Category Archives: Beth David Monthly

From the January Monthly: Changes

Dear Friends,

As 2016 begins, the board, the rest of the staff and I are starting to prepare for some major transitions at Beth David.

Of course, Beth David has been immersed in change for a few years now. I know that in many ways, I am still the “new rabbi” here. It was not so long ago that you said goodbye to Rabbi Egolf and welcomed me to Beth David – although I will say that I feel so at home here that it is hard for me to believe it has been less than three years!

The rabbinic transition was followed by the first stage of our cantorial transition, when our beloved Cantor Lilia retired in June after 31 years as the voice of Beth David. Thanks to the Cantor Search Committee’s hard work, we found Cantor Jessi Roemer and Cantorial Soloist Joel Kutner to serve us on an interim basis this year, and we have been blessed by their voices and presence on the bima and in the classroom.

The second stage of our cantor search begins now, as the Cantor Search Committee resumes its work planning for the long-term musical leadership of our congregation.

As if that weren’t enough change, we are now also heading into educational transition, as our beloved educator of nearly 25 years, Susan Levey, prepares for her retirement. As Tracy shared with you last month in her email, Susan has wisely counseled us that in order for us to have a two-year window to find the right person to serve as her successor, we should begin searching this year, with the possibility that Susan will retire as early as this summer, and as late as next summer.

At their December meeting, the Board of Trustees decided to follow Susan’s suggestion, and in the next few weeks, we will be appointing the Educator Search Committee. Because some of the people who are trained in Jewish education are also rabbis, our search will likely include some candidates who would serve as a second rabbi to the congregation in addition to their role as Educator.

As difficult as it was to imagine Beth David without Cantor Lilia on the bima, it is even more difficult to imagine Beth David without either Cantor Lilia on the bima OR Susan’s loving leadership of our Religious School. Please know that the Board, the rest of the staff and I are acutely aware of what a major transition their two retirements represent. Just as Susan and Cantor Lilia cared for this congregation through so many ups and downs, so are we committed to making sure that the transition goes as smoothly as possible, that Susan is fully honored, and that the best of the Beth David spirit not get lost amid all this change. At the same time, all of this change represents a potentially once-in-a-generation opportunity to dream big about the vision for Beth David’s future, and the kind of Jewish life we want to create for ourselves and our children.  We will not be taking these decisions lightly.

If you have questions or concerns about all of this transition work, please reach out. I am grateful that our immediate past-president, Susan Anderer and the co-chair of the rabbinic search committee, Susan Cohen-Dickler have agreed to oversee the senior staff transition, and to coordinate communication between the two search committees. Please feel free to reach out to them, to me, or to Tracy, with any overall questions or concerns. If you have specific comments about Cantor Search, you can reach out to the co-chairs of the Cantor Search Committee, Judy Grinspan and Barry Siegel. For specific comments about Educator Search, you can contact the newly appointed co-chairs of the Education Search Committee, Rachel Mauceri, and Jason Newman.

With gratitude for this opportunity to lead this congregation l’dor va-dor, from one generation to the next –

Rabbi Beth Kalisch


Shomrei Adamah: From the October Monthly

From Beth David’s October Monthly:

Fall is a time when all of us are paying more attention to the earth and its seasons … admiring the leaves, raking leaves, drinking pumpkin spice lattes. The Jewish calendar is particularly attuned to the earth at this time of year. Rosh Hashanah is called “HaYom Harat Olam” in our prayerbook – the day the world was born. And Sukkot, the fall harvest holiday, encourages each of us to live closer to the earth, spending time outside in the Sukkah, and bringing a lulav and etrog inside with us.

Sukkot might just be my favorite holiday, so I hope you’ll join us for some of the programs we have planned – Torah Study and breakfast in the Sukkah on the first morning of Sukkot, lunch in the Sukkah after Shabbat services during Sukkot, or the Religious School fieldtrip to Linvilla Orchards on the Sunday of Sukkot.

My installation last month is an event I will never forget, and I’m so appreciative to all of you who turned out in such large numbers and who helped make it such a special evening. I loved the connections to the earth over that weekend: from the hand-picked flowers from your gardens that decorated the tables at dinner, to the Mitzvah Night session on Judaism and climate change, to the delegation that came with me to New York City that Sunday to represent Beth David and join other Reform Jews – and 400,000 others from around the country – in the People’s Climate March. Please see our Facebook page or the back page of the Monthly for pictures from the amazing weekend!

Following Mitzvah Night and the Climate March, a few of you have asked me for suggestions about what else you can do to live up to our Jewish obligation to be Shomrei Adamah, protectors of the earth, as God commands Adam in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 2:15). Here are two easy suggestions.

First, consider signing these petitions from the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism:
RAC Petition to the President and Congress regarding the UN Climate Summit:

RAC Petition to EPA supporting the Clean Power Plan proposal:

Second, consider switching to a “clean power” electricity supplier for your home or business. All of your electricity can come from a power plant fueled by wind energy. You’ll still get your bill from PECO as you always have – the difference is that PECO will use your money to buy power from a supplier using renewable energy, rather than a traditional supplier using fossil fuels. I made the switch several years ago, and my electric bill is not significantly higher than it was before. Visit for more details.

May 5775 be a year of blessing for all of us, for our people, and for all who call our beautiful planet home.

The Bitter and the Sweet: From the September Monthly

Dear Friends,

What a summer it’s been.

War in Israel and Gaza, atrocities in Syria and Iraq, an epidemic in West Africa, violence in Ferguson.  We’ve been watching suffering around the world, and worrying, too, about our own safety: about Israeli children in bomb shelters, about Americans abroad, about Jews in Europe facing anti-Semitism.  So much pain, so much fear, so much hatred that we thought the world had moved beyond.

I read the news with a heavy heart all summer, and the sadness felt both so deep and also so incongruous with my own day-to-day life, because for me, it was also a summer full of joy.  On one Shabbat in July, I announced my own engagement, heard the happy news of another Beth David member’s engagement, and had the pleasure of officiating at the aufruf, or pre-wedding blessing, of a young man who grew up at Beth David, and his fiancée. A few weeks later, I celebrated the one year anniversary of my arrival at Beth David, then as your interim rabbi.  Who would have guessed that a year later, I would still be here, partnering with so many of you to envision Beth David’s bright future, and preparing to celebrate a second High Holy Day season with you.   I look forward to celebrating with all of you at the oneg on September 5th, and especially at my installation on September 19th, when one of mentors, as well as one of my dearest friends – a rabbi who grew up at Beth David – will be our guests for Shabbat.

Al hadvash v’al haoketz, a popular Israeli song begins, “The honey and sting, the bitter and the sweet… my good God, watch over all of them.”  Al kol eileh, for all of these, for all of this bitterness and all of this sweetness, we need Rosh Hashanah.  The holiday of honey calls us to celebrate what has been sweet in the past year, and to begin the new year with a leap of faith that in the coming year, the sweet will outweigh the bitter.  For all of you whose lives have been sweet this year, may that sweetness multiply in the year to come; for all of you whose lives have been embittered, may the new year bring you a new start, a new hope. Kein y’hi ratzon– may this be God’s will for us, and for all the world, in the year ahead.