Sermons | Congregation Beth Am





Rabbi Janet Marder
December 15, 2000

Do you have a childhood memory of sitting on the knee of some department store Santa Claus? I do. The memories come back to me as I stroll in the mall these days, surrounded by the trappings of the Christmas season. One rabbi I know has a name for the discomfort that some Jews feel at this time of the year -- our sense of being a minority engulfed by someone else's holiday. He calls it "Santa Claustrophobia."

Why do many parents - even some Jewish parents - tell their children about Santa Claus, want them to believe in...

Rabbi Janet Marder
December 8, 2000

I love Yiddish. Not only for its sound and its emotional texture, but for the special wisdom that resides in "di mameloshn." Take, for example, the term "shayne yidn." Literally it means "beautiful Jews." To Yiddish speakers a shayner yid isn't someone with lustrous hair, sparkling teeth and a great body. A shayner yid, a beautiful Jew, is a refined person, a cultivated person, a person of sterling character.

To me that little phrase captures a kernel of Jewish wisdom: the idea that true beauty, the beauty that matters, is inner beauty, beauty of heart and mind and...

Rabbi Janet Marder
November 11, 2000

Peter Pitzele, who has become famous as the inventor of Jewish psychodrama, tells a story about a painful experience he had many years ago, when he was teaching at Brooklyn College. Pitzele had grown up the son of a self-made man who was also a self-hating Jew; an individualist who consciously sought to escape from his own origins. His father resisted "all forms of clannishness, tribalism and parochialism," distrusted "the panaceas of religion," disdained his fellow Jews as loud, pushy and vulgar. And so he raised a son, Peter Pitzele, who did his best to assimilate, who strove to be...

Rabbi Janet Marder
Yom Kippur 5760
October 9, 2000

A couple of years ago a Reform synagogue in the Pacific Northwest surveyed their third graders to see how they'd answer a very important question: "God -- what is He or She like?" The answers were charming. Here's a sampling: "I see a big huge man that we can see through him, and he has a big beard." One young man struggled with some theological contradictions: "God helps people. He looks like us, but bigger. He is in people but also he is all around the world, but still in heaven." Another was a poet: "God is a flower,...

Rabbi Janet Marder
October 6, 2000

Some years ago one of America's leading rabbis, a past president of the Conservative Rabbinical Assembly, was asked by a student to talk about Jewish spirituality, Jewish ways of relating to God. "The Jews have a very good relationship with God," the rabbi answered. "We don't bother God too much and God doesn't bother us."

The rabbi was using humor to defuse what was, for him, a very ticklish topic. And so it remains for many of us. All I learned about God, growing up, was a formula I learned by rote: "Baruch ata Adonai ...Blessed art Thou O Lord...

Rabbi Janet Marder
Rosh Hashana, 5760
September 30, 2000

It was just after sunsset and we were the only car on the road, making our way slowly through an Oregon forest close to Crater Lake. The sky above us was pale, drained of color; the trees on either side were young and delicate. It was so lonely and silent on the road that gradually the quiet soaked into our car, and the irritable late-afternoon squabbles of Mom and Dad and two spirited daughters died away.

Suddenly we saw a sign that said "Viewing Area." We pulled over to the side of the road and got out of our car....


Congregation Beth Am
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We strive to live as a holy community whose study and practice of Judaism inspires and challenges us to "do justice, to love kindness and to walk humbly with our God" (Micah 6:8).