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.

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)!