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.

About Lincoln’s Nigun

Cover of Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble’s 2014 album, “Nigunim Vol IV Brooklyn Spirituals.”

At our October Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, Rabbi Ora introduced a new to us nigun [a mystical musical melody] for “L’cha Dodi.” Composed by Joey Weisenberg, it is called “Lincoln’s Nigun,” which immediately generated speculation, Why Lincoln?

Evidently, we are not the only ones curious about the nigun’s title. Just last month, Tablet Magazine published a story on the background of “Lincoln’s Nigun,” “If You Like the Music at Brooklyn’s Hippest Shul, Thank Abe Lincoln.” If you have the time, read the article. But to summarize, Weisenberg’s composition was inspired by both a story related in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln about respect the troops showed President Lincoln (the soldiers would part to the left and right to make way for Lincoln) and a phrase in “L’cha Dodi”: “yamin u’smol tifrotzi/to the left and to the right they part ways” expressing respectful welcome for Shabbat.

Weisenberg also characterized the music as influenced by Civil War Americana, as well as traditional Jewish melodies. For some, the melody brought to mind the song “Ashokan Farewell” from Ken Burn’s Civil War miniseries, composed by Jay Ungar, the only song in the soundtrack not composed during the Civil War. (In writing this blog, I also found out that Jay Ungar played at Paul Resnick and Caroline Richardson’s wedding!)

May we enjoy singing this together for many Shabbats to come.

 

 

Zichronot/Memories

Memories by Josh Samuel, on Rosh Hashanah 2017

My family moved to Israel when I was eleven. Israel is built on shared memory.

The memory of the Holocaust permeated my coming of age in Israel, building a wall of justification.

Memorial ceremonies in white shirts on Remembrance Day for Fallen Soldiers, the day before Independence Day, with wisps of flute music snatched by the wind and solemn poems about the youth being a silver platter on which the country was served.

But there was an earnest sense of belonging, a feeling that our path was right. I remember standing with friends in a clutch of bicycles, shortly after the Yom Kippur war, discussing seriously what we would do if we were invaded and how we would resist.

Years later, at my farewell party in Albuquerque NM, heading back to Israel after my two-year postdoc, we heard that Yitzchak Rabin had been shot and killed. We returned to Israel, but that sense of belonging had evaporated.

There is a hole where that feeling of belonging was, like a missing filling, huge when probed with the tongue, but seemingly imperceptible when viewed from the outside.

I no longer celebrate Yom Haatzmaut, Israel’s independence day, nor do I celebrate the 4th of July.

There is a sense of loss when a place leaves you, or maybe it was never actually there from the beginning.

I fight against the cynicism and anger that the loss of belonging to a country can invoke.

I strive to find belonging in a community for myself and my family.

Because that is all there is.

and it is enough.

[Editor’s note: Each year we extend the learning from the High Holidays by publishing some of the talks given during services. You can find other Rosh Hashanah talks from past years here.]

 

Miriam Chava Berman Stidd dvar on Bereshit

Shabbat Shalom!

My parsha is Bereshit, which as most of you know, tells the story of the creation of the world. We read today the first chapter of Genesis, verses 1 through 23, which takes us from Day 1 through Day 5, from the creation of light and darkness all the way through the creation of birds and fish.

I wanted to read this last Aliyah because it reminded me of the Marc Chagall stained glass windows in Nice, France, at the Marc Chagall Biblical Message Museum, which feature birds and fish. These stained-glass windows mean so much to me because they are by one of my favorite artists. His art pieces about creation almost make me think they are not just about the creation of the world, but about Marc Chagall creating himself through his art, because his visual interpretation of the creation story tells you so much about who he was as a person. It wasn’t just that Chagall was expressing himself, he was creating who he was right then and there, in that moment.

So, who was Chagall? Born into a very religious Jewish household on July 6, 1887, there weren’t any pictures of anything, because according to his family and tradition, any representations were idolatry. Despite his parents not wanting him to, he still left his home in Belarus and went to art school in France and eventually became a great artist. (This clearly shows the importance of listening to your parents). He is well known for his paintings and stained-glass windows that depict biblical stories and other things. This was a way he displayed his spirituality.

Out of respect for his parents, he didn’t want to display them in his art, so the fish represented his father (he sold fish at a local market). His mother’s name in Yiddish sounded like the Yiddish word for chicken or rooster, and if you look closely, there is a rooster in almost every one of his paintings. Chagall is creating himself through including these elements by letting you see a piece of his parents’ and his childhood, which are still a part of him at the time he creates the art. [Read more…]

MCIRR Loan Program for Immigrant Filing Fees

Thank you for quick action, straight-forward help

MCIRR is a membership organization made up of more than forty nonprofit and faith groups committed to building capacity within Michigan’s advocacy community, supporting immigrant rights, and promoting a more positive and inclusive atmosphere for immigrants and refugees. See MCIRR.org for more details

 

The Michigan Coalition for Immigrant and Refugee Rights (MCIRR) sends its thanks, in a letter from the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center’s director, Susan Reed.  Susan writes:

When Attorney General Sessions announced the end of DACA on September 5, 2017, he gave a one month window for many with DACA to renew.  Many of our members’ first thought was: how will those eligible to renew be able to raise the $495 fee in time?  Enter our good friends (and perhaps also yours), University of Michigan Law School Professors Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos.  Margo and Sam wanted to know how to support those facing this cost and we told them about the fee bank.  They made a generous gift and also shared the giving opportunity with members of the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, Temple Beth Emeth, and others in the University of Michigan community.  The outpouring of generosity was amazing, and in a few days, we had received more than $18,000 for our little loan fund.  Checks are still finding their way to us. This meant that we were able to assure our advocacy community that NO ONE in Michigan needed to miss the DACA renewal deadline for lack of the fee.  At the same time, some major national funds providing grants emerged.  So, ultimately, we only needed to make four loans for DACA renewal because most people in need got national grants.  In one case, an applicant had been rejected by a grant fund because she needed assistance to replace her DACA work permit rather than renew it and she didn’t meet their parameters, but she met ours and she was extremely grateful to have access to at least another year with DACA!

The fee bank used to be an occasional solution to an ever-present problem. In 2010, with a very small gift of $2,000 from the Grand Rapids Dominican Sisters and support from pro bono banking lawyers at the Honigman law firm (recruited by Michigan Community Resources) we launched our fee bank. Because the filing fee for a green card can be as much as $2070, that initial $2,000, plus a few other small gifts we were able to add, had only become about six loans.  But, every loan was repaid by our clients on time or well in advance of the repayment schedule and the loan program had been extremely helpful to those who had been able to access the funds.  (We ask borrowers to pay $10 per month until 90 days after the “work permit” arrives and $40 per month after that time.)  Each time we had enough money back in the fund, we let our members know that a new loan was potentially available and the loan was snapped up.  Blue Ox Credit Union, based in Battle Creek services the loans at no cost and there is no interest.

Now, you have made the fee bank loan program robust.  We have already been told that two applications are on the way for clients who need filing fee loans for immigration benefits other than DACA.  Because we make loans rather than grants, the transformation made by your generosity will make this resource last forever!

Thank you for your rush to generosity.  You are truly repairing our world.

The 5778 Sukkah Goes UP

The Sukkah is UP at The Farm on Jennings. Carole invites anyone to come and have a meal in it, and relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and land.

Havdalah in the Sukkah

 6900 Jennings Rd, 48105.

Saturday October 7

5:30pm to 7:30pm (Sunset is at 7:05).

We’ll have a potluck dinner, and close with havdallah.

Bring a dish to share. Musicians, bring your instruments.

AARC Sukkah raising begins, Oct 1 2017 at The Farm on Jennings

Cooperative Hammering

The first s’kach (organic rooftop) goes up

Decorations get made

A very long chain decoration

We invite 14 Ushpizin/honored ancestral guests: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David (the kids named them all!)

 

The Call of the Shofar: Rena Basch on Activism

Rena and Jeff Basch at our 2017 Annual BBQ. Photo by Stephanie Rowden

by Rena Basch, from her dvar on Rosh Hashana

Often people hear a distinct, sharp call to action. Something happens; something shocking or traumatic happens to you, your family, your community, or your nation. We hear these calls to action. They’re often loud and clear. Yet, we struggle with what actions to take. We hear the call. But then what?

There are also softer, more subtle calls to action. You’ve heard something over and over again, but then one day, the same words sound different. Something crystallizes in your head. “Aha,” you say. You hear the call.

For me, current events of 5777 provided an unrelenting cacophony. Deafening calls to action. I sifted through the noise, adjusted priorities, and chose a path for tikkun olam. I’m fortunate and grateful for being able to do this: hear the call–consider, contemplate, plan–then act. I have learned how to do this from all of you. Our community sounded the shofar, then taught me how to hear it. You’ve showed me how I can be useful, can help change the world.

Here are just a few examples:

A pair of our founders, my friends Aura and Aaron Ahuvia, extend an invitation to me–a call to an unaffiliated, uninvolved Jew: Come to our Reconstructionist Havurah. I’m like, “What’s a Reconstructionist Havurah? Sounds like a cult.” They took the time to explain, and Aha! I’m in. This is Judaism to me.

Over the years, these subtle calls to action continued from our community members. A very young Sarah Kurz–I will always remember her empathy. Back when the Hav was still meeting in the basement of a church near the law quad. A special aunt of mine had died. I’m crying during services and Sarah comforts me. I hear the call: I need to do that too – comfort those in need. Stop being afraid to reach out.

Again, a few years ago – Marcy Epstein says “let’s plan Shmita. Let’s plan Shmita for the Jewish community of Ann Arbor and southeast MI.” And I say, “Huh? What’s Shmita? Never heard of it.” Then, “that’s too devout, that’s too spiritual, that’s too big an endeavor. I can’t.”

“Of course you can,” she said. “Food! Land! Justice! Shmita!” Aha, I hear the call. She and Carol, and Idelle and many others made me see how I was needed to help us study and celebrate Shmita.

Last year, Rabbi Alana spoke at the Interfaith Council for Peace and Justice 50th Anniversary dinner. Here’s what I heard her say–more or less: “You old activists need to listen to the young activists to understand today’s issues, to understand today’s methods. And you young activists need to learn from the old how to build infrastructure.” Aha! A clear call to action. I can help with that. I can learn from different generations. I can help build bridges.

Again, this past year, right now really–the cacophony. Bells are ringing loud and clear. The shofar blowing every morning in the form of daily news. Fresh assaults on our values nearly every day. The antithesis of tikkun olam. I heard, I hear this shofar. Most of us here today hear the call to action. And our community, like usual, we’re hearing that call–we’re listening, processing–the are wheels turning, and we’re helping each other find our way to action.

I decided in November to become “An Activist.” (Because I need yet another career path, another to-do list, right?) I’ve been listening to my mother saying over and over again–“gerrymandering is tearing apart our nation.” Aha! The light bulb goes on, the idea crystallizes, I hear the call. I can act to fix that.

I look around our congregation and see role models everywhere, activists of all sorts, hearing the call, living their values, giving their skills and time, acting to make the world a better place in a myriad of different ways. I tell Rebecca Kanner I’m going to work on redistricting reform. I ask her to teach me how to be an activist.  She says “you already are.” What? Huh? ……Aha! thank you. Thank you for giving me the confidence to say, yes. Yes, I am an Activist.

So thank you, my Ann Arbor Reconstructionist community for giving me the support, the role models, the opportunities and the confidence to truly heed the shofar. We all hear the call. We are all acting.

 

Yom Kippur, 2017

Our Yom Kippur services are open, ticketless, and accessible to all. Services will be led by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner and are musical and participatory. Services are held at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Road, the red brick building on the southeast corner of Ellsworth. More details here.

Fri., Sept. 29, Kol Nidrei, 6:45 gathering and candlelighting, service begins at 7pm

Sat., Sept. 30, Yom Kippur Morning and Torah service, 10 am – 2 pm

 Children’s Service, 10:30 – 11:30 am

Afternoon Workshops, 2:15 – 5:00 pm Workshop Descriptions

Yizkor, 5:15 – 6:30 pm, A non-traditional service offering mourners the opportunity to share some words about the person they lost. (Please plan on spending no more than 5 minutes, so all may participate)

Ne’ilah/Shofar/Havdalah, 6:45 – 7:45 pm

Break-the-fast, 7:45 or when 3 stars appear. Reservations are closed now.