RS Visioning Initiative

We Invite You to Participate in Rodeph Shalom’s Visioning Initiative

The leadership of Rodeph Shalom, along with synagogue transformation expert Rabbi Larry Hoffman, has been engaged in conversations about what we envision for our congregation in the future.

We would like for every RS individual or family to participate in some way in this initiative to ensure that our process is as inclusive as possible and reflects perspectives of our membership.

What is this Visioning Initiative?

· The Visioning Initiative aims to determine who we are as a congregation and to connect us more deeply with one another. This work is especially important because of the growth RS has experienced in recent years.

Why we need you.
· We need every member’s voice to be heard so that our vision includes what is important to you.

How can you participate?
· Participate in a Face-to-Face Conversation

What is a Face-to-Face Conversation?
· A Face-to-Face Conversation is a one-on-one, face to face conversation between one RS member and another which focuses on what is meaningful and important in your life and how you connect to this community.
· The goal of the Face-to-Face Conversation is to create a more connected community that understands what matters to its members and to create a mission that articulates our distinct vision of Rodeph Shalom for the future.
· Our Face-to-Face Conversations have just begun! Some of you may have already had a conversation with someone on our Board about what matters to you. We would love to have you participate by either initiating a Face-to-Face Conversation with someone or to be called by a member for a Face-to-Face Conversation.

We invite you to participate!
· Please contact Catherine Fischer, 215-627-6747 x246, [email protected], and let her know how you would like to participate.

Face to Face by Rabbi Eli Freedman
This week’s Torah portion, Ki Tisa, is one of my personal favorites. It contains so much amazing narratives that it is impossible focus in on just one issue. In this week’s portion we read about: the building of the Tabernacle, the half-shekel tax on all Israelites, the horrible incident with the golden calf, God’s true nature, and the portion ends with Moses’ face becoming radiant as the sun after an awesome encounter with the Divine. As hard as it is, I would like to focus in on one verse:

“And the Eternal spoke to Moses face to face, as a person speaks to a friend.” (Exodus 33:11)

The term ‘face to face’, or ‘panim el panim’ (in Hebrew) is used in the Torah on a number of occasions to refer to an encounter with the Divine presence. But what does it mean for God and Moses to speak face to face? Does God actually have a face? Most commentators believe that this verse is not meant to be read literally but, in fact, is a Biblical idiom to convey a certain amount of intimacy between God and Moses.

The term ‘face to face’ is used on other occasions as well, referring also to the relationship between two people. One example of this is when Jacob and Esau meet for the first time after many years of estrangement, “‘No, please!’ said Jacob. ‘If I have found favor in your eyes, accept this gift from me. For to see your face is like seeing the face of God, now that you have received me favorably.’” (Genesis 33:10) According to this narrative from Genesis, we can obtain the same divine intimacy that Moses felt on Mt. Sinai when we see the face of another. Our faces can become as radiant as the sun when we find the Divine in each other.

For Martin Buber, a famous Jewish theologian from the early 20th century, the ‘face-to-face’ concept was at the core of his theology. To Buber, God was in our connections with one another. In Buber’s book, “I and Thou,” he makes that case that there are two types of relationships in this world; I-Thou and I-It. An I-It relationship is a meeting between two people based on necessity and objectification. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We have these types of relationship ever day in our lives – such as the way we interact with a cashier when we buy groceries at the store.

An I-Thou relationship, however, is when we meet someone in a truly holistic way. When we see them for all that they are and interact with them in a genuinely deep and caring way. Buber wrote, “When two people relate to each other authentically and humanly, God is the electricity that surges between them.” (I and Thou, 1923) According to Buber, we can all have a face-to-face moment with someone and when we do, the Divine is present.
We, the leadership of Rodeph Shalom, want to make this abstract concept a reality. Over the past few months, we have been engaged in conversations about what we envision for our congregation in the future. Our new Rodeph Shalom: 2020 Visioning Initiative lead by our rabbis, board, along with the assistance of synagogue transformation expert Rabbi Larry Hoffman, has been exploring who we want to be as a congregation and how we can connect more deeply with one another.

We would like for every RS individual or family to participate in some way in this initiative to ensure that our process is as inclusive as possible and reflects the perspectives of our membership. We need every member’s voice to be heard so that our vision includes what is important to you.

In order to accomplish this we have begun a new Face-to-Face Conversation initiative. Like Moses’ interaction with God or Jacob and Esau’s reuniting, a Face-to-Face Conversation is a one-on-one, face to face conversation between one RS member and another which focuses on what is meaningful and important in your life and how you connect to this community. The goal of the Face-to-Face Conversation is to create a more connected community that understands what matters to its members and to create a mission that articulates our distinct vision of Rodeph Shalom for the future.

Our Face-to-Face Conversations have just begun! Some of you may have already had a conversation with someone on our Board about what matters to you. We would love to have you participate in one or many Face-to-Face Conversation.

I tried to only focus on one aspect of this week’s portion but said from the start that it was impossible because there are so many nuggets of wisdoms in our Torah. This week’s portion, Ki Tisa, begins with God commanding Moses saying, “When you take a census of the Israelites… each shall pay… a half-shekel.” (Exodus 30:12-14)

The rabbis ask, “Why did everyone need to pay a half-shekel during the census?” Our tradition teaches that a half-shekel was the smallest denomination of money during Biblical times. By requiring everyone to pay this minimal amount, no one was left out; every member of the community was counted and counted upon. Just as the Israelites gave their half-shekels, our hope is that everyone in our congregation will give their half-shekel (or more!) and do their part to help make Rodeph Shalom a truly visionary congregation.

Our hope is that as we all engage in this holy act of dialog, we become a more united, active, visionary congregation. Our hope is that we will have more I-Thou moments as a congregation. Our hope is that as we see each other’s faces, we get a glimpse of the Divine. Our hope is that through Face-to-Face conversations, our faces will become as illuminated and radiant as Moses’ after he spoke to God, “face to face, as one speaks to a friend.”

Rabbi Larry Hoffman's Sermon: "RS 2020: Creating Our Vision Together"