Rabbi Ora hosts Nachamu (Comfort Us): A Havdalah and Healing Service for the End of Av

Saturday, August 15, 8-9:15pm via Zoom

Karov, by Batya Levine

On Saturday, August 15th, at 8:00pm, we will come together as a community to hold one another in our grief, sadness, and hope. Nachamu (Comfort Us): A Havdalah and Healing Service for the End of Av is an opportunity to put down all we’ve been carrying the last few months and give voice to our experiences.

The healing service will be a mix of meditation, singing, and opportunities to share one-on-one. We’ll conclude with a havdalah that will move us from the emptiness and loss that the Hebrew month of Av commemorates into the powerful call to introspection of the month of Elul.

A zoom link will be sent out the week of August 10th. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to attend, email us for the link.

A prayer for healing:

God of consolation,
Surely you count in heaven,
Just as we count here on earth,
In shock and in sorrow,
The souls sent back to You,
The dead from the COVID pandemic,
As the ones become tens,
The tens become hundreds,
The hundreds become thousands,
The thousands become ten-thousands
And then hundred-thousands,
Each soul, a heartbreak,
Each soul, a life denied.

God of wisdom,
Surely in the halls of divine justice
You are assembling the courts,
Calling witnesses to testify,
To proclaim
The compassion of some
And the callousness of others
As we’ve struggled to cope.
The souls taken too soon,
Whose funerals were lonely,
Who didn’t need to die,
Who died alone,
Will tell their stories
When You judge
Our triumphs
And our failures
In these hours of need.

God of healing,
Put an end to this pandemic,
And all illness and disease.
Bless those who stand in service to humanity.
Bless those who grieve.
Bless the dead,
So that their souls are bound up in the bond of life eternal.
And grant those still afflicted
With disease or trauma
A completed and lasting healing,
Until suffering ceases,
And we can stop counting the dead,
In heaven

And on earth.

The prayer above, entitled “One-by-One: A Prayer as the COVID Death Toll Mounts,” is by Alden Solovy, liturgist, poet, and teacher. He is the author of Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing. © 2020 Alden Solovy and www.tobendlight.com. Reproduced with permission.

Unique Opportunity to Commemorate Tisha b’Av 5780/2020

By Rebecca Epstein

Bend the Arc Demonstration in Dearborn. Photo Credit: Rebecca Epstein

Tisha b’Av (literally the 9th of Av) is a day of collective mourning, the saddest day of the Jewish year. It marks the destruction of the First Temple in 586 BCE and the Second Temple in 70 CE, but also symbolizes other tragedies, including the Holocaust and Pograms. The day is traditionally observed by fasting and reading the Book of Lamentations. Lamentations is a collection of five poems about the destruction of the Temple. Its theology is straightforward: God inflicted this terrible punishment because Israel was sinful. According to the Babylonian Talmud, the sin was sinat inam, baseless hatred, that is, the cruelty of our speech and actions toward others. However, the rabbis taught that transgression is also the ill feelings we carry in our hearts, which damage those who hold them and destroy those they are aimed against. Today, Tisha b’Av serves as a call to name systemic racism as the source of baseless hatred in our time and to take action to eradicate its roots and results. Mourning what is lost should inspire us to build a better future.

This Tisha b’Av, Bend the Arc Jewish Action: Greater Ann Arbor invites AARC to mourn the overwhelming violence against Black people in this country and commit to working to transform the systems and institutions that uphold and perpetuate this violence. 

Join Bend the Arc for a protest that is also a religious service, with lay-led rituals and readings connecting our Jewish mourning with calls to #DefundthePolice. No knowledge of the holiday or the Jewish ritual is needed; explanations will be provided. If you have them, we encourage you to wear kippot and/or tallit. Note that a tradition of this holiday is sitting on the ground.

Time: Wednesday, July 29 10:00 – 11:00 a.m.
Location: East Ann Arbor, outdoors, exact location information available to registrants only.

*** Plan on wearing a mask and keeping 6 feet away from fellow attendees***
Register here

As an alternative to this in-person event, or in addition to, contact your county commissioners and city councilmembers. Ask them to defund the police and redirect those funds to social services like public health. Questions can be directed to rebeccadanaepstein@gmail.com.

Welcome New Member Hannah Davis!

Hannah writes:

I’ve lived in Ann Arbor since 2014, and before that was in Kalamazoo, where I was raised. I grew up going to Temple B’nai Israel, wandered away from religion for over a decade, and recently rediscovered joy in Judaism after a tour of Ann Arbor congregations led me to AARC!

My day job (pandemic notwithstanding) is as a barista at Sweetwaters, and I’m training to become a copyeditor as well. I’m an avid reader of fantasy and science fiction, I love learning languages (including Spanish, Hebrew, and Tamil), I play the flute, keep house plants, and clearly have too many hobbies. 

AARC has been so welcoming and safe to me from the first service I came to. I leave every event having made a new acquaintance and having had engaging conversations, and I’m so happy to be a member now!

AARC welcomes you, Hannah!

Visit Another Congregation Online for this Saturday Morning’s Shabbat Services

As is customary, AARC will not host Saturday morning Shabbat services this weekend while Rabbi Ora on break. However, since we are not limited by physical location during this pandemic, we can visit other congregations to honor Shabbat. Please enjoy this list of possibilities and let us know afterward how it went!

The following congregations (all in our time zone!) will hold services this Saturday morning:

We hope these opportunities pique your interest! AARC Saturday services will return on August 8th. In the mean time, we look forward to seeing you on July 24th at Friday evening Shabbat services with guest host Etta Heisler.

Jewish Summer Learning Opportunities For The Whole Family

Rabbi Ora could not bring herself to leave town for her vacation without being sure that her congregation had ample resources at their fingertips for Jewish learning in her absence! She suggests that anyone interested in engaging with Jewish learning over the summer check out offerings from Hadar.org and Havaya@Home.

Hadar provides daily programming for the whole family all summer long. For kids, they offer a weekly Mishnah, a Parashah Club, and more! Adults will find a myriad of learning opportunities, including Talmud Study, a summer-long grief and mourning in a time of tragedy group, an adult Mishnah group, and more! Check out these offerings and the full schedule of events on Hadar’s website.

Camp Havaya has committed to providing fun camp activities for children who are unable to attend camp this summer. These include a weekly story time Mondays at noon and a Kabbalat Shabbat on July 3rd at 7pm. Take a look at Havaya’s website for more fun learning opportunities for your little ones.

We hope you can find some meaningful content to engage with over the summer. Do you have any interesting online learning resources to recommend? Please share them in the comments!

Congratulations 2020 AARC Graduates!

Congratulations to this year’s graduates! AARC graduates earn an extra gold star for their ability to demonstrate strength and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mazel tov to the graduates on their accomplishments and to the parents and families of these outstanding young adults!


Caleb Shoup is graduating from Pioneer High School and is headed to the University of Michigan, where he will attend the Residential College.


Jonas graduated from the MSU Honors Program this past December with majors in Theater and Economics. He earned the Board of Trustees scholarship award for “attaining the highest cumulative grade point average in the graduating class of fall 2019.” The award was presented at a board meeting held in the same place where he was arrested for protesting during his first year. Jonas lives in Lansing. He works stocking shelves at Meijer and is in the process of becoming certified to operate a forklift. He is active in immigrant rights organizing and other community activities. 


Marley graduated from Macalester College this May. where he majored in History and minored in Theater. For most of his years at Mac, Marley worked in the Theater Department’s scene shop. He participated in many productions as actor, director, assistant manager, and stage tech. While he was a student, Marley became acquainted with the large and active theater scene in the Twin Cities. He was also active in the Macalester Jewish Organization. Marley is hunkering down at home due to the pandemic, and hopes to return to the Twin Cities when theaters open once again.


Eli Kirshner graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in History, with Highest Honors. His thesis, “Race, Mines, and Picket Lines: The 1925-1928 Western Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Strike,” is based on over two years of research on 1920s race relations and coal mining in the Pittsburgh area, a topic that has many connections to the present day. Eli’s Zoom presentation of his thesis was a festive opportunity for friends, family, and former teachers to to tune in. (His parents were kvelling offscreen).  Eli’s Zoom talk is here, and the written thesis is here!

AARC congratulates Caleb, Jonas, Marley, and Eli on their many accomplishments and looks forward to seeing them carry those achievements out into the world.

Photo credit: https://www.pikrepo.com/fehbo/group-of-graduating-students

Welcome New Members Andrew and Susan Flint!

Andrew writes:

Susan and I moved to Ann Arbor many years ago when I became affiliated with the University of Michigan School of Medicine. Susan is a retired reference librarian and a graduate of U-M.

We have two daughters, a granddaughter, and a son-in-law,
all of whom live on the East Coast. I continue to teach at the University and have become the director of the Center for Automotive Gerontology.

Teaching, books, Airedales, cooking and baking, and film photography are among our passions.

We find AARC to be a warm, welcoming, and unpretentious community. And Rabbi Ora rocks!

As a special treat, Rabbi Ora requested that we share this lovely poem written by my daughter, Sarah Flint Erdreich:


dark eyes contemplative
behind gold rimmed glasses
corners of mouth hidden
by graying beard

my father
Army brat in Germany after the war
bad place to be a Jew
I used to picture him,
dark haired and slender,
never saying what he was
watching the flame of Sabbath candles
in Army-issue house

my mother stayed home
packed school lunches, ironed clothes
lively and laughing
in her Southern family
the skeletons left the closet
to have dinner with the living

my father left before I rose
worked late in the hospital
where he touched Death
at breakfast I ate the same meal
he, an hour earlier, consumed
wanting to be just like him

a photo taken in Switzerland
father bundled in a snowsuit
only solemn face visible
we could have been twins
at 7 years old

“enjoy life” he tells me
doing his best to ensure that I
who have inherited so much from him
will leave the sadness and silence
to the past that created it

– Sarah Flint Erdreich

AARC Beit Sefer: Interactive, Cooperative, and Loving.

Written by Beit Sefer Director, Clare Kinberg

AARC Beit Sefer just concluded a year of welcoming: new teacher Marcy Epstein, new students, new members of the congregation and community. Our year was interactive, cooperative, and loving.


Led by congregant and artist Idelle Hammond-Sass, we kicked off the year’s “Welcome” theme by joining the Ann Arbor Jewish Sanctuary and Immigration Network’s “Butterfly Project: Migration is Beautiful, Never Again is Now.” All Beit Sefer students participated to help make tiles and pictures that illustrate the beauty of migration.

Our interactive year continued with a weekend campout at congregant Carole Caplan’s beautiful flower-laden farm, where families, friends, and community members came together to build a sukkah. We ended our “in-person” year with a field trip to the Botanical Gardens for Tu B’Shvat.

Two of our students became bar mitzvah this year. Even with the service and celebration place on Zoom, many other Beit Sefer students and families attended. The b’nai mitzvah services really felt like community events.

The G’dolim, our oldest class, enjoyed the contribution of several parent guest speakers who presented family histories to the class. The Kitanim, our youngest class, invited older members of the congregation into the classroom to share from their lives. The intergenerational experience often included food, song, and stories. 

Anita Rubin-Meiller danced with us and shared stories of her grandparents, her family’s migration to the US, and photographs. She brought her grandmother’s beautiful candlesticks and read a story to the students.

Jack Levin, a visiting grandfather, told stories of Lithuanian journeys, whitefish and pike swimming in bathtubs, and what it feels like to be a boy on the inside and a grandpa on the outside – the enlarging circle of life. 

Lori Lichtman, told stories of her grandmother from Hungary and brought delicious traditional treats.


Our school is built on parent, teacher, and student cooperation. Parents help keep the school running: each family carries out small tasks that bring big benefits. Each week one family brings a snack of challah (or another delicious bread) and fruit for the whole school. The students often enjoy the homemade treats of the deeply appreciated baker-parents. Parents planned the Sukkot campout, and helped with the Purim carnival. Three teens who had recently become b’nei mitzvah helped in the classrooms each week. All this involvement demonstrates to our students that being Jewish is a lifetime commitment expressed in many ways, including the mundane as well as the spiritual.


Beit Sefer is a small school where learning happens with a lot of love. 

AARC Celebrates Pride Month

Written by: Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

June is Pride Month in this country: a month when LGBTQ+ voices are amplified, LGBTQ lives are celebrated, LGTBQ losses are mourned, and when we renew our commitment to creating a world of justice and equality for all.

Naomi Goldberg, an Ann Arbor Jewish activist and co-parent with her wife Libby of 7-year-old Nathan, wrote on Sunday May 30th:

“I always look forward to Pride Month, but it feels heavier this year – because of the killings of black people and the painful and important wrestling with how far we still have to go as a country (and as white people); because of the pandemic with hundreds of thousands dying and sick and millions losing jobs and millions struggling with social distancing; and while we’re anticipating rulings from SCOTUS that could jeopardize workplace protections for LGBTQ people.”

We don’t celebrate Pride this year in spite of overwhelming loss and revealed injustice:

We celebrate because the first Pride Parade was the one-year anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, a protest against police violence led by queer and trans people of color.

We celebrate because LGBTQ equality is a branch of the same tree that roots the Black Lives Matter movement, the #MeToo movement, disability activism, and the ongoing struggle to teach our political leaders that human lives must be valued over financial profit.

We celebrate knowing that joy is important; that learning our LGBTQ Jewish history is important; that highlighting LGBTQ heroes in our community and beyond is important; and that hearing and witnessing our LGBTQ members, particularly during this time, is important.

We celebrate because celebrating is an act of joyful defiance against those who would have us believe that we are not all created b’tzelem Elohim.

How will AARC celebrate Pride Month this year?

On Friday June 26th, join us online for Pride Shabbat, beginning at 6:30 pm. If there are readings, poems, or personal reflections you’d like included in the service, email Rabbi Ora (rabbi@aarecon.org) by Friday, June 19.

What else will happen? We have some ideas, but we need YOU to make them happen!

  • A virtual Pride ‘Parade,’ kicked off by a kid-centered virtual sign-making party. After creating the signs, take a photo of your family holding these signs in your front yard, or stick them in your windows and take a photo of that! We’ll share them all together as a virtual Parade. Are you willing to coordinate this (with help)? Email Gillian at aarcgillian@gmail.com
  • Host an online discussion based on a podcast episode. Keshet has a new podcast video series called Joy and Resilience: Jewish LGBTQ Leaders on What Sustains Us All, while the podcast Making Gay History has a number of episodes that focus on past and present Jewish LGBTQ activists. Invite folks to watch or listen at their leisure, then plan a Zoom call to talk about it. Want to facilitate this (with guidance)? Email Rabbi Ora at rabbi@aarecon.org
  • Are you an LGBTQ member of our community? Consider writing a paragraph on what Jewish community means to you, and we’ll feature your words in a special blog post this month. Have something to share? Please email Judith Jacobs (judithjacobs@mac.com) with your reflection by June 11
  • Do you have pictures of yourself and your family or friends attending Pride parades in past years? Email Gillian your photos

Other ideas for how we can celebrate and learn together? Please email Rabbi Ora, Gillian, or Judith so we can support you in making your vision a reality.

Finally, I want to remind you that starting this year, AARC celebrates Pride Month in the context of a larger commitment from our leadership to increase LGBTQ inclusion in our congregation through leadership training, programming, policy, and shifts in culture. If you have ideas on how to contribute in any of these areas, please be in touch.

I look forward to celebrating with you.

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner 

Food Feature: Challah

Our Roots Weave Together Like Fresh-Baked Bread

This week, I challenged some of AARC’s expert bread makers to share their Challah secrets with the congregation – and they obliged! Everyone’s recipe has a special secret method that brings individuality to their loaves. However, just as the dough seamlessly weaves together, so does the common thread that binds these recipes. Every one of our star bakers brings love into their baking; that’s what makes their Challah so special.

Lori Lichtman brings love, meditation, and prayer into her baking. She learned from AARC member Jen Cohen!

My process includes meditating and bringing the Light of G-d through my crown, into my hands, into the dough and then I sing prayers into the dough. I sing Ahavah Rabah love prayer while kneading, then V’Erestich-Li Olam for binding to G-d while braiding, then Oseh Shalom for painting egg, and Peleg Elohim sprinkling the sesame seeds on top for abundance. I also sing healing prayers if needed or Shehekianu if it’s a celebration. Baking challah is a spiritual practice; it connects us to bring Heaven to Earth, connecting G-d with the Earth’s gifts of wheat and our role helping to transform these gifts to bring goodness to the world.

Lori has made many Challah variations, such as lavender for a gay or lesbian wedding, pumpkin challah for Challah-o-ween, and of course, Raisin Round for Rosh Hashanah.

Our next baker, Nancy Meadow, learned to bake Challah from her mother. Over time she has made it her own. Nancy says, “I use the word ‘recipe’ loosely here, as I vary it weekly, but this is a great starting place.”

There are as many challah recipes as there are challah bakers. You can vary the sweetness, the shape, the flour mix, or add-ins like spice, raisins, cherries, pumpkin, chocolate, etc. It is traditional for challah to be dairy-free (although I know some who use butter instead of oil). The eggs are a key ingredient, making this bread different than most others. The eggs should be the best you can find and should not be skimped on. This is how I make my basic weekly loaf.

Into bowl put, but do not stir:
   1 C warm/hot water
   1 Tbsp yeast
   2 tsp sugar
Wait for yeast to proof, then add
  ¼ C vegetable oil
  1/3 C sugar or honey (more for a sweeter loaf)
  2 tsp salt
  2 whole eggs plus one yolk

Stir until well integrated and then start adding flour ½ cup at a time. You can use all white bread flour or a mix of white and whole wheat. The more whole wheat you add, the more calories you burn while kneading. My weekly loaf has a good bit of whole wheat; my holiday loaves are 100% white, which is more traditional. Start with whole wheat and add white second. Once you have about 2.5 cups mixed in, let the batter sit for 20 minutes to let the yeast really soak into the flour. After this first rest, begin adding flour, no more than ½ cup at a time. Thoroughly integrate each new scoop of flour before adding more. At some point, you will need to remove it from the bowl and start kneading on a flat surface. Knead the dough for 12-18 minutes, adding flour as needed.  In total, plan to use about 5-6 cups of flour. 

Place dough in a greased bowl, cover with damp towel, place in cold oven with the light on for 1-3 hours. (The goal is a warm, dry place where the dough can rest without getting dried out.)
Shape the dough – a braid is traditional. I like a four or six strand braid.  There are a gazillion ways to shape challah; check Youtube or let me know if you want to talk about this more. Place loaves on a parchment paper covered baking sheet. Cover shaped challah with the damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes more.  
Brush loaves with a yolk-only wash, then sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds or both.
Bake at 325 for 25-35 minutes.  Loaves are done when the smell and look are right.

Fred Feinberg is the star Challah baker at AARC’s religious school, Beit Sefer. Fred says his home-baked Challah is the only bread his son will eat, so he makes it weekly!

For two loaves or one very large one:

1.5 cups slightly warm water
5 large egg yolks
1.5 teaspoons salt
1/3 – 1/2 cup oil (best: a mixture, up to half olive oil)
5.5 – 6 cups bread flour (depending on how dry your flour is; start with less and add more if it’s too sticky
1/3 – 1/2 cup sugar (best: mostly or entirely brown sugar, with a little honey if you like that)
2.5 – 3 teaspoons active dry yeast (less gives a slower rise, which gives better results, but takes longer)
whites from eggs for brushing

Mix water and sugar, then mix with egg yolks lightly. Then add oil (and stir just a bit at most). Put about four cups of the flour on top, then yeast, then mix a bit. Then put remaining flour, mixed with the salt, on top, and mix that in.

Knead for 10-15 minutes or, if you are sane, use a KitchenAid or bread machine. For KitchenAid, use the lowest setting. Do 1-2 minutes, then 1-2 minutes off, then on, for about 10-15 mins total. It is FINE to knead by hand for a minute, then rest 2 minutes, etc., for 4-5 cycles in total, so long as the dough is elastic: not sticky/wet, not very dry.
Cover, leave in a warm place for an hour, then punch down.

Divide in two. Shape each piece into a long rectangle, then slice each into three thinnish slices of about the same weight (a scale helps).
Roll out, then braid three ropes for each challah loaf. It doesn’t need to be perfect. [Large challah: six braids; watch a youtube video on how.]
Put on parchment paper, then into a loaf pan. Let sit and rise, covered with a towel, for another hour, or until the bread is just above the height of the loaf pan.
Brush liberally with the egg whites, mixed with a tiny bit of water and, if you like, some salt.

Put both in oven and bake in a preheated oven at 350-375 (make sure oven is below 400, though) for 30-32 minutes or so,* until the top is brown. Don’t overbake it! Top should be nice darkish brown, but not even slightly burnt; judge based on your oven, and cook a bit longer if the temperature is lower. [If making one large challah, do at least 32 minutes up to 35, depending on oven temperature.]

Either take out immediately or shut off oven and open door for 5 minutes or so. Let rest in pans for a while, maybe 10 minutes total. Then take out and put on rack to cool.
Take photos and put on Facebook!

Our last baker is – me (Gillian)!

Challah was the first bread that I learned how to make. Making good bread requires an understanding of the texture of a finished dough, and I found that learning this tactile sensation was easiest with Challah. Perhaps it was the generations of Challah baking coursing through my veins? My foolproof recipe comes from the book, Secrets of a Jewish Baker, by George Greenstein. My one tip for all you new Challah bakers: set up wine glasses around your loaves for the second rise, draping your tea towel over the glasses. This helps prevent your towel from sticking to the egg wash.

If you would like to watch a Challah-making video before you embark on your own baking adventure, Keshet is hosting a “Rainbow Challah Baking” class. The class takes place on Thursday, June 11th, at 4pm EDT. RSVP here.

Happy baking!