I had the opportunity to speak with both Rabbi Abi Weber and Rhona Gerber about their new professional roles and how they dreamt-up the Center City Purim block party.
Rebecca Krasner: You both started new professional roles this year. What do you love most about your work?
Rhona Gerber: I am the new Chief Development Officer at Jewish Learning Venture. I am deeply committed to Jewish Education and Congregational life. At JLV we empower families to make Judaism more meaningful and relevant for themselves. Our programs guide families and Jewish organizational leaders to see Judaism as a means to a thriving life. It is so satisfying when your work goals and life goals are integrated.
Abi Weber: My wife Diana, our 15-month old daughter Yara, and I moved to Center City this summer for my work as a Rabbi at BZBI. I love the feeling of being in community with loving and caring people. This past Shabbat, I spent all day with BZBI folks, from services, to kiddush, to a delicious lunch at a congregant’s house, to a fun afternoon playing with other BZBI kids at the playground. The point of community, in my view, is to step up and be with one another in moments of joy and moments of sadness. BZBI has already been with me in both.
RK: Can you share about how the Kehillah has contributed to your professional and/or personal lives?
RG: The Kehillah has brought me friends, collaborators, and even helped pave the way for my current professional position. I can’t begin to tell you how much the Shavuot and other learning programs mean to me.
AW: Having just started my work at BZBI this August, the Kehillah has been a great way for me to get to know others and all things Jewish in Center City. Along with Rabbi Nathan Kamesar of Society Hill Synagogue and our CCK intern, Michael Gordan, we re-ignited the Center City Kehillah’s Clergy Roundtable. I also loved being on the Rittenhouse Square Hannukah Candle Lighting committee. That event made me feel connected with everyone in this neighborhood and beyond.
RK: Rumor has it that thanks to the CCK there is an upcoming collaboration between BZBI, Mekor Habracha, and Moishe House. Tell us more…
AW: Yes! I am so excited about this event. During a staff meeting at BZBI we brainstormed ideas for Purim, and kept coming back to the idea of a block party, similar to what the neighborhood does for Halloween. I know Rhona from our monthly Kehillah meetings, so I called her to ask about hosting the party on her block. She loved the idea and immediately got her shul, Mekor Habracha, on board. Shortly after Moishe House Philly joined as a co-sponsor, making this a true Center City Jewish community event.
RG: At it’s core the Kehillah is about knowing that we all work together and that is what this event is all about!
RK: What is a not-to-be-missed spot in Center City?
RG: I love my next door neighbor: Fitler Square.
AW: I mean, the goat in Rittenhouse Square is the place where the most fun happens in the whole city: musicians play xylophones and flutes, kids draw everywhere with sidewalk chalk, the cutest and fluffiest dogs waltz through, and on a nice day, everyone is in a good mood. I love this neighborhood!