Ta-Shma: Come and Learn

 

Beginning Saturday January 13, 2018, there will a new structure to our Second Saturday Shabbat morning services. From 10 to 10:30 AM, Rabbi Ora will lead a half-hour of pre-service learning and discussion. The name of this new initiative is TaShma, which is a Talmudic phrase meaning ‘Come and Learn.’ Our standard Shabbat service will follow each ‘TaShma’ session, beginning at 10:30 AM.

For 2018, the focus of our ‘TaShma’ series is: Revolution Hebrew: Eight Words to Transform Your World. It’s no secret that Jewish prayers are repetitive; during Shabbat services, key words come up again and again – words like MelechOlamKadosh. But the accepted translations of these words (King, World, Holy) obscure deeper meanings.
Revolution Hebrew: Eight Words to Transform Your World will change your experience of prayer by uncovering these hidden meanings. Each month, we’ll tackle a different familiar word and discuss how its ‘unfamiliar’ reading reflects and/or revolutionizes Jewish values. Whether you’re new to Hebrew or fluent, Revolution Hebrew can enrich your spiritual life and shift how you see the world.

 

Ann Arbor Jews prepare for white supremacist speaker at UMich

In anticipation of Richard Spencer’s likely speech on UMich campus during 2018 spring break, Jews in Ann Arbor are preparing. The visit raises an array of  issues for the University and the community. On January 10, 2018 Spencer’s team sued the University of Cincinnati in a scenario similar to what’s happening in Ann Arbor.

Jews in Ann Arbor are adopting a variety of approaches to preparing for Spencer. The comment feature on this blog post is open so that you can weigh in on your reactions to these.

In mid-December the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor sent out a letter, co-signed by the leadership of most Ann Arbor congregations including AARC, which urged us to prepare for Spencer’s appearance here. The letter says in part, “We are reaching out to Ann Arbor city representatives, the Ann Arbor Police Department, and to the University with the aim of collaborating on effective measures to ensure the safety of our community’s people and institutions…”

Many UM students and faculty are taking an activist approach which eschews collaborating with the police. The Detroit Jewish News reported on protests here. The Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan campaign is bringing together many constituencies targeted by white supremacy and rising white nationalism. Their statement of organization reads:

Richard Spencer has invited himself to speak at the University of Michigan. We have preemptively created this protest event (date to be determined if and when he comes to campus) to get people thinking about what they will be doing when a prominent white supremacist and his supporters arrive on campus and in our community.
We support a diversity of tactics being used against Spencer. We are not interested in telling people what to do on this day, nor do we see it as our role to do so. #StopSpencer is not planning any official protest or event.
Safety is our primary concern. Any form of protest that does not center the needs and well-being of marginalized people is not one that will be effective in protesting Spencer, who will be targeting those same folx. We call on you to critically reflect on your actions, and what groups you choose to work with, in order to understand the potential impacts (harmful or not) on others.
The fight against white supremacy, racism, police violence, Islamophobia and antisemitism is ongoing work. Richard Spencer’s visit is merely a symptom of the white supremacy that is institutionalized in this University, our local government, and local and state police forces (ie the Ann Arbor Police Department). We condemn the history of collaboration between white supremacists and police, which specifically occurred in the 80s and 90s in Ann Arbor. We ask that you acknowledge the legacy of local resistance, and lend your resources to groups already involved in the fight against white supremacy.
We encourage you to leverage your privilege, power, or capacity to take collective action against Spencer in any way you are able. We believe it is imperative to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms.
In solidarity,
Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan

Recently, Jewish students have organized the ad hoc Ann Arbor Jews Against White Supremacy, which is aligned with the campus Stop Spencer campaign.

Two upcoming events of interest:

Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan Town Hall Meeting,

Saturday January 13, 2:30-4:30 in the Anderson Room at the Michigan Union. The purpose of this event is to learn about Richard Spencer’s potential visit from Stop Spencer organizers and community members. For facebook info on the Town Hall.

And specifically for Jews (though everyone is welcome), on Saturday January 27, 7-9pm, a havdallah “to resist antisemitism and white supremacy.” Location to be announced. The purpose of this gathering is to join together with “members of the Jewish community in Ann Arbor for community-building, story sharing, and organizing for the first of a two-part Havdallah gatherings!  Richard Spencer’s visit to the University of Michigan is harmful to our Jewish community. It also deeply affects (Jewish and non-Jewish) people of color, queer, trans*, and two-spirit folks, Muslim people, immigrants, and other groups targeted by white supremacy.” For facebook info on the havdallah.

This post is open for comments. What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

What Makes a Poem a Prayer?

by Rabbi Ora

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

Many prayers in our Shabbat services are taken from the Book of Psalms (in Hebrew, Tehillim) and are traditionally attributed to King David. Because we’ve received these poems as prayers, we automatically think of them as having a sacred resonance. But what alchemy transforms contemporary poetry into prayer?

Elliott batTzedek, a Philadelphia poet and liturgist, is the author of the alternate ‘Mourner’s Kaddish’ we read on Yom Kippur:

“So often am I lost,

yet through the pall, yet through the tarnish, show me the way back,
through my betrayals, my dismay, my heart’s leak, my mind’s sway,
eyes’ broken glow, groan of the soul—which convey all that isn’t real,
for every soul to These Hands careen. And let us say, amen.”

Read the rest of the poem here

Elliott reflects that “liturgy is a living project, as predictable and as unpredictable as the people that use it.” She also suggests that the physical, embodied act of reciting a poem (whether individually or communally) helps us to experience it as prayer. Quoting Edward Hirsch, Elliott writes:

 “‘When I recite a poem, I inhabit it, I bring the words off the page into my own mouth, my own body. I let its heartbeat pulse through me as embodied experience, as experience embedded in the sensuality of sounds. […] The secular can be made sacred through the body of the poem. I understand the relationship between the poet, the poem, and the reader not as a static entity but as a dynamic unfolding. An emerging sacramental event.’”

For more of Elliott’s transformative liturgy, take a look at her Tallit Blessings, the Arch/Welcome to Redemption, and Ahavah Rabbah/Gatherings.

Elliott batTzedek: “I’m a poet, critic, activist, teacher, gardener, a Jew of the Feminist, non-Zionist variety (there are more of us than you might think!), and a life-long collector of random interesting facts.”

 

Hanukkah and Winter Solstice Reflections

Photo from the Jewish Multiracial Network Facebook page.

Yesterday, the last day of Hanukkah 5778, Rabbi Marc Gopin posted on Facebook some words of deep wisdom:

“It was very hard to let go of the light this year. Light in darkness feels deeply resonant now, and difficult to resist a sense of foreboding.

Sometimes when you have been caught vulnerable by thieves and criminals, especially when they disguise themselves to beguile the foolish, and sometimes in order to avoid bloodshed, you need to let them steal their trillions. Sometimes you need to learn a harsh lesson, and then build a better security system, a better community of safety and mutual protection, a better community of fair law for all.

This is the only antidote, this inescapable need to reconcile and build trust among the decent rich and poor, the decent women and men, the decent secular and religious. We can do this. Even when it’s darkest outside, there is the amazing light we conjure.”

Hanukkah is always close to the Winter Solstice, but also independent from it. In a reflection on Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice, Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote in Seasons of Our Joy:

If we see Hanukkah as intentionally, not accidentally, placed at the moment of the darkest sun and darkest moon, then one aspect of the candles seems to be an assertion of our hope for renewed light. Just as at Sukkot we poured the water in order to remind God to pour out rain, perhaps one reason for us to light the candles is to remind God to renew the sun and moon. Indeed, the miracle of eight days’ light from one day’s oil sounds like an echo of the Mishnah’s comment that at the Sukkot water pouring, one log (measure) of water was enough for eight days’ pouring.

On her website “tel shemesh: celebrating and creating earth-based traditions in Judaism,” Rabbi Jill Hammer tells us “There are a number of Jewish stories about the winter solstice. Here are some of the legends Jews can tell one another during the darkest days of winter…” You can read more of her Rabbi Hammer’s teaching on Hanukkah and Winter Solstice here.

And finally, Marcia Falk includes the poem “Winter Solstice” as part of her amidah sequence where it appears in the second-section which re-creates the traditional theme of g’vurot, “strength,” affirming God’s power as m’hayeyh meytim, “reviver of the dead.”‘ For her full discussion of this concept in her creative prayers, see the wonderful book Jewish American Poetry: Poems, Commentary and Reflections.  I highly recommend we each have in households her The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival (CCAR Press, 2017). Copyright © 1996, 2017 by Marcia Lee Falk. Also, I found on her website that she has done mizrachs (decorative plaques hung on the eastern wall of the home) with her poems and original paintings. Check them out: beautiful gifts for yourself and others.

Click on picture to make it big enough to read.

 

 

 

Click on picture to make big enough to read.

 

New Parenting Group during Beit Sefer, other special January events

Seth and Kathy Kopald

AARC is starting up a new parenting group twice a month on Sunday mornings during Beit Sefer/Religious School. Parents with kids of any age are welcome, including parents of preschool and toddlers. We will offer childcare during the group meetings.

This free, parenting discussion group will be facilitated by Seth Kopald, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) practitioner, parent educator, former Montessori teacher, education consultant, and former Head of School. The Sunday morning groups will run from 9:30-11 every other week, beginning January 14th at the JCC. Seth, Kathy and their family joined AARC this past year.  You can read their New Member Profile here.

Seth will introduce the IFS model in conjunction with Attachment Parenting theory. He will facilitate enriching and generative discussions about parenting with a focus on helping parents discover how their internal world affects their parenting and their level of peace and joy while parenting. Discussion will also include strategies for loving yet clear child discipline/guidance practices.  Coffee available!

On January 28th, AARC Beit Sefer is co-planning a special Tu B’shvat environmental conservation program with the Jewish Cultural Society.  Parents and all other members of AARC are invited to come for the event,”Bats of the World,” presented by the Organization for Bat Conservation. The fun begins at 10:30am at the JCC.

January Calendar of AARC Events

Sunday January 7, 11am JCC: AARC “Third Age” group. Friendly discussion on enhancing Jewish life for members 60 (more or less) and older. This is the second get-together of a new group initiated by the Membership Committee co-chair Marcy Epstein.
Saturday January 13: Second Saturday Shabbat Morning Service. Signup for member lunch here.
Sunday January 14, AARC Book Club9:45-11:30am, home of Greg Saltzman. The book will be: Mohsin Hamid, Exit West (2017) – fiction, short list for Man Booker prize.
Sunday January 14, Parenting Group led by Seth Kopald during Beit Sefer, 9:30-10:45. This group will meet every other week during Beit Sefer through February.
Sunday January 14, during Beit Sefer, Amit Weitzer, Executive Director of Habonim Dror Camp Tavor, will present about camp to students and parents.
January 26Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, with tot shabbat and potluck, at the JCC.
January 28th 10:30am, JCC: Beit Sefer and all congregation “Bats Around the World” environmental conservation program co-sponsored with Jewish Cultural Society.

Hanukkah 2017 blog: Latke fry-off and more

As I write this 2017 Hanukkah blog, the first snow of the season has skimmed the porch with white. I realize that all the serious stuff I want to say about Hanukkah, I wrote in last year’s blog, with links to various other thoughtful writings.

 

 

Here’s an annotated schedule for the rest of 2017:

This Saturday, December 9, is our Human Rights Shabbat, focusing on the light we bring through our activism. Rabbi Ora has invited our members to signup to speak for no more that 4 minutes each. Please read about it here and sign up here. There will be childcare!

Sunday December 10: Beit Sefer gets ready for Hanukkah!

Sunday December 10: Over 50 (yrs old) AARC members getting together at Morgan and York, sharing ways to enrich Jewish life. Look for a doodle poll soon to pick a Saturday morning to meet again. Questions? email Memberchip Committee co-chair, Marcy Epstein at dr_marcy@hotmail.com.

Friday December 15: Home hosted potluck and candle lighting at Debbie Zivan’s (limited, you must RSVP here.)

Saturday December 16: Home hosted potluck and candle lighting at Carole Caplan’s (limited, you must RSVP here.)

Sunday December 17: Home hosted potluck and candle lighting at Kira Berman’s (limited, you must RSVP here.)

Just gotta say, the description of this photo is “Martha Stewart, Thanksgiving leftovers on a platter.” Okay then.

Tuesday December 19: Last Candle Latke Party and Fry-Off: We are having an all congregation and friends Hanukkah party at the JCC, 5:30 to 7:30pm (Clean-uppers should plan to be there till 8pm). We need you to bring latkes: prizes for the best in every category! For ideas, here’s the winning recipes from  last year’s fry-off at Jewish Senior Life’s Fleischman Residence/Blumberg Plaza in West Bloomfield. And, here’s Jen Cohen’s Latke Secrets from our own past. Three people have already signed up to make latkes, but we need several more!! We’ll eat, light the hanukiot (bring your menorah and candles), sing songs and make a craft. Fun for all! RSVP and tell us what you are bringing.

Friday December 22: Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat with potluck and tot shabbat, at the JCC.

Monday December 25th: Dinner and a Movie: Our annual December 25 “Dinner and a Movie” on Monday, December 25 (Christmas Day) at 5:15 pm, will again take place at Madras Masala (328 Maynard St, Ann Arbor) followed by movies at Michigan and State Theaters.
We will pre-order the food and you need to fill out this SignUp Genius so we can send the order in. Have cash available for payment. Madras Masala has increased business in the last two years and management needs us to pre-order to efficiently serve us as well as their walk-in and take-out customers. With this in mind, we will have our usual very fun dinner, with less wait for food and more time for enjoying and schmoozzing. Restaurant cooks will begin to prepare our orders early and wait staff will bring each individual and family your specific order.

Calling all justice-seekers and justice-pursuers!

On Shabbat morning, December 9th, AARC will be celebrating Human Rights Shabbat along with more than 140 congregations across the globe. The centerpiece of our Shabbat service will be YOU. Whether you’re involved in local activism or global human rights work, you are invited to share your work and inspiration with our community.

 

Please sign up to present as part of our Human Rights Shabbat here. We’re excited to hear from you! On Shabbat morning, you’ll be given 4 minutes (total) to address the following questions:
  1. How does your Judaism inform your activism?
  2. What gives you hope?

Speaking of ‘justice-pursuers,’ this unusual turn of phrase comes from the Hebrew ‘tzedek tzedek tirdof’ – ‘justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you might live’ (Deuteronomy 16:20). Various commentators have asked why the word ‘justice’ (sometimes translated as ‘righteousness’) is repeated in the verse. Some have interpreted the repetition as a subtle reminder that the pursuit of justice must also be pursued with justice.

Rav Elya Meir Bloch, a 20th century Orthodox rabbi, elaborates:

“Many times we pursue that which is righteous and fair. Our goal is to ensure that what is right prevails. We are often tempted to let the ends justify the means. We may overlook the fact that we have to step on a few laws here and there as long as in the end ‘righteousness will prevail.’

We know unfortunately how many times throughout history the pursuit of justice was carried on with unjust ways. This has caused terrible destruction. The message of our verse is that we may not overlook unscrupulous methods to achieve lofty goals. Righteousness must be pursued with righteousness. Achieving tzedek in any other way is not tzedek.”

Human Rights Shabbat is organized to coincide with International Human Rights Day, which celebrates the December 10, 1948 signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This years marks its 70th year. You can participate with people from around the globe in marking this anniversary by recording your voice (with your kids!!) reading one of the articles. Here is the website to do this. If you do, let us know in the comments!

 

 

Repair the World invites us to Act Now Against Hunger

The director of Education for Repair the World, Rebecca Katz, sent an email to Rabbi Ora last week inviting AARC members and friends to participate in their Act Now Against Hunger campaign this Thanksgiving. Detroit is one of seven active sites for the non-profit organization Repair the World, which was founded in 2009 to encourage young Jewish people to participate in meaningful service and engagement in social change rooted in Jewish values and learning.

This year they have put together special resources for Thanksgiving  to help us have conversations about hunger at our Thanksgiving dinner table, or another appropriate time.

“Transform your table into a place of generous learning, listening, and action.  As we gather around a table of plenty, commit to opening your table to conversations about food insecurity and hunger. Use these three discussion guides and DIY resources to root your discussion of food insecurity in Jewish values and foster a brave space for people to meaningfully engage with each other’s experiences and ideas.”

The discussion guides and resources below are very nicely put together and will be relevant throughout the year. Take a minute to look through them and download for your family’s use.

Discussion Guides:

  • A Plateful of Grateful
    • Untangle the impact of food waste and hunger using this guide co-created with 412 Food Rescue, a Pittsburgh non-profit that believes that good food belongs to people, not landfills.
  • Addressing Hunger Together
    • Discuss root causes and strategies to address food insecurity through traditional and modern food justice texts
  • Bringing Generosity to a Tough Table
    • If you are heading into a tense or divisive space and want to foster a generous and open conversation at your table, check out this guide we developed in partnership with Lab/Shul, an everybody-driven experimental Jewish community in NYC.
  • Food Justice Glossary
    • Build a shared language around food justice

 

Welcome Sherry and Steve Lessens

Sherry and Steve Lessens returned to Ann Arbor this past summer after a forty year “break.”  Sherry grew up in a Cleveland suburb, and Steve is from the small town of Lowell, MI. They met as undergrads at the University of Michigan and married during grad school.  Steve went to U of M med school and Sherry got a Masters in Counseling while working in Plymouth.  Steve’s residency took them to Milwaukee for a short time, and they finally ended up in Shelby, MI for thirty-eight years.  Shelby is a very small town (1800 people!) along Lake Michigan that is very rural, very conservative, and quite poor. While Steve served as a family doc, Sherry worked as an elementary school counselor. Their temple, B’nai Israel was 30 miles away in Muskegon, but it grew to be an important part of their lives. The membership is less than 80 families, but it includes all denominations of Judaism, and the members became dear friends. Leaving was hard.

The Lessens family includes two children.  David is a family doc in Anchorage, married with two small children, and Jennifer and her husband with two boys live nearby in Okemos.
Once both Steve and Sherry retired, they immediately chose to return to Ann Arbor. They missed the culture, the people, the music, and the availability of great public transportation, to say nothing of being so much closer to a temple, to their daughter,  and getting away from ALL THAT SNOW!! AARC seemed like the perfect fit once they attended the small Friday night service this August at Hillel. They are both anxious to meet new people and expand their religious experiences.

Welcome Kopald Family: Seth, Kathy, Ahava, Clara, and Levi

We are very happy to be a part of AARC.

Our families easily merged together over the last three years, but officially this past July, Kathy and I were married.  At the end of October,  we moved into our renovated home.  We have three wonderful teenagers: Ahava, Clara, and Levi and our dog Hazel.  I was born and raised in the Detroit area, moved to Oregon after college and then to Ann Arbor when Ahava was two.  Kathy, born and raised in Port Austin, came to Ann Arbor to study at U of M.  She fell in love with Ann Arbor and made her home here.  I feel like the luckiest guy in the world that Kathy and Clara have come into our lives and we are truly one happy family.  I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education my working life and now design and build specialty construction projects.  I also work with people as an Internal Family Systems Practitioner.  Kathy is a designer and artist, who works at U-M designing websites and leading and designing high profile campaigns for the Office of the Vice President for Communications.

I found AARC in my search for the right fit for a Jewish community.  I have tried many and like parts of each, but nothing felt just right, until now.  After attending AARC High Holiday services in the past and many events as a member, I believe I found our community.  I think the AARC is an accepting and welcoming group that allows people to be themselves and let their light shine. We look forward to meeting all of you.