Installation: May We Enter in Thanks

In the words inscribed on my tallit, taken from Psalms: Pitchu li sha-arey tzedek, avovam odeh-ya/Open for me the gates of righteousness and I will enter in thanks.  As I have stepped through new gates, I enter with profound gratitude.


Thank you to Rabbi Kroloff and Rabbi Kuhn, for your faith in me, for your career-shaping mentorship, and for your generous words.  Rabbi Kroloff, you are my original teacher of what a rabbi can be—a justice-driven, Torah-driven leader of integrity and wisdom, discernment and compassion– you are my rabbi.  Rabbi Kuhn, your visionary leadership and care for every congregant, has taught me for 16 years; thank you for the exceptional generosity and inclusion of your mentorship.

I am grateful to enter these new gates with my partners: Cantor Frankel, Rabbi Freedman, executive director Jeff Katz, director of Congregational Advancement Catherine Fischer, director of Youth Learning Jennifer James, and director of the Buerger Early Learning Center Andi Miller, and for the trust, creativity, passion, and reflection our team shares.

I am grateful for the support of lay leaders and of all of you, our congregants.  The search committee, led by Michael Hauptman and Michael Furman, and shepherded by then-president Lloyd Brotman, engaged me in deep conversations.  What a joy it has been, to share a sacred partnership with our wise and compassionate president, Michael Hauptman, whose words on Yom Kippur encouraging us each to bring our lamp—our participation—inspired us all.   Thank you to our installation team and chairpeople, Susan Kline Klehr, Julia Engel, Ellen Simon, and Ivy Olesh, for lovingly turning this weekend into a reality.

Our tradition teaches that a parent’s 2 most enduring gifts to a child are: roots and wings. Everything I accomplish, grows from my parents’ love, support, perspective, humor, and generosity of spirit.

I am grateful for the close family they created, and for my sister Paige and brother-in-law Jason, who are always finding ways for the family to be together.

And to my extended family: Sue, Helene, Rick, Rich, Amy, Harriet, Elihu, Frank, Jeremy, Michelle, Jude and Simone, how special it is to welcome you here tonight.

A clergy’s work schedule can be a challenge.  For Len and me, what makes it possible to run a family, is the help and boundless devotion, of Len’s parents Susan and Phil, for whom we are both grateful.

Our children Moshe and Pria are loving and kind and funny; Daddy and I are so proud of the people you are becoming.

Len, thank you for making all of this possible, by being an incredible husband, best friend and co-parent.  I trust your wisdom and moral compass completely, and our love is the most important thing in my life.


Installation.  My role may be new, but this… There are few places in the world where I feel as at home as I do on this bimah, and with all of you.  How lucky I am to be with a community I already love, as I share of my vision for Rodeph Shalom.

Jewish time is not linear.  In Jewish time, taught the 20th century Rabbi Joseph Soleveichik, we move from future to past to present.  We envision the future, learn lessons from the past, and then take action in the present.

And so, we begin with the future.  Our vision for the future of Rodeph Shalom is to create profound connections and compelling Jewish life in our community, in our outreach, and in our moral leadership.

To guide our future, we turn to the past.  I recently opened the Rodeph Shalom Sisterhood cookbook published in 1927, the year this sanctuary was built.  Does anyone here remember that cookbook?   This was from a time long before women served as rabbis, or trustees on our Board.  And certainly long before they served as senior rabbi.  For it is my honor to serve as your first senior rabbi, who is a woman.

So, what do we learn from the 1927 cookbook?  First, there is a significant variety of marshmellow-related desserts… which will be honored with tonight’s meringue.  And there is a lot of mayonnaise…  including an appetizer called a mayonnaise ring; I don’t think that one will be making a comeback tonight.

Now, here’s what really struck me.  There is a Kosher for Passover section.  But then, there is a seafood section—shrimp, crab (again, not making a comeback tonight).  The point for Reform Jews in 1927, was not that they could eat crab and lots of mayo.  From them we learn the principle: to reflect the aesthetics and values of the time, and to shape a compelling Jewish life.  Further into our past, our founders were committed to welcoming any member, regardless of financial capacity.  From them we learn the principle: to reflect the values of the time and to shape an inclusive Jewish life.

The past principles of a compelling and inclusive Judaism, guide us still.  And so we move from future to past, and now to present.

In order to move toward the vision of community and outreach, we draw inspiration from the words of Isaiah, inscribed on our building’s façade: “Your house shall be called a house of prayer for all people.” We are a Caring Community of connection groups, all ages, colors, abilities, vulnerabilities, sexual orientations, and socioeconomic realities. We are faithful and skeptics, Jewish and not, or maybe someday.  We value our diversity, but our large numbers make it difficult to know each other.  Hundreds of you have come to our intimate Engagement  Lunches, which have taught me the importance of small-group experiences.

Even as we nurture our closeness, it is upon us to further our outreach.

We often call ourselves the Center of Jewish life in Philadelphia.  But this is not an award; it is our responsibility.  Indeed, our work is nothing less than, to ensure the future of the Jewish people.

For Rodeph Shalom to become the Center of Jewish life in Philadelphia, we will need to take a giant leap outside of our walls (as magnificent as they are) to serve the Jewish people, and to connect to the seekers and the disaffected Jews in our city.

We will thrive in outreach when we hold out our hand in partnership to other institutions, and I feel honored we are joined tonight by the CEO of the Jewish Federation, Naomi Adler, and by the CEO of the National Museum of American Jewish History Ivy Barsky.

In order to move toward the vision of moral leadership, we draw inspiration from the words of Leviticus, inscribed on our building’s façade:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”

We are ready for more community- service experiences, that we may see more clearly the divine in every person, the suffering in our world, and the potential we have to repair, not only on the ground with direct service, but also in social change efforts.  I hope you will join us on November 9 for “Neighbor is a Moral Concept: A Conversation about the Unique Social Justice Role of RS.”

It is time for us, in partnership with as many organizations, Jewish or not, whose values overlap with our own, to raise our moral voice.  I feel honored we are joined tonight by members of the Muslim community and look forward to deepening our relationship.

This is your congregation, please– take part, join hands with the community and find your role, your mitzvah, in the life of Rodeph Shalom.

For to be the Center of Jewish life in Philadelphia is our responsibility.  Indeed, our work is nothing less than, to ensure the future of the Jewish people.

With love and deep respect for this community, I am grateful to partner with you all, to look ahead to the future, to learn from the past, and to pursue the vision at this moment in our present.  Open for us the gates of righteousness and may we enter in thanks.  Amen.