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.

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.

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

Inclusion and Talmud in Unreasonable Times: Feb 18 and 19

by Clare Kinberg

Master Jewish educators Yavilah McCoy and Rabbi Benay Lappe are two people I have long looked to for teaching deep growth and change in Jewish communal life. I couldn’t be more excited that they are coming to lead workshops in Ann Arbor on Februrary 18 and 19. The Jewish Communal Leadership Program (JCLP) is hosting a weekend of provocative study and discussion, and you are invited. Here is where you register.

Because Yavilah began her Jewish diversity trainings while living in my hometown of St. Louis, I saw firsthand the impact her work had on my family and friends. While living there in the late 1990s, she founded one of the first nonprofit Jewish organizations to provide Jewish diversity education and advocacy for Jews of Color in the United States. In 2005, I had the pleasure of publishing Melanie Kaye/Kantrowitz’ interview with Yavilah in Bridges. You can access it here. In her  current work at Visions, Inc, in Boston, she is bringing diversity training and inclusion to the next level.

On Saturday evening, February 18, Yavilah McCoy will lead the discussion at Common Cup Coffeehouse on Washtenaw Ave (free parking available). In these challenging days, what will it take to realize our obligation to racial justice across the diversity of religious and spiritual affiliations? The discussion will explore Jewish text and tradition to help us achieve deeper equality and more beloved community.

 

Rabbi Benay Lappe is Founder and Rosh Yeshiva of SVARA, a traditionally radical yeshiva based in Chicago that offers accessible, complex, and highly accountable traditional Jewish education from a Queer perspective. Ordained in 1997 by the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Lappe is an associate at two progressive Jewish think tanks (Institute for the Next Jewish Future and CLAL). On Sunday afternoon, Februrary 19, Rabbi Lappe will be introducing us to her style of Talmud study as a practice that strips away pretense and highlights the strengthening of self and community in radical relationship to the text. Sunday evening, Rabbi Lappe will offer an additional session for those who know the Hebrew alphabet that will engage participants in her version of radical text study in the original.

The program JCLP has put together is formed around the question, “How can we strengthen ourselves and our communities to confront these unreasonable times?”

Here are the details:

WHAT NOW ?

Communal Conversations for Unreasonable Times

February 18 & 19, 2017

Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue with Yavilah McCoy

Saturday, February 18, 2017

7:00 p.m. – 9:00 p.m.

The Common Cup Coffeehouse

1511 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor

Radical Texts for an Unreasonable Time:

An Approach to Activist Talmud Study, with Benay Lappe

Sunday, February 19, 2017

1:00 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

School of Social Work, Room 1840

1080 S. University Ave, Ann Arbor
Join Rabbi Benay Lappe for this exploration through text and community. Consider whether the identities best equipped to engage Jewish tradition are really the ones we’re used to seeing at the front of the room.

One-Night Stand: An Evening of Radical Talmud, with Benay Lappe

Sunday, February 19

6:30 p.m. – 9:30 p.m.

School of Social Work, Room 1840

Presented as part of the Frankel Speakers Series with the generous support of the Covenant Foundation.   Co-sponsored by Jean & Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies, Michigan Hillel, Department of America Culture, Dean’s TBLG Matters Initiative, and AHAVA.

Register here. For more information or questions contact Paige Walker vpwalker@umich.edu or (734) 764-5392.

 

Tu B’Shevat: The Jewish Environmental Holiday, February 11, 2017

Tu B’Shevat, the 15th of the month of Shevat, is the Jewish new year of the trees, the date in the Jewish calendar when we especially focus on human interdependence with nature and other environmental concerns. This year, Tu B’Shevat will fall on Saturday, February 11 and there are several ways you can celebrate the holiday with AARC.

Saturday February 11 is a Second Saturday, our regular monthly Saturday morning Shabbat service at the JCC (10am-noon), so it’s the perfect opportunity for us to get together for Tu B’Shevat. Rabbi Alana will lead the prayer service and we’ve invited special guest Erica Bloom to join us for a talk about her work with Growing Hope in Ypsilanti. Growing Hope is an organization focused on helping people improve their lives and communities through gardening and increasing access to healthy food. It hosts an urban farm on W Michigan and does several community and school programs on “farm to table” themes.

Growing Hope 922 W. Michigan, Ypsilanti

Growing Hope Green House and Gardens

Erica’s roots are in Southeast Michigan, though she went west for her education. She received her M.S. in Environmental Studies from the University of Montana where she studied environmental health and environmental non-fiction writing. After returning to Michigan, she worked at the Michigan League of Conservation Voters advocating to increase protections for our state’s natural resources. She is currently a Senior Fellow with the Environmental Leadership Program, and participated in a Detroit area young professional Jewish leadership initiative through Bend the Arc, a Jewish partnership for justice.

 

 

Later in the day, we are invited to two Tu B’Shevat seders in Detroit:

  • Congregation T’chiyah, the Reconstructionist Congregation of Detroit, and the Isaac Agree Downtown Synagogue are hosting a Tu B’Shevat Seder on Saturday, February 11, at 3.30 pm, at IADS (1457 Griswold, Detroit 48226). The seder, led by Rabbis Alana Alpert and Ariana Silverman, will have lots of fruits, nuts, and Jewish wisdom about being better stewards of the Earth. Special activities for children will enable each generation to celebrate and learn. This event is free of charge.
  • And at 7:30 Hazon Detroit is hosting a Tu B’Shevat event at the Light Box: Gather in community for an experiential Tu B’Shvat seder (ceremony) that will re-connect us to the environment and take us on a journey from the physical world to the spiritual world with music, poetry, and learnings from some of Detroit’s most dedicated environmental changemakers and activists. Expected to be there are State Representatives Jeremy Moss and Robert Wittenberg; Executive Director & Health Officer for the City of Detroit’s Health Department, Dr. Abdul El-Sayed; President & CEO of We the People of Detroit, Monica Lewis Patrick; and Executive Director of Soulardarity, Jackson Koeppel! Co-sponsored by: The Well, NEXTGen Detroit, Jewish Ferndale, Yad Ezra, Repair The World: Detroit,Congregation Shir Tikvah, Detroit City Moishe House, and Adat Shalom Synagogue’s Young Adult Group. There is a fee for the Hazon event: sliding scale of $10-18. Scholarships available. REGISTER HERE for the Hazon event! Please contact Julie Rosenbaum for questions: julie.rosenbaum@hazon.org or 248-997-6344.

For the past few years, Tu B’Shevat has been a special holiday for AARC. Here is a blog about last year’s Tu B’Shevat Shabbaton and Seder, and from the 2015 Tu B’Shevat Seder. Let’s make this year memorable as well.

Praying with My Legs: January 22

AARC is co-sponsoring the Sun, January 22, 2017, 10:30am – 12:30pm screening of the documentary-in-progress, Praying with My Legs, about Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel. Its filmmaker, Steve Brand, will speak via Skype and Rabbi Alana Alpert, who is in the film, will add her own remarks. The brunch and film showing is organized by the Beth Israel Congregation Social Action Committee and will honor their volunteers and include opportunities to support the completion of the film, and Detroit Jews for Justice. 

When this program was planned several months ago, the date was chosen because of its proximity to both Dr. Heschel’s yahrtzeit on the 18th of Tevet, and the national day of honor for Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr, this year, on January 16. King and Heschel were friends and colleagues who marched together at the front of the 1965 Freedom March from Selma to Montgomery. However, the planners did not anticipate that the date of the event would also coincide with the inauguration of someone who is bringing white nationalism into the White House. This film could be precisely the spiritual and political inspiration we need to face the future. Heschel was compelled by his religious beliefs to leave the confines of his study to fight for human dignity, immersing himself in the struggle for civil rights and human dignity.

The brunch at 10:30 is free, and everyone is welcome to come. To ensure that there is enough food, please RSVP to BIC Office by Tuesday, January 17thoffice@bethisrael-aa.org.  More about the film here.

We have a new rabbi! Ora Nitkin-Kaner begins September 1, 2017

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

The Board of AARC is thrilled to announce that Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner (RRC ’16) will begin her tenure as our congregation’s rabbi on September 1, 2017. Rabbi Ora is spending the current year in New Orleans in an intensive chaplaincy program and will be moving to Ann Arbor in the summer of 2017.

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Rabbi Ora began her rabbinic studies in Philadelphia at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2011. From the bio published upon her graduation in June 2016:

Ora learned Judaism at home, in Hebrew day school and at the University of Toronto, where as an undergraduate she studied Jewish folktales of demonic possession and as a graduate student she studied the intergenerational transmission of Holocaust trauma. Ora fell in love with New Orleans in 2007, and made it her home from 2008 to 2010 as she worked with exonerees and received educations in justice and power and beauty.

Ora began rabbinical school because she knew five years at RRC would help shape her into the leader she seeks to be in the world. Along the way, to her surprise and delight, she also became a Reconstructionist. While at RRC, Ora has been the grateful recipient of the Ziegelman Scholarship, John Bliss Scholarship, Wexner Graduate Fellowship, Or Hadash D’var Torah Award, Alice Stein Essay Prize and Tikkun Olam Award.

Ora’s internships at RRC have helped her grow immeasurably. As a chaplain at Monroe Village, Ora learned to hold stories; as the sabbatical and student rabbi at Congregation Kehilat Shalom, she discovered what it means to love a community; as a chaplain at Bellevue Hospital, she learned how the pastoral encounter fosters healing in patient and chaplain; and as the Bert Linder Rabbinic Intern at West End Synagogue, she found her voice.

During her first time living in New Orleans, Rabbi Ora was a fellow of the Jewish service corps organization, Avodah, where she blogged on the intersections of Judaism and social justice organizing and worked with the organization Resurrection after Exoneration which was founded by death row exoneree  John “JT” Thompson. She brought her experiences from New Orleans into her rabbinic training, concluding an MLK Day d’var in 2014 with these words:

As Jews, we have seeded the world with the idea that we are made in God’s image, that each of us, black, brown and white, Jewish or gentile, innocent or guilty, have God’s light inside of us. This teaching is the birthright that we have shared with the world. And now, it’s time to honour the corollary of that birthright – that we work for justice, even when it seems hopeless, even when crime and prison seem far away, even when the dreams of freedom of men who pace 6 foot by 9 foot cells seem far from our own, quieter dreams. I have a dream that we will put aside our complacency and recognize that we cannot drink in our freedom while communities of Americans across this country are dying of thirst.

Rabbi Ora uses her life experience as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors to learn and teach about living with fear, loss and grief by practicing gratitude and taking action. Her dvar on Bechukotai is a beautiful contemplation on these themes.

The whole AARC community looks forward to Rabbi Ora’s leadership. Over the coming months we will be planning opportunities for meeting her in person and introducing her to our community.

 

Human Rights Shabbat — Saturday morning, December 10

December 10 is International Human Rights Day, and so we’re making our second Saturday service a Human Rights Shabbat service.  I’ll lead the service, at the normal 10 am time.  We’ll do some of the regular Shacharit service, but have a discussion rather than a Torah service.  In this difficult week and month, I’m still thinking through how to approach this.  My plans from a week ago suddenly seem inadequate.  But I hope many of us can gather and share hope and community.  So save the date.

Oct 16 Beit Sefer and All Congregation Sukkah Building

Last year, we build the sukkah on a beautiful day, hope it's as nice this year!

Last year, we built the sukkah on a beautiful day, hope it’s as nice this year!

Beit Sefer students really did the building. Come on out and help!

Beit Sefer students really did the building. Come on out and help!

This coming Sunday morning, Oct 16, 2016 9:30 to 11:30 during our regular Beit Sefer/Religious School time, AARC will be building a Sukkah at Carole Caplan’s farm, 6900 Jennings Rd. The students, teachers and parents will build the sukkah just like last year, and we welcome help from all AARC members and friends. We will scour the land for s’kach (raw, unfinished vegetable matter) roof cover; we’ll make decorations; we’ll sing some songs in the finished sukkah! Please give yourself enough time to arrive by 9:30 so we can get the sukkah built in time to enjoy it. The eight day holiday of Sukkot begins at sundown on Sunday Oct 16.

Our really delightful Children’s High Holiday machzor/prayerbook closed with the Ufros aleinu prayer which is part of the evening Hashkivenu prayer.  The prayer asks God to spread over us a sukkat shalom/shelter of peace. As Rabbi Rachel Barenblatt says,

“During evening prayer there’s an extra blessing added — extra because it doesn’t appear in morning or afternoon prayer — which asks God to shelter us through the coming night. We pray ופרוש עלינו סכת שלומך, ufros aleinu sukkat shlomecha, ‘spread over us the sukkah of Your peace.’” Here’s a link to her blogpost “Shelter and Peace.”

And here’s link to the Hashkivenu prayer as sung during St. Louis’ Central Reform Congregation’s evening service. Recording features a wonderful group of CRC musicians: Rabbi Randy Fleisher, Leslie Caplan, Marty Miller, Andrew John, and Steve Friedman.

When we build a physical sukkah together, we can bring the meaning of this even closer. Enjoy, and see you Sunday.