From Rabbi Kalisch – About the Overturn of Roe V. Wade

June 24, 2022


Today’s Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe v. Wade is, I know, a devastating ruling for so many of us within the Beth David community.

For many of us, the ruling feels like a crushing setback after many years of activism: of marching, volunteering, and speaking out, often as part of Beth David’s social justice work. Many years ago, before Roe was legal, our Rabbi Emeritus Rabbi Henry Cohen was part of an underground network of clergy that helped women in crisis find safe abortions. I pray that I will never have to do the same, and that abortion will remain legal in Pennsylvania.


Reproductive justice is at its core a deeply personal issue, for so many of us in so many different ways. This winter, Beth David was one of many synagogues across the country that held a Reproductive Justice Shabbat in partnership with the National Council of Jewish Women. We examined the verse in Exodus that is the basis for the Jewish position permitting – and in some instances, to protect the mother’s health, requiring – abortion. But we also shared stories with each other that we rarely tell publicly, of the ways in which abortion has shaped so many of our lives, and the lives of people we love. Because this issue is so personal, today’s ruling is also personal – an attack on our bodies, our families, and our autonomy. Today’s ruling is also very frightening for LGBTQ families, whose rights are also under attack.

Tonight, at Shabbat services, we will take space to grieve this loss of fundamental rights and acknowledge our fears, but also to find strength and hope: by coming together, and by taking action. Please join us at 6:30pm for services outside on the back patio, or via Zoom (https://zoom.us/j/810166610). If you see this email before 4 pm today, you can also join an online Jewish Vigil for Abortion Justice being organized by NCJW: https://www.jewsforabortionaccess.org/signup

Here are a few additional steps you might consider taking today:

  • Donate to the Jewish Fund for Abortion Access, which will help connected real people who need abortions with the money they need to access care. https://www.jewsforabortionaccess.org/fund
  • Contact our governor and state legislators to urge them to protect abortion rights in Pennsylvania, and remind them that is an issue of religious liberty for us as Jews: https://cqrcengage.com/reformjudaism/app/write-a-letter?0&engagementId=514385
  • Get involved in the Reform Movement’s voter engagement campaign, to make sure that every vote counts as the states decide the future of reproductive rights. You can sign up for updates on the national civic campaign at https://rac.org/take-action/every-voice-every-vote, and reach out to me or to Bill Madway (wmadway@bdavid.org) to get involved in the statewide Pennsylvania voter engagement campaign Beth David is helping to lead as part of RAC-PA.
  • Connect with other Beth David members to take action on reproductive justice. Email Helen Bludman (hbludman@bdavid.org) to let her know you want to be involved.
  • Read more about the Jewish position on abortion here, and read my essay explaining the divergence of Jewish and Christian views on this issue here.

However today’s ruling touches your life, please know that Cantor Goodlev and I are here for you if we can listen or support you in any way.  We will move forward, with hope and with determination.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Beth Kalisch


From Rabbi Kalisch – About Ukraine

Dear Friends,

At this terrible moment of war in Ukraine, I’ve been thinking a lot about an experience I had 17 years ago that forever changed my understanding of what it means to be connected to Jews around the world. Like many rabbinical and cantorial students (including Cantor Goodlev a few years later!), I had the opportunity to travel to the former Soviet Union to lead Passover seders in emerging Reform Jewish communities there. Together with one classmate and a translator, I was dispatched to central Ukraine, where I led two seders and a Shabbat service for two small Reform congregations, less than 20 miles away from the town where my grandfather was born. I thought I was going to teach, but mostly, what I did was learn: from the amazing community leaders who were rebuilding Jewish life after years of Soviet repression; from the teens who were passionately discovering a heritage their parents knew almost nothing about; from the elderly Buchenwald survivor who held my hands in hers during the seder and described to me how she had escaped; from the little children who roared and tickled me in their best impression of the wild beasts of the 10 Plagues; from the Russian rabbinical student who helped me locate my long-lost cousins in another Ukrainian city, and from those cousins, when I finally met them, who helped me piece together parts of my family history I had never known.

Ukraine may be far away from our little corner of Gladwyne, but what I learned on that trip, most of all, is how deeply we are connected to each other. Many of us in the Beth David community can trace our roots to the land of Ukraine. Yesterday, Cantor Goodlev and I were in touch with members of our Beth David community who grew up in Ukraine and who still have family and beloved friends there, both Jewish and of other backgrounds. If you have family in Ukraine and have not heard from us, please reach out to let us know (bkalisch@bdavid.org and lgoodlev@bdavid.org). And all of us are connected to the only country outside Israel to have both a Jewish president and prime minister, with the fourth-largest Jewish community in Europe. Kol Yisrael aravim zeh bazeh, the Talmud teaches: All Israel – the whole Jewish people – are responsible for one another.

Here are some resources to learn more and to help:

  • There are many other Jewish organizations supplying much-needed humanitarian aid at this difficult time. You can also support the Jewish community in Ukraine through the JDC (Joint Distribution Committee), a Jewish organization that supports small Jewish communities around the world and rescues Jews in danger. Or you can support HIAS in its work to support refugees of all faiths fleeing Ukraine.
  • You can learn more about the history of Jews in Ukraine here and here, read here about how the current crisis is affecting Jewish communities in Ukraine, and here about some of the ways that women are shaping progressive Jewish life in Ukraine in particular.

Rabbi Beth Kalisch



Are you a decarbonizer, someone committed to reducing their carbon footprint?

As part of our desire to encourage environmentalism and sustainability among our congregants, Beth David member Jane Horwitz is trying to find out who the decarbonizers are in our midst? If you or another Beth David member you know self-identify as a trailblazer in this arena, i.e., drive an all-electric vehicle, follow a plant-based diet, have solar panels, etc., please contact Jane at janeh@sas.upenn.edu.