Slide Show on Beit Sefer Values and Curriculum

by Clare Kinberg, Beit Sefer/Religious School Director

Religious education in our AARC Beit Sefer translates Reconstructionist Judaism’s values into the classroom.  For instance, it is important to accept, respect and celebrate the diversity of views,experiences and backgrounds of each student and their family. Another important value is that Judaism continues to evolve and that each of our students and their families are part of that evolution.

For our Open House last Sunday, I created a brief slideshow that tries to briefly convey how our religious school puts Reconstructionist Judaism’s values into practice. Here’s a link to the slideshow, hope you enjoy it. Comments are on. Let’s discuss!

AARC members are teachers

With the spring holidays, Tu B’Shevat, Purim, Passover, and Shavuot, AARC is coming near the end of two years of our members stepping up, without rabbinical direction, to plan our community’s observances. Of course, having started as a havurah, without a rabbi, many veteran members were used to planning holidays and services. And Rabbi Alana has been an inspiring service leader over this time.

In a few months, sure to quickly fly by, AARC’s new rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner, will be in Ann Arbor to begin her tenure with us and we are anticipating her leadership with excitement, and admittedly, relief. I’d like to shine a light on a few of the lay leaders who’ve filled in this year, not just administratively and logistically, but as religious and spiritual teachers.

From an article “Who is a Reconstructionist Jew” on the Reconstructionist Judaism Website: Reconstructionist communities challenge Jews to participate fully in our shared Jewish civilization. From building a sukkah to appreciating Jewish music, from caring for the Jewish young and old to leading Torah study – community members should experience Jewish civilization in our day as fully as they experience secular civilization.

Judaism will continue to be a dynamic civilization only if we choose to participate, create and transmit vitality to future generations. Reconstructionist rabbis work in partnership with committed lay people to formulate guidelines that serve as Jewish touchstones for our times. These guidelines are presented and democratically considered in Reconstructionist communities as standards for enhancing the Jewish life of the individual and the community rather than as binding laws.

A couple of weeks ago Jack Edelstein led our Second Saturday Shabbat morning service and discussion with such aplomb, I can’t wait till he leads again. Jack is my model of a Reconstructionist: knowledgeable in Hebrew, traditional prayer and Jewish source texts, he reads the Recon siddur/prayer book “beneath the line,” that is, during prayer, he emphasizes modern interpretations and understandings of the kavanah/intentions of the prayers. He led the discussion with respect for everyone’s input. My advice to all, next time Jack leads a service, come!

Over this past year, Evelyn Neuhaus, Margo Schlanger, Debbie Zivan, Barbara Boyk-Rust, and Allison Stupka have led Saturday morning services. Each of them brought learning of great value to the service. Dina Kurz has planned our last two Purims, and Rachel Baron Singer edited a new Haggadah just for us. Carol Lessure, Marcy Epstein, Mike Ehmann, Carole Caplan, and Nancy Meadow (and if others, please forgive me) have hosted home observances this year. Marcy is already planning for our Shavuot observance, May 30. I want to extend a thank you to all of them for helping us “participate fully in our shared Jewish civilization.” And I want to extend an invitation to each of our members to consider sharing your knowledge, skills, and spiritual leadership with the community as we move forward.

In May, Deb Kraus will be leading Fourth Friday and the following Saturday (when Peter Cohn will become Bar Mitzvah), and in June, Josh and Michal Samuels will lead. We are incredibly lucky to have these teachers in our congregation and we can all look forward to learning with them.

AARC Seder Photo Recap

The AARC 3rd night seder was multigenerational, heymish, inspiring, fun and began and ended on time! Everyone (all 45 of us) pitched in and brought something to share, and there was plenty of help with set up and clean up. Thank you to everyone! Here are some highlights:

Rachel Baron Singer led our 3rd night family seder, with a haggadah she compiled for us. Beginning with the candlelighting: We light candles on Passover, not just to distinguish Yom Tov as a special occasion, separate from other days of the year, but also to symbolize the light we wish to bring into the world. As we say the blessing over the candles, let us reflect on the darkness in this world and the ways in which we can both advocate for our own liberation from oppression and also become more effective allies to all others who are presently fighting for their own peace and light.

As we blessed the first cup of wine, we used new words from the American Jewish World Service Haggadah, “Tonight, we gather around the Seder table to recount the ancient Israelites’ miraculous transformation from slavery to freedom. Their story began with an awakening: As our tradition teaches, Moses saw the burning bush and recognized that he was called to liberate his people from Egypt.
Our journey, too, begins with an awakening: May this first cup of wine rouse each of us to the injustice that persists in our world today. May we recognize our own capacity to make a difference and commit ourselves to building a better world.”

This is our kids looking for the Afikomen….so skillfully hidden by Keith Kurz.

And finally, the librarian in me had to award books for the Afikomen finders (everyone, of course). And then the kids sat down and read while the rest of us finished up the wine.

 

Passover Seder Details

What: AARC 3rd Night Seder

Where: Ann Arbor Jewish Community Center, 2935 Birch Hollow Road

When: Wednesday April 12, 6pm

Join with our community to rededicate to our freedom, and our activism for freedom for all. With a complete but not too long haggadah followed by a potluck meal.

Everyone welcome, but we need people to RSVP so we know how many places to set. Sign up here, both to RSVP and to bring something. If SignUp Genius is awkward for you, just email Clare that you are coming and what you will bring: ckinberg@gmail.com.

New Activist Resources for your Passover Haggadah and Beyond

The first night of Passover will be Monday evening April 10, 2017. If you are still looking for some resources for your haggadah, or just some relevant reading for Passover, I’ve pulled together some new resources from various organizations.

  • New Israel Fund Jubilee Haggadah: In the Jewish tradition, the fiftieth year is the year of liberty. As written in Leviticus, “Sanctify the fiftieth year, and proclaim liberty throughout the land for all its inhabitants. It shall be a Jubilee for you.” This is the fiftieth year of the State of Israel’s rule over the Palestinian people. The time has come for liberty and peace. From SISO, Save Israel, Stop the Occupation.
  • Jewish Women’s Archive, Your Passover Story: As you prepare to spend Passover with loved ones, think of a Jewish woman in your life whom you would like to know more about. Maybe it’s a grandmother, an aunt, or a teacher. Invite her to participate in an interview with you, at a mutually agreed upon time and place.
  • American Jewish World Service, Ten Lessons from the Haggadah for Jewish Activists, and their Next Year in a Just World Haggadah Drawing upon Jewish history, Torah sources and the latest headlines, we plumb pressing questions about human rights and global justice from a Jewish perspective
  • Hazon Jewish Food Movement, Tips for a Sustainable Passover: Passover offers a perfect opportunity to combine the wisdom of a traditional Jewish holiday with our contemporary desire to live with our health and sustainability in mind.
  • T’ruah: Rabbinical call for Human Rights Crying Out Against Mass Incarceration Haggadah Supplement and fair trade chocolate for passover: Our ancient story of liberation is bound up in the liberation of all people today from the chains of mass incarceration.
  • The Shalom Center suggests a Passover deadline for Amazon to stop advertising on Breitbart and Four New Questions for Passover: Write to  Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon, urging him — with a Passover deadline — to stop funding Breitbart wth his advertising. 

Our community get together for Passover will be a third night seder, Wednesday April 12, at the JCC, beginning at 6:00 (but you can come early to help set up). Here is the signup for attending, helping and bringing something (everyone coming will hopefully sign up for something).

 

Beginning an AARC practice of yahrzeit reminders

Graphic from the Ritual Well article “Marking the First Yahrzeit”

When Debbie Zivan, Rebecca Kanner and I met last month to talk about establishing a system for AARC to acknowledge our members families’ yahrzeits, we knew this was so important to us because we want our congregation to support us, and all our members, in practicing the Jewish rituals of mourning and remembrance. Our plan is to collect the yahrzeit dates that each of our members would like to remember and that these dates will be noted each year with a mailed notice to the member and a reading of the upcoming yahrzeits at our monthly Fourth Friday Shabbat services. To begin this for AARC, members can send Rebecca [rnmik@yahoo.com ] the dates of the death of their immediate family members.

I found this concise information about the practice of yahrzeit on the website of Reconstructionist congregation Kehilat HaNahar of New Hope, PA. It is written by their rabbi, Diana Miller.

Yahrzeit Information

What is Yahrzeit?

Yahrzeit is a Yiddish word meaning “a year’s time.” The yahrzeit is the annual anniversary of the death of a person, based on the Hebrew calendar (although some individuals observe it on the Gregorian calendar). The yahrzeit is determined from the day of death rather than the day of burial. If three or more days elapse between death and burial, one opinion says the yahrzeit is reckoned from the day of burial only for the first year and from that point forward, on the day of death. If you do not know the exact day of death, you may choose a date to observe as the yahrzeit.

Why observe Yahrzeit?

Commemorating the anniversary of a death year after year allows you to honor the deceased and the legacy he or she has left behind. It also helps you remain in touch with the memory of the deceased, while at the same time continuing to move through the cycle of life. In this way, death becomes part of the cycle of life itself.

The first yahrzeit is especially important psychologically because it helps you acknowledge that you have made it through an entire year without your loved one…all the holidays, the seasons and the occasions you usually would have spent with that person in the physical world.

Spiritually, yahrzeit is a ”soul-guiding” ritual, a process that acknowledges that the living and the dead are in an ongoing process of interconnection. It helps strengthen the spiritual bond between the world of the living and the soul of the departed.

What happens on Yahrzeit?

This day is a solemn day of remembrance. Typically, people attend synagogue or a place where there is a minyan to say Kaddish Yatom, or Mourner’s Kaddish, for their loved one. At Kehilat HaNahar, your loved one’s name will be read on the Friday night Shabbat service before the actual yahrzeit date. Many families attend this service for that reason. It is also common for a family member to have an aliyah, which is the honor of “going up” to the Torah in memory of the deceased loved one. A special prayer known as “El Maley Rachamin” may be recited. Some people also visit the cemetery around this time or give tzedakah (charitable donations) to commemorate the yahrzeit. Another tradition is to fast during yahrzeit for a parent and, if so, to avoid attending weddings because of their celebratory mood.

What if I forget the Yahrzeit?

The synagogue office will send you a written reminder of your loved one’s yahrzeit approximately one month before the date and an email notice about 10 days before. However, if you forget or were unable to observe the Yahrzeit, simply observe it when you remember.

What about the Yarzheit candle?

The custom of lighting a special yahrzeit candle comes from the Book of Proverbs (20:27): Ner Hashem nishmat adam (“The soul of man is a candle of the Lord”).  Sometimes it’s called a memorial candle or a ner neshama, a “soul candle.” The candle is typically lit the evening before the yahrzeit date. There is no specific prayer for the candle-lighting.

 

 

Purim in Pictures, 2017

Pictures telling the story of AARC Purim this year. Thank you Nancy Meadow, Fred Feinberg, Keith Kurz, and Emily Eisbruch for the photos.

 

A week before Purim, Marcy Epstein hosted several families in a hamantashen, hotpot and havdallah party

 

 

 

Shlomit taught the Beit Sefer kids to sing Mishenichnas Adar/When Adar arrives we increase our Joy!

More hamantashen baking, by Rose and Rena Basch in the Feinberg kitchen. Thanks, Greg, for running them over to TBE!

 

Because of the big power outage, we had to move our Purim celebration and Temple Beth Emeth graciously opened their doors. Our megillah reading organized by Dina Kurz, with terrific music accompaniment organzied by Debbie Gombert, was concluded with a display of the Friendship Scroll, with new megillah case built by Alan Haber with bronze crown by Idelle Hammond-Sass (blog post on this coming soon).

Alan with the case closed.

Is it Esther or is it Dina Kurz?

The “Persia High School” drama…..

 

 

The shpiel writers and directors.

 

 

We continued the fun the next day at Beit Sefer, when the kids all donned hats, exchanged shalach manot bags, and of course, told the story of Queen Esther saving the Jews of Persia.

 

 

 

 

A very short reflection on community

by Debbie Field

When the JCC lost electricity late last week, we were able to celebrate Purim anyway, thanks to our neighbors at Temple Beth Emeth, who allowed us to hold our event in their building. While at the Purim party, I complained to a few (or perhaps many) people because the power had been out at my house for days. Three different AARC members offered to host us for the night, kind invitations which I declined because we had already arranged to stay with yet another set of AARC friends.

Even before power and my equanimity were restored, I was able to feel gratitude for our caring AARC community, and the wider Jewish community of Ann Arbor as well.

The self behind the mask

by Rachel Baron Singer

For many Jews, Purim is synonymous with raucous celebrations; it’s a time to be festive, to indulge in sweets, and to maybe get a little shikker before the night is over. But it’s important to note that Purim is also a time for personal reflection—a time to consider our motives and deeds, and who we really are beneath the surface. The costumes we wear on Purim, whether we’re dressed up as Mordecai or Magneto, serve as a reminder of this principle.
It’s often said that Purim is about “the hidden” being revealed. Haman revealed his wickedness, just as Queen Esther revealed her identity to save the Jewish people. Some Jewish scholars also say the story of the Megillah is about hidden miracles or the “hidden hand of Hashem.” And when we dress up to celebrate Purim, we must also contemplate who we are when the charade ends, and then move forth with that knowledge firm inside us throughout the rest of the year.
In a tumultuous political climate that has many people feeling as though their moral is integrity being tested, this contemplation of ‘the self behind the mask’ is especially important. Dressing up is extremely fun, but it’s the revelation of who you are underneath it all that is ultimately what Purim is all about. So when you put on a cape or a funny hat this weekend, also consider what parts of yourself you don’t wish to conceal, and how you can go forward after Purim to bring that truth to the light…after you’re all done noshing on Hamantashen, of course!

Schedule for our Purim Fun  Saturday March 11 at the JCC 

4-6pm Hamantashen-baking party in the JCC kitchen from 4:00-6:00 PM  gsaltzman@albion.edu

• 6-7 pm Megillah reading lead by Dina Kurz and Debbie Zivan, with Debbie Gombert leading the Purim musicians.

• 7-8:30 pm Pot luck dinner AARC style with Purimspiel writtten by Livia Belman Wells and Shani Samuels. No nuts, no meat, fish okay.

• 8:30 pm — Havdalah (Can you volunteer to lead the Havdallah? contact Dina Kurz dinakurz@gmail.com

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.