Our Yom Kippur Workshops in the Washtenaw Jewish News

As is our tradition at AARC, between services on Yom Kippur we have several workshops where we can together study, meditate, and discuss. This year, there will be three sessions.  From 2:15 to 3:30 pm Barbara Boyk-Rust will lead “Soul Nourishment: Meditation and Sacred Chant for the Quiet of the Day” and Ellen Dannin will lead “Yonah – It’s Much More than Just a Whale.” From 3:45 to 5 pm, Margo Schlanger and Ronald Simpson-Bey will lead a conversation about the modern experience of imprisonment, and what kind of conditions–physical and programmatic–create the best chance of t’shuvah.  All are welcome to join any of these workshops, whether or not you are attending services with us.

Thanks to Jonathan Cohn for writing this up for the Washtenaw Jewish News:


The Thing with Name Tags

Me with my new name tag

Clare Kinberg with new name tag

One of the first tasks I was assigned as Events and Communications coordinator for AARC was to make name tags for new members, including teenagers who had would soon become bnei mitzvah and therefore full-fledged members of the congregation. And for Rosh Hashanah, I make replacement name tags for members who’ve lost theirs over the course of the year.

Now in my second year of working for AARC, I see the annual “Name Tag Check” as an important part of “taking stock,” preparing for the High Holidays. Over this past year, I’ve made four new name tags for bnei mitzvah and I’ve made five for new members….and this week I made 27 name tags for members who have lost theirs, including one for myself. Members: When you come to services for the High Holidays, be sure to pick up and put on your name tag. And put it back when you leave.

What’s with all this name tag business? Besides gently helping with our sometimes over-taxed memories for the names of people we know but just can’t pull up at the moment, name tags are an important part of reminding us of our responsibility toward welcoming others who are newer to our community. Our High Holiday services are open to all; many people come to pray with us once a year, and others who are considering joining a congregation come to check out the feel of the community. Our community is informal and pluralistic, welcoming to newcomers from a real diversity of backgrounds. If you are new to services, or attending as a non-member, I hope you will talk to people wearing AARC name tags. And members, let your name tag remind you to strike up conversations with someone you don’t already know!

I know my Name Tag Check next year will include several bnei mitzvah. I hope it will include many new members, too! (And if you lose your name tag in the middle of the year, no need to wait till High Holidays for the replacement; just let me know and I’ll make you a new one.)

Shana tova

New this year: AARC Children’s Services for High Holidays

Melanie Rivkin

Melanie Rivkin

This year, AARC High Holiday Services will include services for children–special time and space for kid-centered communal prayer and learning. Our AARC Children’s Services during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur will each be an hour long; they will be abbreviated but full services, with extra movement, singing and a story. The service is geared towards elementary-age children, but all (including parents) are welcome!

The Children’s Machzor (High Holiday prayerbook) we will be using is based on a lovely service created by Congregation Agudas Achim in Attleboro, MA; it will include songs and melodies familiar to AARC’s young congregants. These services will be a great way to introduce new families to our congregation.

Melanie Rivkin, a second year student in the Jewish Communal Leadership Masters Degree Program at the University of MI School of Social Work, will lead the services, along with Beit Sefer director Clare Kinberg. AARC member and parent Debra Gombert will assist with many songs and prayers. Services will be from 10:30 to 11:30 am on both Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.

Melanie grew up in Cherry Hill, NJ near Philadelphia where her family were members of a Reform congregation. She has a BA in Judaic Studies from Binghamton University and has explored Judaism in Israel and around the U.S. through various non-profit fellowships, including Adamah, a Jewish farming program in Northwest Connecticut; Repair the World: Pittsburgh, a community service and social justice program; and Masa Israel Teaching Fellows, an English second language teaching program. While in JCLP, Melanie has had field placements at the Anti-Defamation League (Michigan Region) and the Education Department of the Jewish Federation of Metropolitan Detroit. Melanie is really looking forward to leading egalitarian, musical and fun services for our kids!

Childcare is available before the children’s services if needed.  And after, the littlest kids can go to childcare while the tweens and teens who don’t want to join the adult services will have organized indoor and outdoor games and activities let by Aaron Jackson, a long time area religious school teacher and youth coordinator. (Please sign up here for either childcare or the kids’ activities.  Both are free to members and low-cost for others.)

Join the 2016 AARC CROP Hunger Walk Team

Submitted by Cara Spindler

crop-walk-graphicOn Sunday, September 25 the Interfaith Council for Peace & Justice (ICPJ) is hosting the 42nd Annual Washtenaw/Ann Arbor CROP Hunger.  ICPJ has organized this 5k charitable walk since 1974, raising a total of $3.2 million over the decades.  Last year Washtenaw County walkers raised $48,500, with about 300 walkers participating.

CROP Hunger Walks are locally organized by businesses, schools, and communities of faith. “CROP” originally stood for the “Christian Rural Overseas Program,” a 1947 joint program between several church organizations to help with post-war poverty.  Today these community-wide local events seek to raise funds to end hunger and increase food security and food-related social justice in the U.S. and globally.  More than 1,600 walks take place across the U.S. annually.  About 25% of the proceeds go to local hunger-fighting efforts, and the walker can determine where the remaining 75% of their raised funds goes (choosing from a vetted list of global hunger agencies).

Please come and walk with us on September 25!  Call Cara Spindler ( 734-255-0939) if you want to coordinate more.  Our contingent will gather at Trinity Lutheran at 1:30 pm.  

STARTING LOCATION: Trinity Lutheran Church (1400 W Stadium Blvd., Ann Arbor, MI 48103)

DATE: Sunday, September 25, 2016, 1–4 PM

To sign up:

  1. Go to the CROP Hunger Walk website using this link
  2. Click REGISTER
  3. Fill out the form (or sign in using Facebook)
  4. When you get to “Create or Join a Team” choose “Join an existing team”
  5. Click “see list” next to the search box, and select “Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation”
  6. Click the “Join Now” button.

Your friends and neighbors can donate via the website (once you log in there’s lots of tools for soliciting donations and accepting payment)—or you can bring a check/cash to drop off at the Walk.

See you on September 25!

A “tebah” for the Huron

by Clare Kinberg, Beit Sefer director

Last year, on the first day of our religious school, Beit Sefer, I told a story about the word Hebrew word “tebah”תֵּבַ֣ת. When we meet again for the first session this year (10am Island Park) I want to tell the same story. I’m pretty sure at least some of the kids will remember it if I tell it again. I hope so, but it doesn’t matter.

Ann Arbor Jewish religious school

Beit Sefer Students and Teachers on the last day of class last year May 2016

It is Jewish tradition to tell the same stories over and over again. And every time a story is told, even with the same words, it is a different story, because the hearer has changed. You are not the same person you were last time you heard the story. As adults, we’ve heard many stories in the Torah dozens of times. Yet, what you hear and understand from a story, using the exact same words, is different every time you hear it.

Here is the story at I told it last year:

The stories that Jews tell from the Torah are some of our oldest stories. In fact, something like 200 generations of Jews have passed down the stories that are in the Torah. One of the oldest ones, and a story that is told by lots of different peoples, is the story of a great flood that covered the earth, and one family–Noah, his wife Nehama and their children–and the ark they built to ride on the waters of the flood and to save the plants and animals so that the earth could start over.

In Hebrew the word for Noah and Nehama’s boat is tebah. A tebah is a special boat that keeps its passengers safe. In the whole Torah there is only one other tebah:  while Noah and Nehama’s tebah was large enough to hold a pair of every animal and every plant on earth, the other tebah was so small it held only one baby passenger. In the Torah stories, about 100 generations after the great flood, the baby Moses was born and his sister, the prophet Miriam, built a small tebah, a basket more like a cradle than a huge ark, to save Moses’ life. When Moses was a grown man, so the story goes, he led the Jews out of slavery. So while one tebah played a part in saving life on earth, the small tevah played a part in saving the Jewish people.

Since one word, tebah, is used to mean such different things, a colossal ship made of gopher wood and a baby basket made of reeds, perhaps the meaning of tebah, is “life-saver.”

Or maybe it is the stories themselves that are the ark, the boat, that keeps us afloat. The stories I mean are both the stories that have been passed down generation to generation, and the stories we are creating with our own lives.

basket boat used at Ann Arbor Jewish religious school Beit Sefer


Last year, on the opening day of Beit Sefer, we passed a small boat shaped basket around a big circle of parents and students. As we passed the basket, we each recited, “This basket holds our stories, pass it on.” Then, the person accepting the basket replied, “Thank you, I will learn the stories and pass them on.”

This year on opening day, we are going to make the baskets, and we are going to make a new story, all together. Beit Sefer begins at Island Park at 10am. Parents are asked to stay for a meeting, and to play a special role in writing a story and helping the students launch a tevah on the Huron River. Immediately following the launch, will be our AARC Annual Picnic. Noon to 3pm. Bring protein to grill, a side dish to share. AARC will provide drinks and paper goods.

See you there!

Yom Kippur Workshops 2016

It’s our Yom Kippur tradition at AARC to have several afternoon sessions where we can together study, meditate, and discuss. This year, there will be three sessions; two from about 2:15 to 3:30 pm, and one from 3:45 to 5 pm.

One of the 2:15 sessions will be guided meditation, led by our member, Barbara Boyk-Rust, who writes:

Soul Nourishment: Meditation and Sacred Chant for the Quiet of the Day.
As we fast and pray on Yom Kippur we are asked to be in more direct contact with our spirit and with our connection to God than any other day of the year. While we move toward this during the evening, morning, and late afternoon services, what assists us during the spaces between the services? A walk, a nap, a quiet conversation? Each may be of help. A different way of prayer is also fitting. It is a time of day when we may be longing for sustenance. Together we will create a form of soul nourishment through meditation and offering up a few sacred texts in chant. May this time augment and amplify the expression of our soul on this holy day.

Our member Ellen Dannin will facilitate a conversation about the Book of Jonah:

Yonah – It’s Much More than Just a “Whale”: We will share reading the story of Yonah / Jonah, with time for participants’ contributions, questions, thoughts. Feel free to bring your own texts.

At 3:45, you can choose between a walk, a chat with a friend, or whatever else moves you, and a session that uses Jonah, again, as a starting off point a conversation about solitary confinement. We’ll start with some materials from this T’ruah study guide (which is based on a Yom Kippur d’var member Margo Schlanger gave at AARC in 2013).  But we’ll move fairly quickly into the modern experience of imprisonment and examine the question, What kind of conditions–physical and programmatic–create the best chance of t’shuvah?  Our leaders for this session will be member Margo Schlanger and Ronald Simpson-Bey.

Ronald Simpson-Bey, leading Ann Arbor Yom Kippur workshop

Ronald Simpson-Bey

Ron is the Alumni Associate for JustLeadershipUSA (JLUSA), part of the steering team of the newly formed Collaborative to End Mass Incarceration in Michigan (MI-CEMI), and co-founder and advisory board member of the Chance For Life (CFL) organization in Detroit. He served 27-years in the Michigan prison system, where he founded many enrichment programs rooted in transformation, redemption, and self-accountability.  In the course of that time, he spent two years in solitary confinement. He was a jailhouse lawyer who got his conviction reversed by the courts and got himself out of prison.  He attended Eastern Michigan University, Mott Community College, and Jackson Community College, and he has worked as a staff paralegal at the former Prison Legal Services of Michigan.

On this day of atonement, join this workshop to better understand American imprisonment, and what kinds of change we need and can help with.

Just out about AARC in the Washtenaw Jewish News

This year’s Washtenaw Jewish News guide to Jewish Life in Washtenaw County includes an ad highlighting our upcoming fall events and a profile of our congregation.



September 11 “B” There: Annual BBQ, Beit Sefer, Book Club


Footbridge over the Huron River at Island Park

How could our little congregation plan so much for one day? But so be it: on Sunday September 11, there will be something for everyone in the congregation, and our friends, too.

Our annual BBQ picnic is a very nice time for all ages to relax together, introduce new people to the congregation, reconnect after summer travels. AARC will provide drinks, charcoal and paper products. You bring something to grill, a side dish to share, and your summer stories! The BBQ will be at a new location this year at Island Park, with a footbridge over the Huron River, a playground, a nice shelter and lots of exploration space, it’s a terrific place for our picnic. Plus it’s the place we plan to have tashlich this year, so we’ll all know how to get there! September 11, noon to 3pm.

  • First day of Beit Sefer/ Religious School for kindergarten-7th grade, 10-noon at the Island Park. Parents meeting 10:45-11:45.
  • Book Club 9:45-11:00, discussion Wise Aging, at Greg and Audrey’s home. Details here.
  • Annual BBQ: This year at Island Park. noon to 3pm.


Liberty’s Secret, New Film by Andy Kirshner

Jaclene Wilk in Liberty's Secret

Jaclene Wilk in Liberty’s Secret

AARC member Andy Kirshner will premier his new film, the musical Liberty’s Secret, on September 22, at the Michigan Theater, for one night only.  Andy wrote the screenplay, lyrics and score and co-directed the movie with choreographer Debbie Williams. The movie-musical, which has been more than eight years in the making, was shot entirely in Southeast Michigan and over 150 Ann Arborites participated as extras, including a few faces very familiar to AARC.

“I love old musicals — like those by George Gershwin, Meredith Wilson, Leonard Bernstein, and Frank Loesser — but frankly, the gender politics of the musical-theater classics are terrible,” Andy says. “So I wanted to write a musical that would capture some of the same tap-dancing, jazz-inspired joy of an earlier era, but where the women weren’t tamed by men. I wanted to write a traditional musical that was non-traditional.”

Liberty’s Secret might be just the feel-good relief we’re needing in this tension filled presidential election season. Both a charming romantic comedy and a pointed political satire, Liberty’s Secret follows the rise of Liberty Smith, the squeaky-clean daughter of a “family values” preacher who becomes the symbolic centerpiece of a socially conservative presidential campaign.  When ingénue Liberty falls in love with her (female) spin-doctor, the result is a cable news catastrophe.  A kissing video goes viral, and a confused Liberty must choose between the life she knows, and the love she has always dreamed of – while all of America watches.

Advanced tickets are available online at http://bit.ly/2ajGOsg for what is anticipated to be a highly popular event.  Tickets are $10, or $8 for students.

Andy_KirshnerThough we in AARC think of Andy as Eli’s dad and Stephanie’s partner, he is also known as Professor Kirshner, who is jointly appointed by the UM School of Music, Theater, and Design’s innovative Performing Arts Technology Department and by the Stamps School of Art and Design. He is an award-winning composer, theater artist, and filmmaker whose work has been commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts, Artserve Michigan, Meet the Composer, and many others.  More information about him can be found at www.andykirshner.com

A trailer for the film is available at www.libertysecret.com


Keys to Learning at RRC

Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, Wyncote, PA by Richard Quindry

This weekend, July 22nd-24th, AARC members and friends will be having a Shabbaton (a weekend of prayer services and learning) with Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner, who was ordained this year at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC). I thought a little background on RRC might be of interest to folks. For this blog I wrote to several rabbis who were ordained at RRC asking them to comment on the education they received.

RRC, a seminary to train rabbis for Reconstructionist Jewish congregations was founded in 1968 in Philadelphia and moved to its location in Wyncote, PA in 1982. The College’s five to six year program of study for rabbinic ordination has changed since 1968, but is still structured around focusing on a different historical period each year, building a deep understanding of Judaism as an evolving religious civilization. This developmental approach encourages the students to enter into a dialogue with  previous generations of Jews who addressed perennial human issues in the context of their own times.

The Wikipedia article on RRC usefully divides the college’s own history into three periods: the founding in 1968 till 1981 when, headed by Ira Eisenstein, it formed a course of study based on Mordechai Kaplan’s ideas ; 1981-1993 when the movement published its first prayer book and incorporated more study of other religions and spirituality within Judaism; and 1993 to the present during which the college has significantly expanded education in community organizing, leadership and pastoral counseling. Rabbi Mordechai Liebling ( ’85), who is now director of RRC’s Social Justice Organizing Program and attended RRC during the middle period, says, “the combination of Arthur Green, Arthur Waskow, and Zalman Schacter was a wonderful balance of the political and spiritual dimensions of Jewish life.”

Rabbi Rebecca Alpert ( ’76) wrote the entry on RRC for the Jewish Women’s Archive, which includes this section on the ordination of women:

The question of the ordination of women to the rabbinate certainly was in the public consciousness at the time the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College was founded in 1968. The women’s liberation movement was asking questions about women’s complete equality that had not seriously been considered previously. Although none was yet ordained, several women candidates were then studying at the Reform Movement’s Hebrew Union College. Despite the open discussion of this issue, the founders of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College decided not to create added controversy by recruiting women for its first class. In its second year, however, when the founders advertised for students, they received one inquiry from a woman. Sandy Eisenberg Sasso was accepted without debate or subsequent controversy. For the next several years, only a few women applied, and all were accepted. Women comprised half the class that entered in 1974, the year of Sandy Sasso’s graduation, and that trend has continued ever since. By 2005, twenty-four out of the movement’s 106 synagogues in the United States had women as senior or assistant rabbis. Women lead four of the country’s twelve largest Reconstructionist congregations, which range in size from 237 to one thousand members. The rabbinical college too has had women as part of upper-level administration and full-time faculty since the mid-1970s. It currently houses Kolot: the Center for Jewish Women’s and Gender Studies, a resource center for curricular and liturgical materials.

An interesting note: Rabbi Shelley Goldman, the last candidate AARC interviewed, wound up taking a full time position as Assistant Rabbi at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis, IN, where Rabbi Sandy Eisenberg Sasso, RRC’s first women graduate, is Senior Rabbi emerita.

A recent graduate, Rabbi Tamara Cohen (’14) has this to say about her education there: “RRC provided me with a feminist, justice-oriented, intellectually rigorous, ritually creative, alive and nurturing Jewish community and learning environment that helped me take the next steps I had long been yearning to take in my leadership, in my spiritual development, in my critical understanding of Jewish history, text, and culture, in my understanding of community organizing and community building, in my personal soul work, and in my ability to be a pastoral presence and support for those in need. It also gave me invaluable teachers and colleagues and keys to continue to study and grow, lead and belong, as a rabbi over the rest of my life.”

Rabbi Nathan Martin, who will be leading our High Holiday services this year and was ordained from RRC in 2006 wrote, “The three most impactful elements of my RRC rabbinical education were: a) the support and guidance I received as I donned my professional ‘kippah’ doing work in the rabbinic field, b) the way in which the community modeled creative access to tradition and sought to live out their values, and c) having a ‘chevre,’ close colleagues, who helped create a container for me to process and live into my emerging rabbinic identity.”

Please RSVP for  Shabbaton events here. You are welcome even if you don’t RSVP, but it sure helps us plan if you do let us know you are coming.

  • Tot Shabbat, Friday 7/22, 5:45 to 6:15 PM, JCC
  • Kabbalat Shabbat & Potluck, Friday 7/22, 6:30 PM, JCC
  • Shabbat Morning Service, Saturday 7/23, 10 am, JCC
  • Family-Friendly Dessert and Havdalah, Saturday 7/23, 8-9:30 pm, home of the Samuel family
  • Adult Learning, Sunday 7/24, 10:00 AM, JCC: (How) Should A Person Pray?