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Oct 1, 2020, 10:23 AM ]

October 2020


Dear Chevre/Community,

Wow, we have come through the first-ever adventure of High Holy Days in cyberspace. And it felt holy and connected and meaningful. Immense thanks to all the helping hands who gave to our community ahead of time, in the zoom rooms, behind the scenes of the zoom rooms -- everyone who generously and creatively made these holy days so awesome. Thank you also to all the people who made financial donations from the heart -- you sustain us. What a community!

Now we turn, with the turning of the season, to the final fall holy days of Sukkot, Shemini Atzeret and Simchat Torah. Thank God, the stability of the seasons is still more or less true for us here. This is something we can no longer take for granted in this age of climate crisis. So let's savor the falling temperatures, the changing leaves, the different sounds and smells of autumn. This year is definitely different but let's count the blessings of each other, of our adaptiveness and of the gift of all our Jewish times of celebration. See you for Sukkot!
 
Blessings,

Rabbi Julie

Rabbi Julie's Fall Education Series: The History of Whiteness and What About the Jews?

posted Sep 9, 2020, 7:16 PM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Sep 29, 2020, 2:22 PM ]

White people have had a hard time in this country opening our eyes to what is true about White supremacy and racism.  We have been miseducated about race and have been sheltered from experiencing much of the impact of a destructive and unequal system.  As Jews, we have our own special stream of history and unique relationships to issues of White supremacy.  Yet many of us enjoy the privileges of Whiteness in a stratified system that we did not create and may wish was more fair.  In this series we will co-create safe, brave space to explore these issues in our Jewish community.

Registration is not required.

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.

Session I: White Fragility

Before we can delve deeply into the truth of our racist system, we need to bolster ourselves for the journey.  We need to dismantle some of our fear, defensiveness, and ignorance in talking about privilege and unjust systems.  With the spiritual support of loving kindness and the knowledge that we are all good people doing the best we can, we will learn more about stepping beyond White fragility.

Many people have read the book White Fragility by Robin D'Angelo, which is highly recommended. Additional suggested reading -- "Refusing to See" by Tema Okun -- will be circulated. 

Session II:  The Invention of Whiteness

Before the invention of Whiteness in the seventeenth century, people were categorized as Christians or Heathens.  What changed?

Two resources are offered here: 

1.     Jacqueline Battalora’s 35-minute video that gives a revelatory review of how Whiteness got invented, in the early years of this country's history. Listening to just audio will work too:  Birth of a White Nation

2.    David Dean’s in-depth essay on the history of how Whiteness got invented:  Roots Deeper than Whiteness

Session III: How Jews Became White

When most of our ancestors immigrated to this country, we were considered "Jewish," not White.  We faced lots of anti-semitism although there was way more opportunity for education, livelihood and participation in mainstream culture than we had had as a people in Western and Eastern Europe or in the mid-east.  What changed as we moved from "Jewish" to "White?"  How did we come to be White and what was the cost of Whiteness?

A shorter article will be assigned but here are two full books recommended on the subject:

The Price of Whiteness: Jews, Race, and American Identity, by Eric L. Goldstein

How Jews Became White Folks and What That Says About Race in America, by Karen Brodkin

 

Rabbi Julie's September 2020 Letter to Congregation

posted Sep 1, 2020, 9:08 AM by Congregation Leyv Ha-Ir   [ updated Sep 1, 2020, 11:33 AM ]

September 2020


Dearest Chevre,

It has been wonderful to be back with you moving through the month of Elul and into our New Year. I am astounded at how this community has migrated so effectively onto Zoom during the pandemic and I'm counting the hidden blessings of having no obstacles of transportation, weather or geography for our meetings. It is special to see your shining faces in the little Zoom boxes as we continue to gather and learn and pray together. 

This month I'd like to lift up the beautiful song "Olam Chesed Yibaneh" by Menachem Creditor. In English the words mean:

I will build this world in love

You must build this world in love

When we build this world in love

God will build this world in love.

 This song was written just after 9/11 when our world was filled with terror and hate, fear and destruction. Jewish communities around the world immediately proclaimed the song as music of resistance, a song that insists on not succumbing to hate but on leading with love.

As we enter an intense election season, in a polarized and suffering country, what does it mean to lead with love? How are we being called into the best of our humanity as we approach the gates of the Holy Days?

Thank you for being partners on the journey.

With gratitude,

Rabbi Julie


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