Thoughts on Chesed Shel Emeth

by Clare Kinberg

There’s a complicated story surrounding my feelings about the Feb 18, 2017 vandalism at Chesed Shel Emeth Cemetery in University City, MO. I’m not even thinking right now about the fact that my family buried my mother there last month, on Jan 5. Yes, I am very upset that the peace of the space around my mother’s fresh grave has been so unnaturally disturbed. But the seat of my feelings has other sources.

On Sept 5, 2016, 5 months before we buried mom in Chesed Shel Emeth, I visited a very different, historic cemetery in the rural and remote, rolling hills of Southwest Michigan; a sparse, church cemetery where my Aunt Rose, my father’s sister, lies buried in an unmarked grave. I found her resting place, after 40 years of looking for her, through determination and chance. She died in 1982; her obituary in the Cassopolis Vigilant says “there are no known survivors at this time.” Estranged from her family, including even her young son, Joe,  since the 1930s, Rose remained separated in death. Until this week, I’d fantasized about bringing her body home to the shtetl, which is, of course, Chesed Shel Emeth. Her mother and father are there, her grandfather, too. All three of her brothers and a sister. But Chesed Shel Emeth is not where Rose wanted to be. And now, I almost feel grateful that she isn’t there, that her rest is not disturbed like all the others. 

To be honest, the thought of bringing her home to Chesed Shel Emeth was only a passing thought. I’ve given serious thought, though, to the headstone I plan to order for her, to mark her space under the earth. Rose (Kinberg) Arnwine does have known survivors, and her extraordinary life will be noted.

Both Rose and I are the non-conformists of the family. But I can still claim Chesed Shel Emeth for my own. I’ve walked its narrow paths countless times. I love to stand in the midst of the gravestones and be enclosed into its familiarity. In 1897, my father’s–and Rose’s–grandmother was buried there, when she died ten days after giving birth to my great aunt Mary. It was in the first years of the cemetery, when they buried Russian Jews who didn’t have the money for a plot or a headstone. Chesed Shel Emeth is the shtetl, the home of the poor, and the very poor, all laid up next to the better off. There’s a plethora of peddlers, tailors, and junk dealers …and the jobbers they became.

With my mom’s papers, I find invoices and paid checks from my father and Uncle Leonard to Chesed Shel Emeth Burial Society, beginning in 1951, for “burial graves.” They paid on some sort of regular basis through the 1960s. Every name on a headstone in Chesed Shel Emeth echoes with the voices of our parents and teachers, our neighbors and schoolmates, the grocers and shoe salesmen, teammates, cousins, and friends. The families that moved from downtown on North 10th St. to midtown near Cates and Kingshighway, to Westminster, to Kingsbury in University City, to Olivette and Ladue and finally further west to Chesterfield. Of the 17,000 people buried in Chesed Shel Emeth, so many with families like mine, with generations buried there, I think I am connected, through marriage and proximity, to each and every one. I look at each headstone and think, I know you, I know you, I know you.

Aunt Mary, who grew up shuttled between the Jewish orphan home in Cleveland and various relatives, was the only one who stayed in touch with Rose. The shtetl was not entirely kind to either of them.

Rose’s son Joe married in 1952, to Joyce (who died just a month before mom, in Alabama). Everyone is at the wedding, except Rose: Aunt Mary and her grown children stand next to my mom and dad, Dad’s siblings and their children. Today, only my siblings Robert and Sheila from this picture are alive (I wouldn’t be born for 3 more years). Five of them are in Chesed Shel Emeth: Mom and Dad, Uncle Leonard and Aunt Ethel, and Tillie. The rest are scattered, New York, Chicago, California.

I wonder if Aunt Mary brought this picture to Rose. Was it among Rose’s things when she died, thirty years later? What did happen to Rose’s things when she died? The Cass County probate court has lost her record, but I haven’t given up the search. After all, I found her. Or at least the unmarked patch of grass where she is buried.

The Chesed Shel Emeth shtetl was no longer Rose’s home, but, oh, the home she did create. A stop on the Underground Railroad, on Paradise Lake, Vandalia, MI. When her East Texas-born African American husband bought 25 acres of farmland there in 1943, did it feel safe to them? Familiar, like the rural county he’d grown up in? Was it more like the Russian shtetl her grandfather came from than the brick duplexes of St Louis or the crowded Black Belt in the south side of Chicago? In Cass County, MI, Rose and Zebedee raised chickens and sold eggs. She was active in her church. She lived on the same piece of land for 40 years. Her resting place is quiet.

Purim Fun on Saturday, March 11, 2017

Reading the Megillah, 2016. The megillah readers are: l-r Drake Meadow, Rachel Baron Singer, Barbara Boyk Rust, Rena Basch, Harry Fried, Dina Kurz, Dave Nelson, and Paul Resnick.

Costumes, Purim spiel, witty fun, Megillah reading, potluck dinner with hamentashen… what could be better?

Please join the AARC as we celebrate Purim this year with a participatory, family friendly, lay-led service on March 11 beginning at 6 p.m. at the Ann Arbor Jewish Community Center. All ages are invited to join in the reading of the Megillah, reveling in their costumed attire, followed by a vegetarian, nut-free potluck and a ‘dinner theatre’ congregational Purim spiel. The fun and witty evening will conclude with Havdalah.

Purim’s theme of the difficulty in discerning good from evil is especially contemporary. Come celebrate the Jewish tradition of booing the Hamans of the world, and cheering the Esthers and Mordechais.

Purimplayers, 2016, left to right Ruby Lowenstein, Jacob Schneyer, Eli Kirshner (foreground), Livia Belman-Wells (hidden)

 

Purim celebration schedule

6:00 – 7:00 pm Megillah reading in Hebrew and English

7:00 – 8:30 pm Potluck with ‘dinner theatre’ Purim spiel

8:30 pm Havdalah

Join the fun!

Anyone who would like to have a specific role in the evening, please contact dinakurz@gmail.com .  Debbie Zivan will be chanting parts of the service in Hebrew and there are many roles for English readers.
Interested in hosting a hamentaschen baking gathering?  Let Clare know and she’ll put out a call for other bakers!
We are looking for musicians, old and young, who want to enliven the festivities. Again, get in touch with Dina if you have not already done so.
Looking for costume advice: Contact   Nancy Meadow  for the young and Rachel Baron Singer for the older set

Erica Bloom on Tu B’Shevat: “Bend a little closer to the earth”

On Saturday February 11, Erica Bloom, Project Director at Growing Hope, gave this talk during our morning Shabbat service.

Hello everyone. Thank you for having me today. This is a rare opportunity for me to wear two of my hats at once. I’ve been asked to speak today to reflect on Tu B’shevat as the Program Director at Growing Hope, but also as a Jewish person who cares deeply about the natural world and access to healthy food as a human right. [Read more…]

Beit Sefer Celebrates Tu B’Shevat 2017

The whole Beit Sefer showed their creativity in celebrating Tu B’Shevat this year.

The Yeledim put on a play based on the book Something from Nothing by Phoebe Gilman, a retelling of a classic tale of reuse or as it is expressed in Hebrew bal tashchit/do not destroy needlessly.

The Tu B’Shevat performers take a bow

 

Tu B’Shevat Bulletin Board: A work-in-progress, a whole school effort!

More cooperative Tu B’Shevat Bulletin Board making

The G’dolim and K’tanim designed a new Tu B’Shevat bulletin board that celebrates nature and the seven species of foods in the Torah (wheat, barley, grapes, olives, figs pomegranates, and dates). All the students and madrichim worked on the bulletin board together.

At the Beit Sefer Tu B’Shevat seder all who had February birthdays raised their hands.

 

Finally, Drake taught us the traditional Tu B’Shevat folk dance Tzadik ka’ tamar yifrach, which translates in to movement the line for Psalm 92, The righteous shall flourish like the palm tree and grow like a cedar in Lebanon.

And it was fun! Watch the dance in motion in the video below, thanks to Fred Feinberg.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Inclusion and Talmud in Unreasonable Times: Feb 18 and 19

by Clare Kinberg

Master Jewish educators Yavilah McCoy and Rabbi Benay Lappe are two people I have long looked to for teaching deep growth and change in Jewish communal life. I couldn’t be more excited that they are coming to lead workshops in Ann Arbor on Februrary 18 and 19. The Jewish Communal Leadership Program (JCLP) is hosting a weekend of provocative study and discussion, and you are invited. Here is where you register.

Because Yavilah began her Jewish diversity trainings while living in my hometown of St. Louis, I saw firsthand the impact her work had on my family and friends. While living there in the late 1990s, she founded one of the first nonprofit Jewish organizations to provide Jewish diversity education and advocacy for Jews of Color in the United States. In 2005, I had the pleasure of publishing Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz’ interview with Yavilah in Bridges. You can access it here. In her  current work at Visions, Inc, in Boston, she is bringing diversity training and inclusion to the next level.

On Saturday evening, February 18, Yavilah McCoy will lead the discussion at Common Cup Coffeehouse on Washtenaw Ave (free parking available). In these challenging days, what will it take to realize our obligation to racial justice across the diversity of religious and spiritual affiliations? The discussion will explore Jewish text and tradition to help us achieve deeper equality and more beloved community.

 

Rabbi Benay Lappe is Founder and Rosh Yeshiva of SVARA, a traditionally radical yeshiva based in Chicago that offers accessible, complex, and highly accountable traditional Jewish education from a Queer perspective. Ordained in 1997 by the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Lappe is an associate at two progressive Jewish think tanks (Institute for the Next Jewish Future and CLAL). On Sunday afternoon, Februrary 19, Rabbi Lappe will be introducing us to her style of Talmud study as a practice that strips away pretense and highlights the strengthening of self and community in radical relationship to the text. Sunday evening, Rabbi Lappe will offer an additional session for those who know the Hebrew alphabet that will engage participants in her version of radical text study in the original.

The program JCLP has put together is formed around the question, “How can we strengthen ourselves and our communities to confront these unreasonable times?”

Here are the details:

WHAT NOW ?

Communal Conversations for Unreasonable Times

February 18 & 19, 2017

Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue with Yavilah McCoy

Saturday, February 18, 2017

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

The Common Cup Coffeehouse

1511 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor

Radical Texts for an Unreasonable Time:

An Approach to Activist Talmud Study, with Benay Lappe

Sunday, February 19, 2017

1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

School of Social Work, Room 1840

1080 S. University Ave, Ann Arbor
Join Rabbi Benay Lappe for this exploration through text and community. Consider whether the identities best equipped to engage Jewish tradition are really the ones we’re used to seeing at the front of the room.

One-Night Stand: An Evening of Radical Talmud, with Benay Lappe

Sunday, February 19

6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

School of Social Work, Room 1840

Presented as part of the Frankel Speakers Series with the generous support of the Covenant Foundation.   Co-sponsored by Jean & Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, Michigan Hillel, Department of America Culture, Dean’s TBLG Matters Initiative, and AHAVA.

Register here. For more information or questions contact Paige Walker vpwalker@umich.edu or (734) 764-5392.

 

Alice Mishkin: new member, familiar face

I first got involved in AARC back when it was the Havurah. While an undergraduate at Michigan, I taught kindergarten to a class full of Elis (who are all now heading to college themselves!). Originally from East Lansing, and having grown up in Kehillat Israel, I found a lot of comfort in the DIY nature of the Havurah.

After graduating from U-M, I spent time in DC, New York, Tel Aviv and the West Bank working with Jewish nonprofits doing human rights and social justice work. I returned to Ann Arbor to complete my Masters in Social Work and Jewish Communal Leadership, and found myself drawn back to the comfort of the AARC community.

I now teach courses in social justice and social identity at U-M and work as a lead organizer with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, an international nonprofit committed to nonviolent resistance to the Occupation.

I live on the West Side with my partner and when these cold, dreary winter months are over you’ll find us taking walks around the West Side, restocking our coffee supply at Argus, and attempting to grow our garden.

After attending a yoga/meditation shabbat last month, I was delighted when Debbie reeled me into joining the AARC and I’m looking forward to being a full member of the community (most importantly getting a permanent name tag)!

 

Dan Gutenberg’s Bar Mitzvah dvar on Ve’era

Good morning and Shabbat shalom!

My parsha is Va’era, Exodus 6.2-9:35. It tells the story of the first seven plagues; blood in the nile, frogs, lice, flies, diseased livestock, boils, and hail. I’m reading the part that most interested me, which was the first time in my portion when God said God would harden Pharaoh’s heart. Another part that caught my attention was Pharaoh’s stubbornness or arrogant attitude towards the Israelites throughout the portion. And as we will find out, even before my portion.

So in some ways Pharaoh already had a hard heart and in other ways, God hardened it some more. In a sense those are related, but I was more interested in the differences.

When do we first see that Pharaoh might have an arrogant or stubborn or some other kind of bad attitude towards the Israelites? It’s back at Exodus 1:8: “A new Pharaoh arose who did not know Joseph.” He enslaved them out of fear that they would become too numerous and join Egypt’s enemies. This is not the Pharaoh that loved Joseph so much in Genesis. It’s a new guy. The old Pharaoh loved Joseph for his ability to interpret dreams which resulted in averting a potential catastrophe from the famine. Joseph becomes his right-hand man, the second in command, overseeing wheat being both distributed to the people and saved for the lean years, the famine. Egypt would not have survived without Joseph. [Read more…]

Jewish Responses to EO Banning Immigrants and Refugees from Muslim Majority Countries

The Reconstructionist Movement issued a statement on January 26th on the Executive Order concerning immigrants and refugees. I thought it might be useful for our AARC community to have a compilation of recent statements and news articles reflecting many Jewish responses.

  1. Reconstructionist Movement Statement on President Trump’s Executive Order Concerning Refugees
  2. Conservative Movement Condemns President Trump’s Executive Order on Immigration and Refugees
  3. Reform Movement Denounces President Trump’s Executive Order Barring Entry From Several Muslim-Majority Countries
  4. Jews Hand Muslims Synagogue Keys When a Texas Mosque Burns Down
  5. Refugee Ban Devastating Impact: HIAS
  6. HIAS Rabbi letter.
  7. Statement of East Bay Jewish Family and Children’s Services
  8. Jewish Community Action for Refugees, Feb 12
  9. Refugee Ban Puts Jewish Asylum Seekers in Limbo
  10. Iranian Jews in Los Angeles, Atlantic article
  11. Association for Jewish Studies Statement on the EO

Tu B’Shevat: The Jewish Environmental Holiday, February 11, 2017

Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of the month of Shevat, is the Jewish new year of the trees, the date in the Jewish calendar when we especially focus on human interdependence with nature and other environmental concerns. This year, Tu B’Shevat will fall on Saturday, February 11 and there are several ways you can celebrate the holiday with AARC.

Saturday February 11 is a Second Saturday, our regular monthly Saturday morning Shabbat service at the JCC (10am-noon), so it’s the perfect opportunity for us to get together for Tu B’Shevat. Rabbi Alana will lead the prayer service and we’ve invited special guest Erica Bloom to join us for a talk about her work with Growing Hope in Ypsilanti. Growing Hope is an organization focused on helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening and increasing access to healthy food. It hosts an urban farm on W Michigan and does several community and school programs on “farm to table” themes.

Growing Hope 922 W. Michigan, Ypsilanti

Growing Hope Green House and Gardens

Erica’s roots are in Southeast Michigan, though she went west for her education. She received her M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana where she studied environmental health and environmental non-fiction writing. After returning to Michigan, she worked at the Michigan League of Conservation Voters advocating to increase protections for our state’s natural resources. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program, and participated in a Detroit area young professional Jewish leadership initiative through Bend the Arc, a Jewish partnership for justice.

 

 

Later in the day, we are invited to two Tu B’Shevat seders in Detroit:

  • Congregation T’chiyah, the Reconstructionist Congregation of Detroit, and the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue are hosting a Tu B’Shevat Seder on Saturday, February 11, at 3.30 pm, at IADS (1457 Griswold, Detroit 48226). The seder, led by Rabbis Alana Alpert and Ariana Silverman, will have lots of fruits, nuts, and Jewish wisdom about being better stewards of the Earth. Special activities for children will enable each generation to celebrate and learn. This event is free of charge.
  • And at 7:30 Hazon Detroit is hosting a Tu B’Shevat event at the Light Box: Gather in community for an experiential Tu B’Shvat seder (ceremony) that will re-connect us to the environment and take us on a journey from the physical world to the spiritual world with music, poetry, and learnings from some of Detroit’s most dedicated environmental changemakers and activists. Expected to be there are State Representatives Jeremy Moss and Robert Wittenberg; Executive Director & Health Officer for the City of Detroit’s Health Department, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed; President & CEO of We the People of Detroit, Monica Lewis Patrick; and Executive Director of Soulardarity, Jackson Koeppel! Co-sponsored by: The Well, NEXTGen Detroit, Jewish Ferndale, Yad Ezra, Repair The World: Detroit,Congregation Shir Tikvah, Detroit City Moishe House, and Adat Shalom Synagogue’s Young Adult Group. There is a fee for the Hazon event: sliding scale of $10-18. Scholarships available. REGISTER HERE for the Hazon event! Please contact Julie Rosenbaum for questions: julie.rosenbaum@hazon.org or 248-997-6344.

For the past few years, Tu B’Shevat has been a special holiday for AARC. Here is a blog about last year’s Tu B’Shevat Shabbaton and Seder, and from the 2015 Tu B’Shevat Seder. Let’s make this year memorable as well.

Introducing Carol Ullmann, Matt McLane, Zander and Ellie

New members Carol Ullmann and Matt McLane both grew up in Michigan, Carol in Rochester Hills and Matt in Portland, not far from Lansing. They met through mutual friends in Ann Arbor while in college. Except for a 2 year “exile” in Northville, they have lived in east A2/west Ypsi/Pittsfield Township since 1999.

Carol and Matt have two delightful children. Zander is a 6th grader at Scarlett and a Boy Scout in Troop 7. He wants to be a programmer. He loves to read, especially books by Rick Riordan. He also loves to cook, play trumpet, draw, and design video games.

Elinor is a 2nd grader at Carpenter Elementary and a Brownie Girl Scout (currently selling cookies!). She loves to go camping and fishing, play board games, and do anything that involves hanging out with other people.

Carol works with AARC member Dave Nelson as a freelance writer, and it was Dave who invited Carol and Matt to check out AARC. After Carol and Ellie attended a Fourth Friday Shabbat service and potluck last May, the family decided the congregation was a good fit for their family. They signed the kids up for Beit Sefer and have been active since.

In describing themselves, Carol says, “Matt is a very capable outdoorsman, a kid at heart, and is assistant scoutmaster for Troop 7. He likes to fearlessly make stuff and is currently building a teardrop camper. I am deeply involved in fiber arts. I write, grow food, teach knitting, and am co-owner of Washtenaw Wool Company, which sells hand-dyed yarn and spinning fiber on Etsy and to local retailers.