Ora Nitkin-Kaner shabbaton


Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

We are excited to welcome Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner for a shabbaton July 22-24. The shabbaton will include Friday evening kabbalat shabbat/welcoming shabbat service and potluck, a Saturday morning shabbat Torah service, dessert/Havdallah on Saturday evening, and a Sunday morning study session. Times and locations of all of these opportunities are below.

Lauren Benjamin of the AARC Rabbi search committee writes:

After earning a BA and MA in Religious Studies from the University of Toronto, Rabbi Ora worked as a Resurrection After Exoneration (RAE) Program Manager in New Orleans helping wrongfully convicted and incarcerated men after their release from prison. It was through this work that she decided to pursue rabbinical study with an eye toward social justice and chaplaincy work.

Since enrolling in RRC in 2011, Rabbi Ora has worked as a rabbinic intern and student rabbi for a variety of congregations and has continued to use her experience with incarcerated individuals as a doorway to larger discussions about justice and Tikkun Olam. She is also a certified yoga instructor with an interest healing and bodywork. The rabbi search committee was impressed with her thoughtful responses to questions about Reconstructionist Judaism and spirituality more generally, as well as her empathetic listening skills. Beginning in August, Rabbi Ora will start a yearlong chaplaincy training in New Orleans and will be available as a potential rabbi for AARC in 2017.

Events: RSVP here.

  • 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?

Two ads from this month’s Washtenaw Jewish News

AARC and Food, Land & Justice both had ads in the June/July/Aug. 2016 Washtenaw Jewish News.  Lots to tell the world about!




T’ruah’s new Handbook for Jewish Communities Fighting Mass Incarceration

Jewish Protest Signs

T’ruah has just published a Handbook for Jewish Communities Fighting Mass Incarceration.  I’ve been waiting for months for it to be available–171 pages of facts, figures, stories, strategies, and inspiration for Jewish communities who want to help end American mass incarceration.  There are 2.3 million people behind bars in American jails and prisons tonight–2 million more than when I was born.  Treating people like throwaways tramples on so much of what Judaism teaches; it is inconsistent with recognition of godliness in family, neighbors, and strangers alike.  I’m really happy to have this resource to help communities like ours think about whether we can be part of the opposition.

For each topic the handbook covers–and there are dozens, including Poverty and Mass Incarceration, School to Prison Pipeline, Prison Labor, Solitary Confinement, Barriers to Reentry–it offers statistics and background, relevant Jewish texts, and contemporary accounts.  It includes materials for text study (I’m really proud that one of the study units is based on a d’var torah about Jonah I wrote for AARC’s Yom Kippur service in 2013).  And it has suggestions for Jewish community action.

I was particularly moved by some of the advice the handbook give rabbis:

Here are some of the ways in which we can draw on our Jewish wisdom to help change the narrative:

  • Move the conversation away from “how do we punish” to “how can we facilitate teshuvah?”
  • Break down the false dichotomy between victims and perpetrators; acknowledge that all of us may be both at one point or another in our lives, and that society must protect all of us.
  • Have honest conversations within your communities, in interfaith groups, and in public about race and its impact on incarceration.
  • If you’ve visited congregants or other people in prison, or served as a prison chaplain, talk about these experiences (without sacrificing confidentiality, of course). Help your community see incarcerated individuals as creations b’tzelem Elohim—in the divine image.
  • Talk about the ways in which other societal issues that your community may encounter through your social action work can have an impact on imprisonment, or can be affected by imprisonment.
  • Speak openly about mental illness. This will both make your community feel safer for members living with mental illness or dealing with mentally ill family members, and will also allow for conversations about the relationship between mental illness and incarceration.
  • Offer a prophetic vision of what could be. Don’t let people wallow in despair—show a vision of how we can move forward.

I’ve been struggling, a little bit, with how to join up my own personal commitment to criminal justice reform with my Jewishness. I feel better equipped now that I’ve read this handbook, so I wanted to share it with my community.

Thoughts on Beit Sefer, and delicious challah recipe

By Leila Bagenstos

challahThis year, I helped Morah Sharon Alvandi with the Beit Sefer G’dolim class. The class had eight kids, ages 10-12. We did a lot of things over the year: learning about Jewish communal responsibilities and communities around the world, improving Hebrew skills, and mastering the core Shabbat morning prayers.

The kids worked really hard to learn about the Shabbat service’s structure and prayers, and yesterday, they led the central part of the AARC’s Second Saturday service.  The afternoon before, we gathered to bake for the kiddush that followed the service. We made brownies and cupcakes, and I showed the kids how to bake challah.

Here’s the recipe:


  • 4 (.25 ounce) packages quick-rise yeast
  • 4 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 tablespoons salt
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 cup pareve margarine (but I use butter instead), melted
  • 5 eggs
  • 12 cups bread flour, or as needed
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup sesame seeds (but I don’t use these)
  • Prep time: 40 minutes / Cook time: 30 minutes  / Ready in 2 hours, 40 minutes

  • NOTE:  I usually only make half of this recipe.  It makes 4 loaves.  if you make half, you can still make 2 loaves.
  1. Sprinkle the yeast over the water in a large bowl, and stir gently to moisten the yeast. Stir in salt, sugar, margarine [but I use butter], and 4 eggs, and beat well. Gradually mix in the flour, 1 cup at a time, up to 12 cups, until the dough becomes slightly tacky but not wet. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic, 8 to 10 minutes.
  2. Grease baking sheets, or line them with parchment paper and set aside.
  3. Cut the bread dough into 4 equal-sized pieces [I make a half recipe and make only two loaves]. Cut each piece into thirds for 3-strand braided loaves. Working on a floured surface, roll the small dough pieces into ropes about the thickness of your thumb and about 12 inches long. Ropes should be fatter in the middle and thinner at the ends. Pinch 3 ropes together at the top and braid them. Starting with the strand to the right, move it to the left over the middle strand (that strand becomes the new middle strand.) Take the strand farthest to the left, and move it over the new middle strand. Continue braiding, alternating sides each time, until the loaf is braided, and pinch the ends together and fold them underneath for a neat look. Repeat for the remaining loaves.
  4. Place the loaves onto the prepared baking sheets, and let rise until double in size, 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
  5. Preheat an oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Whisk 1 egg with vanilla extract in a small bowl, and brush the loaves with the egg wash. Sprinkle each loaf with about 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds. [I skip the sesame seeds]
  6. Bake in the preheated oven until the tops are shiny and golden brown, about 30 minutes. [I’ve found this is actually closer to 25 minutes.] Let cool before serving.


AARC Seder, 5776


From Allison Stupka and Harry Fried

Moses said to Pharaoh, “Let my people go”….. to the AARC 3rd Day of Passover Seder Potluck!!!! And Moses should know, after all he had a burning desire to make this day happen.

Attending our family-friendly Seder on Sunday, April 24, at  4:30pm at the JCC (should end at about 7:30 pm) is nowhere near as difficult as hardening Pharaoh’s heart or parting the Red Sea. In fact, it’s easy.

Just click on this link to our sign-up page and sign up; all the pieces we need are there. Even Pharaoh couldn’t stop you, and that’s saying a lot.

Allison and I have been organizing AARC’s seders, with others, for at least the past eight years. This year is going to be even better since we get to recline in the JCC’s lounges, rather than on our (beloved but acoustically challenging) basketball court!

We look forward to seeing everyone and celebrating this most important and enjoyable service.

Want to help plan?  What is your vision for the AARC Seder? Special food? Special songs? Something else? Please email us to help put together our communal celebration.

Passover has many different interpretations. Even if you’re not helping plan, what does Passover mean to you? Do you have special memories about this holiday? If you want to, please bring a poem, a short written thought, a picture or a special song or food to share with the group. Let’s make this celebration communal and intellectually stimulating! Please email us with any questions if you feel the need to run an idea by someone before the Seder.

Beit Sefer Kids at Seder 2013

Come see a sofer at work, fixing our Torah

AARC’s Torah is old and much-loved. In fact, it seems to be over 200 years old. In recent years, it’s gotten a bit unstable; there are a number of tears in the scroll, and the stitching at the edges is coming unraveled.  Hagba–the display of the Torah to the Congregation, after it is read–has gotten a little too exciting.

So we’re pleased to say that Rabbi Moshe Druin, of Sofer On Site, will be visiting us on Tuesday, March 29, to fix all the stitching/tears.  He’ll work at the JCC, and you’re invited to come and watch.  Kids and adults–come by at 2:30 or 3.  Sofer on Site frequently does community events for Torah restorations.

Also, if you are able to be there for a bit and take some pictures, please let me know (email me at margo.schlanger@gmail.com).

Shabbat on the farm

Shabbat on the farm

The Just City/Mincha/Farewell to Rabbi Michael

Michael Strassfeld photo

Rabbi Michael Strassfeld

March 25 to 26 is our year’s last Shabbaton with Rabbi Michael Strassfeld, who has visited us from New York and led terrific services and events.  He and we will be busy this last weekend:  Our Fourth Friday March 25 will be our community’s Purim celebration–Megillah reading, dinner theatre, shtick, etc.  More details here and here.  Please join us!


For March 26, we’ll focus on Shabbat.  At 3 pm, Rabbi Michael will lead text study on the topic of the “Just City.”


The Just City

He writes:  “What makes for a ‘just city’ according to Jewish tradition?  What is the overall responsibility of its citizens to those who are in need? Is there a limit to that responsibility? How do you balance legitimate self-interest with helping the poor? How do you navigate endless needs and issues of fraud? What institutions are necessary for a just city? We will look at rabbinical and biblical texts to help us explore these questions.”

And we’ll conclude with a Mincha service at 4 pm (sharp — it’s a short service), followed by seudah shlishit (shabbat snack).  Rabbi Michael, Erica Ackerman, and Debbie Zivan will read Torah.  All are welcome, at the JCC.  PLEASE RSVP, here. (We need to make minyan, and estimate food.)

Please join us for this discussion, and to say farewell to Rabbi Michael and thank him for his time with us.

Rabbi-Candidate Shabbaton

Shelley Goldman

Shelley Goldman

We are happy to welcome rabbi-candidate Shelley Goldman for a Shabbaton on March 11-13 — this coming weekend!

This is an excellent opportunity to get to know Shelley better and to show her, and her partner Kieran Kiley, all that our community has to offer.  Non-members are very welcome, but we particularly urge members to come to at least one event.

There are five open-to-all events scheduled for the weekend. In order to facilitate planning and set up, we ask that you RSVP to let us know which of these events you will attend. The link is here.  In fact, if you’re an AARC member, there’s a column in the RSVP to let us know you’re not coming to anything. 

1. Friday, 5:45-6:15 pm: Tot Shabbat, with preschoolers and their parents, JCC
2. Friday, 6:30 pm: Kabbalat Shabbat and Potluck, JCC
3. Saturday, 10:00 am – 12 Noon: Shabbat Morning service (with Torah service), JCC
4. Saturday, 7:00 – 8:30 pm: Family-friendly Havdalah with wine & desserts (provided by AARC) at the home of Caroline Richardson and Paul Resnick. (If you don’t have trouble walking, please park in the VA parking lot across the street and 50 yards to the west.)
5. Sunday, 10:30 – 11:30 am: Adult learning session on “Love Your Neighbor As Yourself: The Art of Tochecha (Rebuke),” JCC

Here is what our hard-working rabbinic search committee said about Shelley in their letter of February 12:

“After graduating from Oberlin in 2003, she worked in social justice and community organizing jobs for several years at a number of organizations, including Jews for Racial and Economic Justice and the LGBT Community Center in New York. Since enrolling at RRC in 2010, Shelley has worked as a rabbinic intern and student rabbi at a number of congregations, while continuing to do human rights and organizing work. She also has found time to study the leadership of sacred chant with Rabbi Shefa Gold. In the encounters we have had, and in our conversations with those who have worked with her, we have found Shelley’s combination of activism, intellectualism, and spirituality extremely impressive, and we were taken by her thoughtfulness and maturity.”

This is an exciting time of change for AARC and we need the enthusiastic participation of the whole community to make the weekend a success. We hope that each member will attend at least one of the events; the search committee and Board will be asking for your feedback in the days that follow.


Margo Schlanger and Debbie Field
AARC Board Chairs

Meet our newest member, Patti Smith!

Welcome to AARC’s newest member, Patti Smith!
Patti Smith and Ken Anderson
Here’s what Patti writes about herself:
Since the age of 5, I wanted to live in Ann Arbor. I finally made it happen in my late 20s. I began adult life as a legal aid attorney, but quickly realized that was not going to work out. I switched careers to become a special ed teacher in my mid-30s. I am a late bloomer, but finally settled!
I am married to Ken Anderson, stepmom to two kitty cats (Ali and Cyrus), and we live happily in a very small house near Kerrytown. I am also a writer: I’ve published two local history books, and I write for Concentrate Media and Mittenbrew), and am currently working on selling my YA book. I am involved in the a2Geeks, 826Michigan, the Ann Arbor Film Fest, the Ann Arbor Storytellers’ Guild, the city’s arts commission and recreation advisory commission, and like to do improv and box. I also enjoy hosting dinner parties and recently decided to start hosting salons and be my Gertrude Steinest!
And here’s one of the books.  I think Patti is our new Ann Arbor expert!    Please welcome her when she’s next with us.

Our new yad, in the Washtenaw Jewish News

Renewed thanks to Idelle Hammond-Sass for donating her time and creativity to make AARC’s yad, and to Emily Eisbruch and Clare Kinberg for writing this article in the Washtenaw Jewish News.WJN_Feb-16-web--Yad-article