Mimouna 2018 in Full Color

What is Mimouna, and where does it come from?

Urchatz: Acknowledge the Source
Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”

The holiday is traced back to medieval Morocco and the Jewish community’s Passover observance. Because the Jews could not keep chametz in their homes during the Passover holiday, it was customary to give all their flour, yeast and grain to their Muslim neighbors. On the afternoon of the last day of Passover, these neighbors would bring to the homes of their Jewish neighbors gifts of flour, honey, milk, butter and green beans to be used to prepare post-Passover chametz dishes. That evening, Jews would throw open their homes to visitors, setting out a lavish spread of traditional holiday cakes, candies, and sweetmeats.

Motzi ‘Matza’: Lift up Goodness
What is on the Mimouna ‘seder plate’? What could each object represent?
Question for your neighbor:
What would you add to the seder plate to symbolize the blessings of your life, in this moment?

Rochtza: Awash in Blessing One Mimouna custom: To dip a mint leaf in milk and wipe it across a loved one’s forehead. The accompanying blessing (in Judeo-Moroccan)? ‘Tirbehu u’tisaudu!’ – ‘May you increase (in blessing) and be satisfied!’

Maggid: Tell the Story
What are possible origins of the name ‘Mimouna’?
Mimouna may be derived from the Arabic word for good fortune (literally “protected by God,” ma’amoun). Since the end of Passover marks the beginning of the new agricultural year in North Africa, Mimouna is thought to be the ideal time to pray for a year of bounty and plentiful crops.

Shulchan Orekh:

Feasting!

Meanwhile, the kids prepared to lead us through the water. On the final day of Passover, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.

[All words from the Mimouna “haggadah” prepared by Rabbi Ora. Photos by Marcy, Dave and Clare]

Purim Fun 2018

AARC Congregation gets ready to hear the Megillah/Scroll of Esther, Feb 2018

Dina Kurz is all the way ready to hear the megillah, 2018

Rena Basch reads a chapter of the megillah, 2018.

And then it was Dave Nelson’s turn to read the megillah on.

The Kopalds during a musical interlude in the megillah reading

Carol Ullmann reading a chapter of the megillah, 2018

Rabbi Ora chants the megillah while Mordechai, aka Otto, holds the text.

Alan Haber unfurls the Scroll of Esther from its new case while Aziza and her mom Cara look on.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Saul and Clare deal with the aftermath of the Purim meal

Beit Sefer makes hamentashen, 2018

Miles adds the finishing touch to the hamentashen.

 

 

Beit Sefer makes hamentashen, 2018

Introduction to Mussar: Recap

Rabbi Ora led an introduction to Mussar session at the JCC on January 28th with a very nice group of 16 people. The session began with the question ‘what is Mussar?’ Rabbi Ora defined Mussar as a practice of soul development that strengthens one’s ability to love.

The group learned how Mussar is deeply ingrained in Jewish history —  in fact, Mussar (as a trend towards ethics and morality in contrast to the reification of halachah) has existed for almost 2,000 years. They then took a look at the concepts of the yetzer hatov (the good inclination) and yetzer hara (the evil inclination), and how Mussar considers every moment as an opportunity for us to choose between the two by serving ourselves or serving the other.

Rabbi Ora shared a list of online classes offered by the Center for Contemporary Mussar and the Mussar Institute, and encouraged folks to register for Beth Israel Congregation’s class beginning in March 2018. She put together a document with information about “The Center for Contemporary Mussar,” online classes through the Mussar Institute, and a class being offered at Beth Israel. Here’s a link to the document with these resources.

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!)

 

Rabbi Alana discusses faith and millennials with Ray Suarez

Rabbi Alana Alpert

Rabbi Alana was part of an “On Point” radio discussion among “millennial” clergy on July 6, 2017. In this discussion a rabbi, an imam, an Episcopal priest and a Catholic priest discuss why they have dedicated their lives to the clergy. Asking questions about declining numbers of people affiliating with congregations, the host Ray Suarez seemed to be motivated by concern for his own daughter, recently ordained as an Episcopal priest. Rabbi Alana did a great job in challenging the assumptions that young people are not interested in religion and getting in strong statements about creative Judaism and the spiritual pull of social justice activism. She also gave some good explanations of the work Detroit Jews for Justice is doing. Take a listen!

We have two more opportunities this summer to participate in Rabbi Alana led services. On July 28, AARC will have its regular Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat and Potluck at the Jewish Community Center. And, news flash, Rabbi Alana will lead a Reconstructionist service at the Community-Wide Shabbat at Hillel on August 25th. Because August 25th is a fourth Friday, AARC is moving our regular service to Hillel on that evening. More about this will be posted soon. In the meantime, you can register for the free dinner here. There will be children’s activities, several choices for services (TBE and BIC are having their congregational services at Hillel that evening as well), in additional to a communal dinner.

Teaching Our Kids Jewish Prayer

RENA conference participants

When Reconstructionist Educators get together: Teaching Hebrew Prayer

I think a lot about teaching Jewish prayer to our kids. So, I was drawn to a recent thread of discussion on the Reconstructionist Educators (RENA) email list about teaching Hebrew prayer. One director started off the discussion by saying that the students in her school usually seem bored by learning Hebrew prayers, perhaps because “prayer is so disconnected from their lives.” She is thinking about replacing Hebrew prayer study with short sessions of silence, meditation, and writing. Another person shared a reference to a lesson plan on kids writing their own prayers. The long-time director at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis wrote about his school’s “tefilah laboratory” where the students learn and write prayers and practice them in the sanctuary, where the environment affects their experience. Another director wrote about engaging families with young children with prayer. A theme running through the discussions is looking at the relationship between learning Hebrew and learning prayer: connected, yet separate, too.

This year our Beit Sefer will again be experimenting with different ways to engage our students in prayer. We want students to feel comfortable with Jewish and Hebrew prayer, to understand Hebrew prayer as an expressive mode of spirituality, to know that Jewish prayer has evolved over time, and that they can be involved in creating prayer.  We want to prepare them to begin getting ready for bar or bat mitzvah, if that is the path they are on, which requires familiarity with Hebrew and Hebrew prayer. And we want them to be able to access their own spirituality through Jewish prayer. I am grateful to have a place to learn what other Reconstructionist educators are thinking about these topics.

Our students learning what goes into a Mezuzah

I’d been intending to write about the RENA conference I went to back in the low key month of Cheshvan (early November)! The annual conference is for Directors of Reconstructionist religious schools, a group that at most has 100 eligible participants. There were about 15 directors at the conference.

The Jewish Community of Amherst (MA), a Reconstructionist congregation, hosted the first two days of the meeting, and for the last day we traveled about half hour away to the Springfield Jewish Community Center. We also spent an afternoon at the National Yiddish Book Center, located on the Hampshire College campus. We had sessions on developing new structures for supplementary education, project-based learning, experiential Jewish education, and other innovations..

Now that I’ve put off writing for so long, I see that long-range impact of the conference is the group’s ongoing discussions and resource sharing, made richer and more accessible now that I’ve met the correspondents. Next year’s conference is in Boulder, CO. I look forward to attending again.

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

 

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.