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.





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

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

Friendship scroll

By Barbara Boyk Rust

scroll image

Come hear the Megillah read Friday March 25 at the JCC and see this beautiful scroll up close

One of the joys of friendship is sharing each other’s interests, perspectives, and experiences. For me, one of the joys of being friends with an artist is the beauty that I learn about, enjoy, and benefit from that I would not be likely to encounter otherwise. Spiritual teachings claim beauty as the perfection of love and that rings true to me.

When Idelle Hammond-Sass called me several years ago and told me about the beautiful megillah scroll she saw at the Jewish Community Center of West Bloomfield, Michigan I was so taken with her verbal description alone that I welcomed her invitation to share the cost with her for purchasing it.

The scroll is on heavy paper and every segment is adorned with colorful renderings evocative of the spirit of Purim. The artwork is a party unto itself. It was created by Israeli artist Enya Keshet, and Idelle was drawn to the designs which reminded her of Persian miniatures. She was fascinated by the embellishment, so rare in most Judaica, but allowed on a Purim scroll.

Purim has long been a special holiday for me in light of another significant friendship in my life. Many of you knew Nancy Denenberg, of blessed memory. Nancy and I together created high holiday services, Shabbat retreats, and celebrations round the entire sacred cycle. We were also involved in spiriting prayer circles for healing and life cycle transitions over the years of our friendship, from her move to Ann Arbor in the late 1980’s until her death in 2006.

Nancy had a drive to make Jewish meaning in her life relevant to the immediacy of her understanding of loving and healing and sharing in community. She had practiced yoga for many years; later moving into work with Feldenkreis Method, a technique created by an Israeli physicist. She had a strong affinity for dance and became adept at Middle Eastern beledi, belly dance, fostering for herself and others more direct contact with Middle Eastern traditions. These are a few of the many ways Nancy intentionally cultivated Jewish spiritual means to endow her life with beauty, healing, art and creativity.

photo of Nancy Dennenberg

Nancy Denenberg in beledi regalia.

On more than one Purim, Nancy donned her full regalia for belly dancing, and brought others from her troupe to the Hav celebration. Some years ago The Ann Arbor News featured a picture of her leading our costume parade.

For my part, this scroll is a remembrance of friendship, of beauty, of sharing in community. It is a way to offer the power of this artist’s rendering into the annual cycle of our congregation’s celebration of this holiday that asks us to marry the opposites: Haman and Mordechai, forces of good and forces of evil. May we each have a chance to dance our beauty and our joy with the rhythm of blessing and celebration for years to come.


AARC Purim Questions and Answers

Our kids getting ready for Purim fun

Our kids getting ready for Purim fun

Come welcome Shabbat and have some Purim fun

Are we reading the Megillah/Scroll of Esther? Yes! This year, the AARC will be reading the Megillah, the scroll of Esther, during the 4th Friday Shabbat service, on March 25 beginning at 6:30 pm. Rabbi Michael Strassfeld will lead us in Shabbat songs and members of the congregation and the rabbi will chant and read an abbreviated version of the Whole Megillah, primarily in English.  You won’t want to miss being part of the beautiful, creative and fun costumes of kids, members and service leaders alike.  Plus you will be thrilled by the Band’s scoring of the evening.

Will there be a Tot Shabbat beforehand like usual? Yes! There will be a Tot Shabbat from 5:45 to 6:15 preceding the service.

Will we have a potluck afterward service? Yes, but with a Purim twist! We’ll be serving Middle Eastern food, and we need you to bring salads, some little kid friendly dishes, and desserts! Nutfree, please.  Potluck at 8 pm.

Will there be a Purimshpiel? A special addition to the evening will be “All the World’s a Stage” a brief, family-friendly Purimshpiel (play) presented during the potluck dinner by the post-Bnei Mitzvah group while we munch away on home-made hamantaschen.

Speaking of Hamantaschen…. You can make them at home, or join the baking fun at the Lessure/Engelbert’s on March 19, 3-6pm. Get the full deal here and rsvp.

Should I come in costume? Yes! Not required of course, but so much fun. Need ideas? See Rachel’s blog on that!

What should I bring?  Come, one and all.  Bring a friend, a generously portioned vegetarian, nut-free, potluck dish (salad, kid-friendly main dish, or dessert), come in costume or grab a mask at the JCC, come ready to laugh and sing. Come for the service, stay for the Purimshpiel.

Should I bring the household items I have bought for the Welcome baskets? Yes! Read about it here. Sign up here.

Is this evening appropriate for young children?  This family friendly service will be fun, entertaining,  less formal, and certainly more noisy than a traditional Friday night service.  That said, it is great if parents remain mindful of their children’s participation during the service, the potluck and the Purimshpiel.  Please let me know (ckinberg@gmail.com) if your kids need childcare or pizza before the service.



Purim Costume Dos! Purim Costume Don’ts!

by Rachel Baron Singer
Rachel Baron Singer Punk Rock Queen Vashti

Rachel Baron Singer Punk Rock Queen Vashti

With Purim fast approaching, it’s time to start thinking about costume Dos and Don’ts! Friday March 25 Megillah/Scroll of Esther reading at the JCC is an all-family costume affair. Here are some tips to get ready for the festivities:

  • Do: Have fun mixing classic Purim characters with more modern themes and trends. Steampunk Queen Esther. Grunge Rock Mordecai. Kylo Ren Haman. The possibilities are endless!
  • Don’t: Use cultures as costumes. If a culture isn’t yours, it’s not appropriate for a costume! Native Americans, Roma, and other groups often have to endure seeing watered-down versions of their customs and traditions disrespectfully packaged into costumes; let’s not contribute to these transgressions during our celebrations.
  • Do: Get crafty! Homemade Purim costumes are simple and enjoyable to make. Superhero paper plate masks are easy to construct and homemade face paint is a snap. You would be surprised at what you can whip up with a few household items or cheap dollar store finds!
  • Don’t: Use genders as costumes. It’s totally fine to costume yourself as a character or figure whose place on the gender spectrum is different than your own, but please don’t simply dress in drag as a cheap “gender swap” gag. We want Purim to be welcoming and safe to Jews of all genders!
  • Do: Get in the Purim spirit even if costumes aren’t your thing. You can always join in the fun by simply wearing bright colors, some flashy scarves, strings of beads, or a silly hat. It’s Purim—be ridiculous!
  • Don’t: Wear blackface or any racialized makeup. Unless, of course…JUST KIDDING! NEVER EVER DO THIS!
  • Do: Have fun with whatever you choose to wear. Chag Purim Sameach!

    Debbie Field 2008

    Debbie Field begins her reign as co-chair

Purim Gifts: Welcome Baskets for Refugee Families

welcome basketAARC Beit Sefer teacher Sharon Alvandi is a student in the UMich Jewish Communal Leadership Program, and an intern at Jewish Family Service learning to work with refugee families. Sharon has been very inspired by our AARC congregation, particularly the ways that the Beit Sefer students, parents and other community members come together to share learning and activities, investing in the character of the children. Through her work with JFS, Sharon is organizing a way for us to practice the mitzvot of Purim, giving gifts of tasty treats to one another/mishloach manot, and gifts to the poor/mattanot le-evyonim (for more about how these two mitzvot are related see this). Sharon writes:

There are many reasons to celebrate Purim and sort through a narrative that’s truly unlike any other in Jewish scripture. On Purim- the holiday of “lots”- we celebrate more than simply the idea of chance. When we listen to Esther’s story, we collectively celebrate character, resolve, and integrity. By presenting her true self–her Jewish self–to king Ahasuerus to appeal for the fate of the Jewish people of Shushan (present day Susa, Iran), Esther is a model of advocacy for herself and others. As a developing social worker, this story helps me think  about what it takes to act in a way that integrates all parts of who I am.

Purim also commemorates what it means to survive genocide or the threat of genocide. Each day when I work at JFS, I have the opportunity to observe the strength of character of the clients and the meticulous work of the case managers to serve a community of refugees in making the best choices in their first days in the U.S.   

JFS has resettled over 350 refugees since 2009.  Countries range from Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Ethiopia, Iran, Syria, and Burma. JFS is set to resettle 150 individuals by October 1, 2016. AARC can help with the resettlement of families by joining with JFS  to assemble and donate Welcome Baskets for refugee families in Washtenaw County. We can do more than discuss violence that is taking place abroad. We can  welcome those in our community who have found refuge in a new place. This Purim, we can help make a space of comfort for their true selves.

Sharon has put together a list of personal care and household items the new families need upon arrival to set up their new homes. Check with this registry to see what is needed. We ask that you buy these items new and when you have, check off the registry. We will assemble the Welcome Baskets some time during the Purim Shabbaton March 25-27.

Be Happy! It’s Adar! But why?

FullSizeRender (3)Purim is a joyous, chaotic and raucous holiday. In this Jewish leap year, there are two months of Adar (I and II) and we celebrate Purim in Adar II. This year that will be in late March. Even in leap years, Purim is followed one month later by Passover (they both occur on the full moon).

Purim is a harbinger of spring. Like spring holidays celebrated in other cultures and religions–the Hindu celebration of HoliCarnivale in Brazil and the Caribbean and Mardi Gras in New Orleans for examples–the elation over the departure of winter and the rebirth of the Earth is intoxicating. And Purim is clearly a holiday to be observed in the millennium, where identifying the difference between good and evil is at times totally challenging.

So MARK YOUR CALENDARS!  The AARC brings you a smorgasbord of preparatory events leading up to our Purim observance, which will culminate with Rabbi Michael Strassfeld joining us for the 4th Friday in March.  Stay tuned for RSVP details!

  • Throughout March:
    • costume and mask consultations
    • preparing Shalach Manot — the gifts of Purim
  • March 19–  Lessurbert Annual Cookie Baking (read hamantaschen) and pizza baking
  • March 25–  4th Friday Service and Potluck unveiling the beautiful, whole megillah for the whole family and dinner theater Purim Spiel. (Tot shabbat prior to the service)
  • March 26– Mincha service and learning with Rabbi Michael
This image and the one above are decorative sections from the Megillat Esther/Scroll of Esther used by AARC courtesy of Barbara Boyk Rust and Evelyn Neuhaus

This image and the one above are decorative sections from the Megillat Esther/Scroll of Esther used by AARC courtesy of Barbara Boyk Rust and Idelle Hammond-Sass

Have an idea of how to add to the fun? Contact Dina Kurz [dinakurz@gmail.com] (on behalf of the Purim Planning Committee) if you want to add an event (such as baking, costume or mask workshop, sangria making, etc.) to increase the merriment in advance of March 25.

Links to Purim last year here and here.


Let’s Make a Shpiel Recap

Photos and text by Sherri Buroker
Making Purim crafts

Making Purim crafts

Showing off our crowns

Showing off our crowns

Purim joy was evident among AARC members and guests this past Sunday, March 1.

The celebration kicked off with the kids creating groggers, crowns fit for the finest queens and kings, and mini candy Megillahs!

The Beit Sefer classes challenged the entire party with their inventive and original games “Hamantaschen to Hamantaschen” and “Purim Jeopardy,” and the adult “Purim Shpiel” lifted the room in laughter!

Our feast (by Exotic Syrian Bakery) was delicious, our homemade hamantaschen were delectable, and our costumes transformed the party into a colorful display!

Mike displays the feast

Mike displays the feast

As the Megillah was read amid the community, we did not disappoint with our hooting and hollering!

Reading the megillah

Reading the megillah

Along with all these elements, I believe our best Purim spirit was inspired by our energetic cheer”leader,” Rav Michal, and simply witnessing the kids celebrating together.

Purim games

Rav Michal cheering on the kids



A Purim Vocabulary


queen esther“The whole megillah.” When my daughters come up with words I don’t recognize, my first resource is Urban Dictionary. Very informative. And yep, “whole megillah” is there, one of the many Yiddish or Hebrew inspired phrases that have become bonafide street English. The whole megillah means “something long, complex, and possibly tedious,” as in when Jews read the Megillah Esther (Scroll of Esther) from beginning to end, all ten chapters, with breaks for hooting and hollering, each Purim. And yes, AARC is going to read the whole megillah this year….well almost. Because of the age-old “tedium” problem, there are many abridged, English language, family-friendlier, megillot to choose from. But you can still expect all ten chapters.

“Shpiel.”I won’t even go into the Urban Dictionary definition; shpiel is simply a play or story. It’s traditional for congregations to stage and enjoy purimshpiels (Purim Plays) that riff on characters and themes from the Scroll of Esther. This year, we will intersperse our shpiel with our megillah reading. Just for fun….and to break up the tedium.

“Hamantaschen.” Those triangular pastries intended to remind us of the villain Haman’s hat. The whole community, especially the kids, is invited to Carol Lessure’s home to bake hamantaschen Saturday afternoon, February 28, 2015 from 3:00ish – 6:00ish.  She is happy to have you drop in for part or stay for a potluck dinner (Havdalah too) after cookie baking is done.  Bring your rolling pin, cookie sheet and a snack, drink or side dish to share.

And the feast or Seudah, in Hebrew. There are four feasts in the Megillah Esther, but we’ll be having only one. We need to know how much to order, so please RSVP using this link.

When’s it all happening? March 1, 11:30-2 at the JCC, of course.

Oh, that picture at the top was just to get your attention. I used it for a cover of Bridges Journal in 1993, with this description: This image is of Queen Esther giving birth to Kurush (Cyrus the Great), her son by Shah Ardashir (Ahasuerus). The painting, by an unknown artist, is an illustration from a late seventeenth century edition of an epic poem, Ardashir Ndma (The Ahasuerus Book), written in 1332 by Jewish-Persian poet Maulana Shahin. Iranian Jews often used the Hebrew alphabet even while writing in the Persian language as a way of preserving their religious and national heritage. They shared the cultural tastes of their Muslim neighbors, using Persian literary and artistic styles in setting to verse and illustrating some well-known Jewish themes, including even the Torah. Ardashir Ndma is the story of the Book of Esther and continues with Esther and Ahasueras’ life together, with embellishments from Jewish and Muslim legends, Talmudic and Midrashic references, and Persian fairy tales. The whole megillah plus more!