What would Ruth deserve?

A woman harvests barley.

We read Megillat Ruth every year for Shavuot, which starts this year in the evening of May 30. Ruth was an illegal immigrant to Judah. Inspired by her kindness and her boldness, I’ve written a piece for the Tablet — it’s here — about Ruth, loving-kindness, chutzpah, and illegal immigration.  I hope you’ll read it and post any thoughts you have here.

Pirke Avot tells us:

עַל שְׁלֹשָׁה דְּבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֶד: עַל הַתּוֹרָה, וְעַל הַעֲבוֹדָה וְעַל גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים
Al shlosha d’varim ha’olam omed: al haTorah, v’al ha’avoda v’al g’milut chasadim.
The world is sustained by three things: Torah, worship, and loving kindness.

I hope we can do as well as Boaz and Bethlehem and match the kindness and chutzpah of Ruth and of her modern-day brothers and sisters with our own.

What can we do?

  • Support WICIR, the Washtenaw Interfaith Coalition for Immigrant Rights: Like them on facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WICIR/) and you’ll see posts for rallies, information sessions, and actions that support immigrant families.
  • Email Ruth Kraut, ruthkraut@gmail.com, if you want to join the Ann Arbor Jewish Sanctuary planning group. For information on Sanctuary Synagogues, see http://www.truah.org/campaign/mikdash-the-jewish-sanctuary-movement/ .
  • If you speak another language well—especially Spanish, Arabic, or French—there are opportunities to do interpretation. Ask the folks at WICIR about how you can help.
  • Give time or money to MIRC, the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center, http://michiganimmigrant.org/. They train people to do Know Your Rights sessions and their “Let’s Do More” campaign is working to raise money for an additional staff attorney to meet the dramatically increased need since President Trump was sworn in.
  • If you see or hear ethnic or racial epithets or bias, speak up! Go over in your mind in advance what you would say/do. Here are the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Six Steps to Speaking Up Against Everyday Bigotry.

Isaac Asimov’s Book of Ruth

I’ve written about Shavuot several times over the past few years. In 2015, I wrote on the culmination of the counting of the Omer and the concept of “our lives as torah.” Last year, when Loving Day and Shavuot fell at the same time, I reflected on Jews and interracial marriage. In that blog, I recounted reasons I’d found that we read The Book of Ruth on Shavuot, “…the story takes place during the seasonal harvest that the holiday marks; Ruth’s acceptance of the Israelite faith is analogous to the Jewish people’s acceptance of Torah; and because of the legend that King David, a descendant of Ruth, died on Shavuot.”

Last week my friend Abbie Egherman told me about the 1972 Isaac Asimov book, The Story of Ruth. Abbie is on a search for books that will inspire us, as Jews, to become more deeply and actively involved in refugee support and resettlement. According to Asimov’s memoir, his retelling of Ruth’s story is a long essay treating the book “as a plea for tolerance against the cruelty of the scribe Ezra, who forced the Jews to ‘put away’ their foreign wives.” Asimov’s essay places the story in context of the culture of the time it was written, but his purpose, as explained in his memoir, was to reflect on the potential of any people to become persecutors when in positions of power. In particular, he wanted Jews to look at our own history, situations in which we have been in power as well as eras when we have not.

There will be plenty of time to discuss Asimov’s reflection, as well as other retellings of the Book of Ruth at our congregation’s Shavuot gathering.

 

AARC Shavuot in Stages

May 30, 2017

Everyone Welcome

RSVP Here 

Location: Marcy Epstein’s home, 1307 Henry St.:

6:30pm Holiday blessing, Parsha Study, and Spring Soup

7:30 Community celebration with flower strands and wreaths and Ice cream treats

8:30 “Many Books of Ruth” Real storytelling, with wine and cheese tasting

Also:

May 31st 6:30-7:30 Yiskor/Memorial Serivce at the JCC

contact for Marcy: dr_marcy@hotmail.com

April AARC Mail Call!

by Dave Nelson

As your Board secretary, I do much, much more than just take notes at monthly Board Meetings and eventually revise these and post them where you can see. I also periodically pick up our mail at the JCC offices. Most of it is bills, checks, shady offers to re-asphalt our parking lot, legitimate offers to re-asphalt our parking lot, office supply catalogues, and brief form letters from well-meaning crackpots inviting us to consider the religious Grand Unification Theories they’ve posted online.

But we also get a few really nice letters from really nice people who really appreciate the little slice of diversity we bring to Washtenaw County. Below are two of these from April.

First up, we got a really nice thank-you note from Jewish Family Services, for our Purim donations, which help JFS “set up warm and welcoming new homes for incoming refugees.”

If we are a generation or two removed from a refugee/immigrant experience, it can easily seem like ancient history to our kids. I’m always really pleased that the Hav keeps this portion of the American experience in front of our eyes, so that “my dad’s dad came here from Ukraine at seven-years-old with a Detroit address on a note pined to his jacket” doesn’t become as distant and abstract as “because of what the Lord did to us when we were slaves in Egypt.” We can continue to support the JFS Refugee Resettlement Program by buying tickets (click on the picture) to the June 11 “Festival of Lights” concert.

The other nice letter from April came from the Chelsea Ministerial Association.  I urge you to give it a read; I doubt I can do it justice in summary:

They wrote this thinking of Micah 6:8, but when I read it I immediately was reminded of Malachi 3:18, which is something like:

“And you shall see the distinction between the righteous and the wicked, between those who serve G_d and those who do not.”

Second Saturday May 13 with Beit Sefer/Religious School Students

Some of the G’dolim working on our bulletin board.

Our G’dolim students, their teachers and madricha will be leading Second Saturday Shabbat morning service on May 13th. For many liberal American Jews, the Kabbalat/Welcoming Shabbat service on Friday evening is a well-attended social event of the week. The more sparsely attended (except for Bnei Mitzvah) Saturday morning service, when traditionally שחרית/Shacharit/Morning prayers and blessings are combined with reading from the Torah, is a more prayerful, relaxing time conducive to contemplation and learning. Perhaps a hard thing for pre-teenagers to lead for the congregation. But you may be surprised by how thoughtful they can be.

The students have learned the structure of the Shabbat morning service—still a mystery to many adults. They have a beginning familiarity with the prayers and melodies our congregation uses, and they have prepared a discussion on the Torah portion, Emor, which is packed with possibilities. We hope many of you will come pray and learn with us on May 13.

Structure of the Shabbat morning service, lifted from Lawrence A Hoffman’s My People’s Prayer Book series.

Second Saturday Shabbat Morning Service

May 13, 2017, 10am-noon

Jewish Community Center of Ann Arbor, 2935 Birch Hollow Dr. 48108.

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.