Author Archives: Rabbi David Levin

Shabbat Shalom

As part of the ritual of the Friday evening meal, we offer blessings- prayers of gratitude for our children and for our partner.  The prayer men traditionally offer to their wife is the Eshet Chayil, A Woman of Valor.  Taken from Proverbs 31 (verses 10-31) this poetry expresses our gratitude for the blessing of a cherished partner.  Please enjoy this rendition of Eshet Chayil.

Shabbat Shalom

Disaster Spiritual Care

I am pleased to announce that I have joined the Disaster Spiritual Care team of the American Red Cross. I have completed the background checks and continue my training, but I am cleared to go into the field. I look forward to supporting those whose lives have been disrupted by calamity and trauma with this extraordinary group of caregivers.

As we share a season of gratitude for all our blessings, remember to reach out to those who are less fortunate and support the many people on the front lines who are making a difference.

Happy Thanksgiving 2017

Wishing everyone a wonderful Thanksgiving.

This is an interesting year indeed. It seems that each day brings new issues testing us in new and often uncomfortable ways. However, this Thursday is Thanksgiving. Let us take time to celebrate our many blessings. For many of us enjoy a bounty. Try to use this time to gather loved ones, families and friends, and recognize the many reasons you have to be grateful.

Let us also use the time to acknowledge we have a long way to go on the journey to fully realize the values that guide us. For there are too many in our country who do not fully enjoy all of its blessings. This is the time to rededicate our efforts to make this a kinder, gentler and fairer place for all.

 

 

Shine into the Darkness, The Message we mean to send

“ I know you think you understand what you thought I said but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”                              ― Alan Greenspan

Last week I went to the White House to meet with the Special Assistant to the President with the JCRC and Women’s Philanthropy Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia. Respectfully but rather forcefully we advocated for our concerns over the issues of DACA, Gun Violence, BDS, Anti-Semitism, and SNAP. I know we did not change the administration’s opinion, but we gave voice inside the halls of power to our values. Sometimes we do not do speak constructively and what we think we are saying is not the message heard. There is an important example of this making its way around social media.

An anonymous rabbi is attributed as responding to a White House request for a Menorah with a rebuff saying that the current administration is antithetical to everything the holiday and menorah represent, so their menorah is not available.

I believe this message does not take the moral high ground, and instead sounds preachy and filled with a self-righteous arrogance that makes dialogue impossible. The story resonates only for those who already believe it.   But for everyone else, the message is negative, generating pushback and defiance, not a moment of teaching and potential rapprochement.

Those of us who believe that the current administration undermines important Jewish values need to speak truth to power but to do so respectful of the institution and with the hope of carrying the message to not merely protest, but to hopefully persuade.

We are obligated to reach out to those with whom we disagree. Through building relationships and dialogue we might give insights and change viewpoints. We also are empowered to champion our causes publicly and we vote. These are sacred and important parts of what makes this an extraordinary country.

The only way our light will illuminate is if we cast it into the dark.

 

 

 

 

A special message for Shabbat: Remembering Kristallnacht and Veteran’s Day

This weekend is an extraordinary confluence of memories and events that I pray leads to our rededication to the values we cherish as a nation and as Jews. Kristallnacht and Veteran’s Day are times of extraordinary solemn remembrance. The lessons we learn from these can shape our commitment to the world we seek to achieve.

 

November 9 marks the anniversary of Kristallnacht, Nazi Germany’s great pogrom and genocide against the Jewish people. The oppression and persecution of the Jews of Europe entered a new and deadlier phase bringing the long-simmering anger and aggression out into the open as Goebbels encouraged mass arrests, violence against Jews and any visible signs of Jewishness, including synagogues, stores, and our sacred texts.

 

WW1 veteran Joseph Ambrose, at the Vietnam Veterans Memorial. He holds the flag that covered the casket of his son, who was killed in the Korean War.

November 11 marks Veteran’s Day, the time we honor those who have bravely fought to preserve, protect, and defend our country and the values we represent. Eventually, these men and women fought against the Nazi’s tyrannical regime built on hate but sadly too late to rescue the 6 million Jews slaughtered.

 

And yesterday, November 9, I was proud to accompany the Women’s Philanthropy Division of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia on a trip to Washington, DC to advocate both in Congress and the White House for DACA, Responsible Gun Legislation, Food Insecurity and the SNAP program, and against BDS and Anti-Semitism. We championed our values and spoke truth to power with persuasive force and civility.

The struggle to realize a better kinder nation and world continues. Yasher Koach and most profound gratitude to all of those who join the fight.

Shabbat Shalom.

Jewish Sacred Aging Radio

Pleased and proud to help my friend and colleague Rabbi Richard Address launch Jewish Sacred Aging Radio!

For the initiation of this wonderful project, Rabbi Address, Rabbi Simcha Raphael, and I had a lively insightful conversation about questions surrounding the unique challenges of the later stages of life. Listen in by clicking above or on this hyperlink:

http://jewishsacredaging.com/jewish-relationships-and-jewish-views-of-death-and-afterlife/

The three of us bring our unique areas of expertise together in our lecture series we call:  L’Chaim! Jewish Wisdom for the End-of-Life Journey.

This month we are presenting at Adath Jeshurun in Elkins Park Wednesday evenings.

Reach out to us to bring this extraordinary series to your community!

Miracles can happen when you don’t forget about me

For something truly extraordinary to happen, we must include the people already inside the tent.

In Vayeira I see an important message about inclusivity, but it’s not what you think. Everyone looks at Abraham’s hospitality, running to the three men and offering rest, food and drink, and honor. But it is only when Sara comes from the tent that the great miracle of prophecy occurs. This is a most important message for us in these changing times.

We properly reach out to people outside our tent in an effort to practice inclusivity and outreach. But as we reach out we must also reach within to make sure that those already within the tent feel equally honored and valued.

People regularly leave the synagogue community because they no longer find anything there for them. Parents leave once the child has been “Bar-Mitzvahed” and Boomers leave because they do not see value in belonging. But helping to develop a child’s value system and sense of community has only just begun with Bar-Mitzvah, and finding support in a caring community is never more important than when we confront the challenges of middle age and beyond. Our synagogues are as important as ever, but destined to struggle with membership (and finances) if we do not find ways to communicate a value proposition that resonates for those already in the tent. Those front doors we want to fling open to welcome newcomers are also open to those looking to leave. We need to help them understand why they would want to stay.

Sara prepared the cakes to serve the messengers and standing at the tent’s opening, she scoffed with incredulity at the vision the men proclaimed. Our congregants too find the future difficult to accept, but it is our sacred task to give them a vision of an extended family and the caring community they are unable to imagine for themselves. As we seek to evolve and broaden our reach, we must always remember to continuously nurture those who have already aligned with us so they continue to embrace our important values and keep our tent full.