Sunday, March 24, 2024

Purim 2024/5784


It was cold! Thanks Betsy, Grace, Eleanor, Sheila, Bob and Ruth

Thanks to all who contributed in so many ways! Enjoy your goodies, cards, and the reusable cocofiber basket, which you can return for next year. And, reuse the shower cap for covering open containers. :-)

Origami creators: Eleanor Brownstein + Sheila Erlbaum

Bakers/Content Contributers:

Phyllis Berman
Fredi Cooper
Helen Feinberg
Pesha Leichter
Ruth Loew
Naida Mosenkis
Irene McHenry
Sharon Strauss


Michael Blackman
Eleanor Brownstein
Sheila Erlbaum
Grace Flisser
Ruth Loew
Sharon Strauss
Bob Tabak
David Teutsch


Betsy Teutsch

This year we netted around $1200, we we are sending $300 to each of four tsedakot.

1) Philadelphia's own Female Hebrew Benevolent Society, for Passover ma'ot chitim, provisioning for Passover for low income clients.

2) The Community Germantown Fridge, a community 24/7 street access pantry for our hungry neighbors. We are excited that this year all GJC will be collecting surplus chametz and donating it to the CGF as well.

3) To Dorshei Derekh Alum Ari Brochin, son of Rabbi Reena Spicehandler and Jermy Brochin. The donation will fund the group he works with at the Jerusalem African Community Center, whose members are primarily seeking asylum.

4) To Anya Friedman-Hutter, daughter of Rabbi Dayle Friedman and David Ferleger, who works in education in Beer Sheva and will share it with the hungry there.

Tuesday, March 5, 2024

The Role of Adina Abramowitz, z”l, in Reconstructing Judaism

The role of Adina Abramowitz, z”l, in Reconstructing Judaism  - by Ruth Loew

On December 13, the Germantown Jewish Centre community was stunned and saddened by the unexpected death of Adina Abramowitz z”l.  Adina and her wife, Naomi Klayman, were longtime members of Dorshei Derekh, the Reconstructionist minyan within GJC.  In the minyan, Adina and Naomi often led Shabbat morning services.  Sometimes Adina presented a teaching (d’var Torah) on that week’s Torah reading and led the discussion that followed.  She coordinated Dorshei Derekh’s High Holiday services for several years and took turns as the coordinator for leading services or presenting divrei Torah.  Many who had worked, learned, and worshiped with her, in GJC and in the larger world, valued her for her deep knowledge of Judaism; her talents for organizing (whether a meeting, a project, or a budget) and for teaching; and her honesty, generosity, humility, and dependability.  She had a rare gift for clarifying issues that others found hopelessly confusing.  Her sense of humor was also appreciated: Rabbi Micah Weiss, the Reconstructing Judaism staff Tikkun Olam Specialist, valued Adina’s “ability to lovingly roll her eyes.” 

Her entire career, both professional and volunteer, was driven by her values: she was dedicated to creating a better life for those who were disadvantaged.  Professionally, she worked with CDFIs (Community Development Financial Institutions), which offer financial resources to underdeveloped communities. In her private life, among the many organizations that benefited from her time and talents was the Reconstructionist movement. Most of her work with it was related to one of three projects: the Prayerbook Commission of the 1990’s, the Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World) Commission, and change management support for the Board of Governors.

The Prayerbook Commission created guides to Reconstructionist worship, including a siddur (prayerbook) for Shabbat and holidays; a mahzor (prayerbook for the High Holy Days); a weekday prayerbook; and one for houses of mourning.  Her excellent command of Hebrew and of Jewish liturgy were great assets.  Also importantly, she presented a perspective from the LGBTQ community.  Rabbi David Teutsch, who worked with her on this venture, describes her as “judicious, thoughtful, and capable of working with grace and good will.”

Adina was more recently active in the movement’s Tikkun Olam Commission, which addresses social justice issues. She was passionate about its work, particularly its commitment to racial justice, including reparations. She and Naomi were among the first to sign up for Reconstructing Judaism’s civil rights pilgrimage last spring. She was first a commission member, then became the transitional lay co-chair of the commission. When the new chair was on-boarded and ready to take on leadership, Adina, with characteristic humility, intended to step back into her role as a member.

As part of the Tikkun Olam Commission, she led a qualitative research project on racial justice work in member congregations. What initiatives had the congregations tried? What were they accomplishing? What feedback were they hearing from members of color? This project concluded with recommendations for congregational action. Adina helped make racial justice a primary role of the Commission.

A third area in which Adina took a leading role in Reconstructing Judaism was change management: helping the movement assess its organizational and financial future, particularly in the wake of Covid and, more recently, of October 7, 2023 and its aftermath.  She served as a pro bono consultant to the Reconstructing Judaism Board and movement leadership in evaluating what products and services Reconstructing Judaism offers and how it does its work. That meant working closely with its president, Rabbi Deborah Waxman; its executive vice president, Rabbi Amber Powers; and the senior leadership team. She offered individual coaching and led a pivotal discussion at their retreat this past fall.  She quickly became a trusted advisor, confidante, and coach to many with whom she worked. As Rabbi Deborah Waxman said, “All of this was in a volunteer capacity and all with generosity, creativity and effectiveness.”

Adina quietly went about being helpful whenever she could, without calling attention to herself. She didn’t care whether she was praised for her work; she just cared that the work was done and done well.  As Rabbi Teutsch said, “I never asked for help with anything that she didn’t say yes.” 

Zichronah liv’rachah – זיכרונה לברכה - May her memory be for a blessing.

Thank you to those who agreed to be interviewed for this article: Mark Pinsky, Rabbi David Teutsch, Rabbi Deborah Waxman, and Rabbi Micah Weiss.


Thursday, February 29, 2024

A Farewell to Ellen from Rabbi Simkha Weintraub


A Prayer/A Psalm at the Funeral of Rabbi Ellen Bernstein zts’l


It is good to give thanks for Rabbi Ellen Bernstein/HaRav Nehamah bat Etta v’Pinhas

Who leaves this life too soon for us, and passes on to the Garden of Eden,

which she will certainly till and probably enhance.

“And Adonai/God took the Human and put the Human into the Garden to till it and to guard it.”

(Genesis 2:15)

May the colors of Ellen’s garments and jewelry, flowers and plants, dishes and travel

Bless and rebuild our assaulted planet, from Kibbutz Be’eri to Zaporizhzhia,

from Gaza to benighted American zip codes,

from bursting refugee camps to razed forests, choked oceans, and decimated species.

“The Heavens are Heavens of the Holy One, but Earth was given by God to humankind.”

(Psalm 24:1)

God, give Ellen the power to empower those who truly value and respect Earth,

Who see the whole of our planet as Holy,

And seek to live on it with reverence, awe, and responsibility.

Introduce our dear Ellen to the Matriarchs and Patriarchs, to Hagar, to Serach bat Asher,

to Shifra and Puah, Miriam, Pharaoh’s daughter, and Yael.

Arrange banquets with Tzelophhad’s daughters, and those of Rashi and Mordecai Kaplan;

Brunch with Eleanor Roosevelt and Bella Abzug, Afternoon tea with Gluckel of Hamelin,

Dinner with Margaret Mead, Rachel Carson, and Henrietta Szold.

Under Your sheltering Sh’khinah, may Ellen find not just rest but peace and renewal,

Not only comfort but creative freedom and discovery,

Stellar insights, and radiant innovations.

I want You to know, God, that Ellen asserted M’hayei haMeitim loudly in a Reconstructionist

minyan in Philadelphia – affirming that You do, or will, revivify the deceased,

And so we request that You acknowledge her traditional and yet rebellious affirmations.

“Praise Adonai from the earth, sea monsters and all deeps;

Fire and hail, snow and smoke, stormy wind executing God’s command;

The mountains and all hills, the fruit trees and all cedars,

The wild animals and all cattle, creeping things and flying birds…”

(Psalm 148:7-10)

Enliven our memories of Rabbi Ellen,

Not only for our own savoring, but for the sake of the world itself.

Amen v’Amen, Halleluyah!

(Rabbi Simkha Y. Weintraub, Feb 29, 2024)

Photo: Steven Tennenbaum

Sunday, February 4, 2024

Thanks to the Invisible Laborers Who Make our Minyan Thrive!


It takes a lot of behind-the-scenes work to keep Dorshei Derekh thriving.

Yesterday the Mazkirut (at present George Stern is outgoing coordinator, Deborah Weinstein is the Chair, and Betsy Teutsch is the incoming coordinator) thanks Mike Gross, who completed his three year Mazkirut term. We also thanked outgoing Green Coordinator Simone Zelitch and welcomed Jennifer Paget in that roll.

 This was also a chance to thank all the longterm coordinators who are listed on the side bar.

There are more folks whose work people might not be aware of. Neysa Nevins manages our listserve, and has done so for a long time. Betsy Teutsch manages this blog (though many other members are also editors and *could* post.) 

Sheila Erlbaum tends our plants. She selected them, has watered them weekly, and Jennifer Paget took care of them at home during the Pandemic. Thanks to Sheila and Jennifer, our room is graced with growing things!

Thanks, Dick Goldberg, our Minyan Muse, for celebrating our Coordinators, outgoing and presen

February 3, 2024 Kiddush


(To the tune of “I Am the Very Model of a Modern Major-General” by Gilbert and Sullivan)

We are the very model of a modern, major min-i-yan!

Yes, Dorshei’s quite the prayer group in my humblest of opinions!

Whose mazkirut in ’23 was led by rebbe Georgie Stern—

From such a rebbe, oy, mein kind, a person has a lot to learn!

And speaking of the mazkirut, I think we really have to boast!

For three long years that we were blessed to have a leader in Mike Gross

And while we’re hoo- and hah-ing and we’re celebrating our dear own

How ‘bout that green coordinator, our Ms. Zelitch, a/k/a Simone!

Another who coordinated with elan, aplomb and flare

Was Ms. Naomi Klayman who saw to it that our every prayer

Was uttered with con-siddur-ation, Hebraic-ly and every time

Was led by service leaders though Kol Haneshama doesn’t rhyme.

Another who has planning skills quite peachy keen and yes, exempl’ry

Is thoughtful Toby Kessler, who booked Torah readers for both you and me.

And one to whom our gratitude is more than merely o-owin’

For all those Divrei Torah, taka, taka, Debrah Co-ohen!

For managing our membership for now and ever af-after,

We give our thanks— to whom? Of course, the gifted Heather Shaf-after!

For organizing kiddushim, of course, we must express-uh

Our sheer delight from morn to night— to whom? To our dear Pesha!

Well, LBJ, as you well know had Zbigniew Brzezinski.

The Rite of Spring was one wild thing thanks to I-igor Stravinsky.

But neither could outdo our techy poohbah I mean, come on, Dorshei, since he

Is also quite the hagbah, I mean Pinsky, Pinsky, Pinsky!

I’d like to end this ditty with a gentleman who in my view, he

So ably keeps our bank accounts, I’m talking Arnie Lurie!

In short, I think you’d have to say we are one in a trill-i-on—

Yes, Dorshei is the model of a modern major min-i-yan!