Online Jewish Resources for Shelter-in-Place

I cannot be the only person who spends way too much time online reading headline after headline about COVID-19. It is exhausting and mentally taxing to contemplate at length something as overwhelming as a global pandemic. In an effort to steer you away from the headlines and closer to an intellectually stimulating diversion, we have compiled a list of interesting Jewish programming available online in the coming weeks. Enjoy!

For Adults:

For Families with Children:

I hope you enjoy this list of resources! A big thanks to Rabbi Ora for her tireless work to gather these resources and be a source of both peace and levity for our community.

Please share any additional resources in the comments section!

Your Virtual Seder Resource!

Passover is quickly approaching; the first night falls on Wednesday, April 8th. And this year, the holiday comes during an extraordinary time.

The central commandment of Passover—retelling the story of the Exodus–asks that we consider ourselves as if we, too, had journeyed from narrowness to openness and from oppression to liberation.

This year, more than any in recent memory, that narrative rings true. We are currently in a narrow place; and, for that very reason, we must take the opportunity to make this year’s holiday one of engagement, connection, and celebration.

In accordance with recent guidelines from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, we urge our community to restrict in-person seders to household members AND open up our seders to connect virtually with loved ones near and far.

***

Below, you’ll find articles, classes, videos, and links to help you prepare for Passover 2020:

I want to host a seder. How do I plan for that?

Wonderful! If you’d like to try online hosting a seder this year, there are resources available to help you plan (see below).

While you’re planning your seder, please consider the holy mitzvah of welcoming others to your virtual table: Sign up here if you’re able to open your seder to members of our community.

I want to be hosted. How do I find a virtual seder to attend?

  1. Be on the lookout for an email later this week that will allow you to sign up to attend AARC members’ online seders.
  2. Sign up in advance to join Jewish Women International’s Virtual Seder on Thursday, April 9 at 8 pm EDT.
  3. Havaya (Reconstructing Judaism’s summer camp) is hosting a one-hour Virtual Family Seder on Thursday, April 9 at 7 pm EDT; sign up here to register.
  4. Join the Haggadot.com team, journalist Esther Kustanowitz, and other special guests for an everyone-welcome, fifth ‘night’ Virtual Seder on Sunday, April 12 at 2 pm EDT (join via Zoom or Facebook livestream).

How do I plan my own virtual seder?

  • Alma.com has a fantastically comprehensive guide for putting together a collaborative, meaningful seder — even when the guests are physically far away.
  • Watch the video ‘The Art of Virtually Gathering: Passover 2020.’
  • Attend a free online class this Thursday April 2 on ‘Practical Pesach Seder Ideas and Suggestions in Response to Corona’ (you’ll need to register in advance).
  • From OneTable, myriad resources for Passover 2020, including a Solo Seder Guide, Passover Recipe Guide, Passover Playlist, and links to a curated selection of haggadot.

Which haggadot should I use?

….And consider these of-the-moment additions:

How do I plan a kid-friendly seder?

  • AARC member Carol Levin has generously made her delightful Haggadah Regatta into a PDF for anyone to use.
  • Check out Reform Judaism’s many family-friendly Passover resources, including crafts, coloring pages, fun quizzes, 8 great haggadot for young people, a chocolate seder (!), and model seders for kids of all ages.

How do I prepare my home for Passover?

How do I spiritually prepare for Passover?

  • Attend a free online class next Monday April 6, ‘Soulful Passover Preparation’ (you’ll need to register in advance).
  • Explore some of the articles in this Passover 2020 reader from Uri Le’Tzedek.

Blessings for healthy, joyful, and connected zman cheruteinu (season of our liberation),

Rabbi Ora

Purim Fun 2020

AARC experienced a long weekend of Purim fun!

Beit Sefer students began their celebration with a collaborative Purim party with the Jewish Cultural Society. The children enjoyed Purim-themed games and crafts, savored delicious snacks, and created Mishloach Manot for those in need in our community. It was a joy to celebrate with new friends from JCS; we look forward to further collaborations!

Alan Haber displays his Megillah housing.

The fun continued Monday evening with the rest of the congregation, beginning with a Megillah reading and ending with a dessert potluck. This year’s theme was “Make Some Noise!” After a parade to display the many creative costumes, members shared stories of when they had “spoken truth to power,” during a Moth-style improv storytelling exercise.

Many thanks to the Festival Committee for their hard work in putting together this evening’s events.

Ringmaster Rabbi!
Drake reads the Megillah.

Bring a Friend Shabbat!

AARC hosts ‘Bring a Friend’ Shabbat on March 27th at the JCC of Ann Arbor.

Being together in holy community is an integral part of Judaism. The community, or kehilla, is the crucial element that has sustained us as a people over years of diaspora. It is such an important part of our religious practice, that we are not even allowed to study Torah without a minyan, or ten people of the community.

AARC is blessed with a warm, loving, and intellectually vibrant membership. Nothing beats welcoming Shabbat in a room filled with friendship, prayer, and joyful song!

Your friends and acquaintances might well be waiting for an opportunity to explore a congregation like ours. ‘Bring a Friend’ Shabbat provides an event just for them. They may feel more comfortable knowing there will be others there who are unfamiliar with the congregation attending along with them. Or perhaps you have been talking to a friend about AARC, but haven’t found the opportunity to bring them to services – this is your chance!

Members will benefit from meeting one another’s friends from outside AARC. We may in fact discover that even more connections within the Ann Arbor Jewish world than we imagine!

I look forward to seeing everyone and their new friends and loved ones on March 27th at the JCC of Ann Arbor. If your friends have young ones, please encourage them to attend Tot Shabbat at 5:45pm. Regular Shabbat services will begin at 6:30pm, followed by our usual potluck. (It wouldn’t be a bad idea to double our recipes for this potluck!)

Get Ready for Purim 2020: Make Some Noise!

Written by: Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

Purim is a story of revolution and social transformation. The megillah recounts how two Jews worked within an oppressive system to allow victims of persecution to rise up, defend themselves, and claim their rights.

One of these Jews was called Esther; the other was Mordechai. Both of them were inspiring (and not-uncomplicated) ancient radicals. 

So who are our modern-day Esthers and Mordechais? 

On Monday, March 9 at 7 pm, we’ll celebrate Purim 2020: Make Some Noise. In addition to megillah-reading, noshing, laughing, and noise-making, we’re planning a Moth-style storytelling moment, and asking YOU to tell us a (1-minute) tale of when YOU took a stand, made some noise, got the attention of people in power, or nudged a community one step closer to justice. 

Give us a forshbeis (a nibble/appetizer) of your story in the comments below! 

***

Looking forward to celebrating Purim 2020: Make Some Noise with AARC? We’re looking forward to celebrating with YOU! Sign up here to read a chapter of the megillah in English, bring hamantaschen, or contribute to our dessert potluck.

How else can you prepare for Purim 2020: Make Some Noise?

  • learn more about Purim-as-revolution
  • prepare a costume on the themes of Speaking Truth to Power, Which Jew Are You, or Big-Topsy-Turvy 
  • craft your most creative noisemaker
  • start thinking of yourself as your own personal Purim hero!

Beit Sefer Celebrates Tu BiShvat at the Botanical Gardens

Beit Sefer spent last Sunday morning enjoying the Matthaei Botanical Gardens. AARC member Drake Meadow led the group on an informative tour. Students learned about many of the beautiful and bountiful plants at the Botanical Gardens. Drake described three categories of fruits that feature in Jewish lore: Beriah (fruits with soft cores), Yetzirah (fruits with a pit) , and Asiyah (fruits enclosed in an inedible shell). The students enjoyed categorizing the different fruits they found around the gardens.

After the tour, families gathered to eat a special Tu BiShvat snack of trail mix, fruit, and hot cocoa, accompanied by Jewish folktales told by Clare Kinberg and Drake.

What a lovely way to celebrate the “birthday of the trees,” with both fun and learning! If you know of a family that might like to participate in similar events with our lively Beit Sefer program, please direct them to our website.

Please enjoy the photos below!

“Jews Wandering In The Desert.” Photo credit: Fred Feinberg.
Drake teaches AARC students and families about the edible plants at the Botanical Gardens. Photo Credit: Clare Pritchard.
Marcy adds some interesting tidbits of knowledge to Drake’s tour! Photo Credit: Clare Pritchard.
Drake shares a story about using the low view when making plans for environmental sustainability.
Clare shares Jewish folktales with Beit Sefer students during a special Tu BiShvat snacktime.

AARC Attends “Stop The Bleed, Save A Life” Training

Most of us do not expect to encounter a situation in which we will be required to provide care a life-threatening injury. Yet these injuries, although rare, can occur anywhere– including places where medical help may not be quickly accessible.

To bridge this gap, several AARC members attended a “Stop The Bleed, Save A Life” training last week offered by St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor in conjunction with the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor and the Community Security Committee. The training was developed by the American College of Surgeons together with a coalition of medical groups following the Sandy Hook and Boston Marathon shootings, with the goal of educating civilians on rapid response to blood loss.

Uncontrolled bleeding is the number one cause of preventable death from trauma. An injured person may experience life-threatening blood loss before an ambulance is able to arrive. If a bystander is able to stop or even slow the flow of blood before the ambulance arrives, the victim’s life may be saved.

The training went over the ABCs of bleeding trauma care: Alert 911. Find the Bleeding. Compress the injury. Using an artificial arm made of foam, we learned various methods of compression, such as wound packing (shown below), applying a tourniquet (shown above), and applying pressure on top of the wound.

AARC keeps a wound care emergency kit supplied by Safety Liaison Dave Nelson in the welcome table supply basket. It contains all the supplies we would need to provide Stop the Bleed care.

Now that a few additional members of our congregation are educated in the best methods to control bleeding in a life-threatening situation, we can take pride in having learned another way to take care of one another. While we cannot be prepared for every eventuality, this training constitutes a good start. The Federation and the Community Safety Committee hope to organize further trainings on related topics.

For more information on “Stop the Bleed, Save A Life” trainings, please visit stopthebleed.org.

Participants from the AARC and the JCC practicing wound packing.

Tu B’ishvat 2020: Let’s Take Stock of Our Environment

The function of Tu B’ishvat in the ancient world was to mark the season of taxation and accounting: farmers would count their olive trees in order to measure their wealth and then tithe accordingly. In modern times, Tu B’ishvat has been reimagined as an environmental holiday during which we celebrate nature and all that it provides.

This weekend, the sun emerged to remind us that the short days of winter are limited and spring is on the horizon. Eager gardeners are readying their seed trays and surveying their gardens. Hikers and runners are reacquainting themselves with favorite trails. Nature appreciators of all kinds are looking forward to reveling in the joys of spring. So often we partake of nature’s gifts without taking time to give thanks for the fragile ecosystem that grants us life.

Now, in 2020, the connection between our collective actions and the state of our environment is at a critical point. Tu B’ishvat’s origins as a reminder to account for our use of nature are strikingly relevant. How can we now make use of our natural resources while still maintaining accountability? Can we find ways in our lives and communities to counteract the measures of our policymakers that are hostile to our environment?

In this year’s celebration of Tu B’ishvat, let us reflect on the current state of our environment and find ways to make positive change for our communities. Do you have any ideas for environmental work? Please share them below!

Introducing A Taste of Talmud: When Life Meets Prayer

Perhaps even more than the Torah, the Talmud can be thought of as the quintessential Jewish text. Why? Because it’s full of everything that makes Jews Jewish: love of debate, intellectual curiosity, storytelling, humor, and the search for new meaning in inherited text and tradition.

The complete Talmud (in Aramaic) comprises over 2,700 pages of conversation, law, legend, and history. If you’ve never studied directly from a page of Talmud before, it can seem daunting. But AARC’s upcoming course ‘A Taste of Talmud: When Life Meets Prayer’ is here to help you get curious and comfortable through a 5-week immersion in Talmud text. 

We’ll be study directly from the Babylonian Talmud’s tractate Berachot, a rich conversation on the power of prayer, how and why we pray, and what happens when life meets prayer.

This course will take place on Sundays, 1:00-2:30 pm, beginning February 9, 2020. 

** Please note: The first session is an introduction and will be held in the Temple Beth Emeth library. The remaining 4 sessions will be at the Ann Arbor JCC.

Course Schedule: Sundays, 1-2:30 pm

February 9: The ABCs of Talmud Study: By the end of this introductory session, you can expect to be able to define and identify terms like Mishnah, Talmud, midrash, aggadah, masechet, sugya, daf, and gemara, as well as know how to navigate a page of Talmud. (TBE library)

Note: No meeting on February 16

February 23: Berachot Chapter 5: Who should be our model for prayer? Should we follow the model of a heartbroken wife? A repentant philanderer? Who is the ideal pray-er? And how does emotion influence prayer? (JCC)

March 1: Berachot Chapter 5 continued: How should we pray? Should we use our bodies in prayer? What if our bodies are praying ‘right’ but our minds are distracted? (JCC)

March 8: Berachot Chapter 9: What can we pray for? Can you ask God for something frivolous? Can you pray to avert harm? Do you have to pray even if you’re angry at God or frustrated at life?

March 15: Berachot Chapter 9 continued: Who do we pray for? Do we pray for ourselves? For our loved ones? For strangers? Can prayer ever be selfish or unwelcome?

Questions:

Q: Do I need to know Hebrew or Aramaic to participate?

A: No! We’ll be using the Steinsaltz English translation of the original Aramaic.

Q: What if I can’t make every session?

A: The learning will be cumulative, so while the ideal would be to attend every session, drop-ins are welcome.

Q: Do I need to bring any texts to class?

A: Just a notebook in case you want to write anything down. All texts will be provided.

Upcoming Kid, Teen, and Family Events Happening around Jewish Ann Arbor!

This winter and spring around Jewish Ann Arbor are filled with meaningful family events. Take a look these upcoming programs — we hope to see you there!

LGBTQ and Ally Teen Shabbaton with Keshet

Keshet, a Jewish non-profit that advocates for LGBTQ equality, will host the Midwest/Mountain Area LGBTQ and Ally Teen Shabbaton in Detroit this year! This event brings together LGBTQ teens from around the Midwest and Rocky Mountain area to celebrate Shabbat together and “explore the intersections of our Jewish and LGBTQ identities.” Keshet hosted the LGBTQ advocacy training that members of our congregation attended in the Fall. AARC is involved in a year long leadership program to make our congregation more welcoming to the LGBTQ community. For a refresher on this important work, see this blog post from last December.

Talking to Children About Race with Bend the Arc Ann Arbor

Bend the Arc Ann Arbor will host an event aimed at engaging Jewish children in conversations about race. The goal of this workshop is to learn about raising children who are empowered to act against racism. For details on this event, visit Bend The Arc’s Facebook page.

Yiddish Book Center’s Summer Learning Programs

The Yiddish Book Center in Amherst, Massachusetts will host various learning programs focused on Yiddish literature for high school students, college students, and young adults. Most programs take place on the campus of the Yiddish Book Center in Massachusetts. Scholarships are available!

Foundations of Jewish Family Living Series

The PJ Library and the Ann Arbor Orthodox Minyan will host a year-long series beginning in February to explore Jewish family values across all Jewish denominations. This monhly series will be hosted by the JCC of Ann Arbor. The cost is $50 for the entire series. For more info, visit the Melton School’s website.