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.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Hanukkah 5777 with AARC

We sang songs

Home-hosted Hanukkas with AARC families were beautiful this year. Many thanks to Mike Ehmann, Nancy Meadow, Marcy Epstein, the Kinberg-Cowans and the Lessure-Engelberts for hosting get togethers. We made sufganiyot, played games, sang, lit the lights, ate, and blessed the Source of Life and the return of the sun.

We made sufganiyot.

We played games.

We lit the lights and blessed the Source of Life.

Report Back: “Community in Difficult Times”

community in difficult timesReported by Martha Kransdorf and Sallygeorge Wright

“Community in Difficult Times,” was a Jewish community-wide facilitated discussion hosted by the Jewish Community Center (JCC) on Thursday evening June 30th.  The purpose for the meeting, according to convener Karla Goldman (director, UM Jewish Communal Leadership Program), “was to create a space where people come together in community to be able to process recent events.  The catalyst was the Pulse tragedy in Orlando, which just seemed to combine so many different elements of the recent news: hate crime, hate speech, LGBTQ issues, immigration issues, gun violence and gun control, anti-Muslim rhetoric and terrorism issues in ways that cried out for response and yet no one has seemed to know how to respond.” About 65 people attended, taking advantage of this important opportunity to reflect about the tragedy in Orlando and the ongoing issues in this year’s election campaign.

Goldman, JCC President Prue Rosenthal,  and Hillel Director Tilly Shames, got things started.  They reviewed the meeting’s background and guidelines for the small discussions at each table.  Rabbi Kim Blumenthal helped establish the mood for the evening by leading us in “Hinei Ma Tov.”

We were reminded that each table had a facilitator, and needed to choose a note taker.  We were to respect different opinions, and each person’s privacy.  Individual’s remarks were not to be repeated afterward without permission from the person who made them.  And we could say “ouch” if something offended us.  There were three guiding questions for us to consider:

1)  What brought you here?

2)  What’s in your heart and on your mind?

3)  Is there something about this moment that calls upon us as Jews and as a Jewish community?

Report backs noted the need for education and outreach on issues including guns, mental health, and more. The need for concrete measures to show solidarity with LGBTQ and Hispanic populations were pointed out.  Examples included having social activities that would increase awareness of diversity in the community. People suggested an ad in a newspaper to express our outrage and concern about current developments, and publicity for efforts on gun control.  Final remarks focused on further get-togethers to look at where we might go from here.

The invitation to the meeting was issued by almost every part of the organized Jewish Community in Ann Arbor:  the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor, the Jewish Communal Leadership Program, U of M’s Hillel, Jewish Federation of Ann Arbor, Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, Beth Israel Congregation, Temple Beth Emeth, Jewish Cultural Society, Hebrew Day School, Jewish Family Services of  Washtenaw County, and the Orthodox Minyan.  According to AARC member Sallygeorge Wright,  the meeting was an important opportunity for people who had never met before, who were involved in different community groups, to find out what each other are already doing and to exchange ideas. Goldman summed up the outcome, “People at the event were happy that there was a way to come together as Jews for issues that were not centered on Jews but which mattered to us as Jews nevertheless.”

Rabbi Sara Adler closed the meeting with a beautiful Prayer for Peace that she had written. This prayer will be published in the forthcoming book, Not By Might, a publication by Rabbis Against Gun Violence and edited by Rabbi Menachem Creditor.

Prayer for Peace
 
God of our mothers and fathers,
God of tenderness,
God of lovers, teachers and children,
may we see the day when love conquers fear
when compassion overrides judgment
and the echo of gunshot is heard no more.
 
Let a great peace wrap its arms around our country,
and hold us tight.
 
Unite us-- people of all races, religions,
orientations and identities
in a bond of true fellowship.
 
Teach us to respect difference
and take pride in one another.
 
Let us learn that diversity makes us stronger,
that the healthiest forests are filled
with a multitude of species and birdsong.
 
God on High, let us find consolation
and comfort under Your canopy of peace.
 
May the memories of those assaulted by violence
inspire us to mend our broken world.
 
Let us grind guns into garden tools,
bend our weapons into bridges.
 
May we learn war no more.
Come, let us write a new covenant of kindness
an end to the flood of tears.
 
Seal this promise in the sky,
a rainbow to part the clouds.
 

Rabbi Sara O’Donnell Adler is a chaplain at UM Health System. She was ordained by The Jewish Theological Seminary of America in 1999 and received her
Clinical Pastoral Education at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA. Prior to joining the staff of UMHS in 2008, Rabbi Sara worked as one of the rabbis with the
MetroWest Jewish Health and Healing Center in West Orange, NJ.

Beit Sefer Last Day Picnic

The students made flags and played several rounds of "Capture the Flag" and then posed for this picture with their teachers.

The students made flags and played several rounds of “Capture the Flag” and then posed for this picture with their teachers.

The last day of AARC Beit Sefer/Religious School was spent out at Carole Caplan’s land just outside Ann Arbor. May 15 was a chilly, beautiful day, captured by parents Nancy Meadow and Karin Ahbel-Rappe.

Parents spent time with their kids.

Parents spent time with their kids.

Parents spent time with each other.

Parents spent time with each other.

 

 

 

 

 

 

We thanked Madrichot/teaching assistants for their work with the students all year.

We thanked Madrichot/teaching assistants for their work with the students all year.

and we thanked our teachers

and we thanked our teachers for their generosity of spirit, their appreciation of our kids, their skill at communicating love of Judaism and the Jewish people and helping our kids grow into active and creative participation in the commuity. Jeremy was already in Israel so couldn’t be in the picture, but was in our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

We celebrated birthdays, of Isaac

We celebrated birthdays, of Isaac

and Molly

and Molly

 

We made a bonfire and roasted potatos and s'mores.

We made a bonfire and roasted potatos and s’mores.

 

And we acted silly as can be.

And we acted silly as can be.

 

Carole, thank you so much for opening your farm to the Beit Sefer this year!

Carole, thank you so much for opening your farm to the Beit Sefer this year!

 

 

 

Thoughts on Beit Sefer, and delicious challah recipe

By Leila Bagenstos

challahThis year, I helped Morah Sharon Alvandi with the Beit Sefer G’dolim class. The class had eight kids, ages 10-12. We did a lot of things over the year: learning about Jewish communal responsibilities and communities around the world, improving Hebrew skills, and mastering the core Shabbat morning prayers.

The kids worked really hard to learn about the Shabbat service’s structure and prayers, and yesterday, they led the central part of the AARC’s Second Saturday service.  The afternoon before, we gathered to bake for the kiddush that followed the service. We made brownies and cupcakes, and I showed the kids how to bake challah.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients:

  • 4 (.25 ounce) packages quick-rise yeast
  • 4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup pareve margarine (but I use butter instead), melted
  • 5 eggs
  • 12 cups bread flour, or as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (but I don’t use these)
  • Prep time: 40 minutes / Cook time: 30 minutes  / Ready in 2 hours, 40 minutes

  • NOTE:  I usually only make half of this recipe.  It makes 4 loaves.  if you make half, you can still make 2 loaves.
  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a large bowl, and stir gently to moisten the yeast. Stir in salt, sugar, margarine [but I use butter], and 4 eggs, and beat well. Gradually mix in the flour, 1 cup at a time, up to 12 cups, until the dough becomes slightly tacky but not wet. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Grease baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Cut the bread dough into 4 equal-sized pieces [I make a half recipe and make only two loaves]. Cut each piece into thirds for 3-strand braided loaves. Working on a floured surface, roll the small dough pieces into ropes about the thickness of your thumb and about 12 inches long. Ropes should be fatter in the middle and thinner at the ends. Pinch 3 ropes together at the top and braid them. Starting with the strand to the right, move it to the left over the middle strand (that strand becomes the new middle strand.) Take the strand farthest to the left, and move it over the new middle strand. Continue braiding, alternating sides each time, until the loaf is braided, and pinch the ends together and fold them underneath for a neat look. Repeat for the remaining loaves.
  4. Place the loaves onto the prepared baking sheets, and let rise until double in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Whisk 1 egg with vanilla extract in a small bowl, and brush the loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle each loaf with about 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds. [I skip the sesame seeds]
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops are shiny and golden brown, about 30 minutes. [I’ve found this is actually closer to 25 minutes.] Let cool before serving.