Selichot 2018, Sept 1

Even the days of ‎Selichot before Rosh HaShanah are not days of judgment – just the opposite, they are days of ‎mercy and desire, the last set of forty days when Moshe Rabbeinu was on the mountain and the ‎Holy One showed him favour. It is only on Rosh HaShanah that the judgment begins… Moreover, ‎the Ten Days of Repentance are not called “days of judgment”. Just the opposite, they are days of ‎mercy, during which Hashem avails Godself to every individual. Only Rosh HaShanah and Yom ‎Kippur are “days of judgment”…Nodah B’Yehuda I Orach Chaim 32:3

The Jewish calendar gives us many opportunities to get ready for the new year. Reciting Psalm 27, a declaration of faith, each day of Elul is one practice. Another practice is reciting special prayers on the Saturday evening before Rosh Hashana, known as Selichot.

If Rosh Hashana feels like it’s fast approaching and you’d like to slow down and begin turning towards the new year, come to AARC’s second annual Selichot Service on Saturday September 1; we’ll celebrate Havdallah together and then learn some new tunes to carry us into the High Holiday season.

Selichot Service  Saturday, September 1
8pm
each bring a candle (we’ll have extras if you forget)
 Touchstone Common House
(yellow building at the front right behind the Touchstone sign)
 560 Little Lake Drive (off Jackson Rd between Wagner and Zeeb)
please park on the street
The full schedule of AARC High Holiday services is here.

Welcome new members Gillian, Alex, Wesley and Wade Jackson

We are so glad to be new members of AARC! We are a family of four: Myself (Gillian), my husband Alex, our 5-year-old Wesley, and our 3-year-old Wade.

We recently relocated to Chelsea from Asheville, NC. We wanted to be closer to family and soon after setting that intention, Alex found his dream job doing sustainable architecture in Ann Arbor. Before living in NC, Alex and I both did undergrad at U of M and Alex got his Masters of Architecture at U of Oregon. Before becoming a stay at home mom, I worked as a medical assistant.

As a family we enjoy gardening, canoeing, hiking, spending time with friends/family, cooking and general adventuring. Wes is starting kindergarten this year and Wade is starting preschool. Wes will also start his second year of Beit Sefer this fall.

I was delighted to find AARC last year during the high holidays. I was raised Reform but hadn’t found a synagogue I resonated with personally until now. I appreciate how the Reconstructionist tradition upholds our culture and traditions with a more humanist and naturalist tilt. I spent a lot of time in Hebrew school as a kid and it was an important part of my identity. I’m glad to be back in the fold and to share it with my own family. I’ve enjoyed everyone I’ve gotten to know over the year and look forward to years to come!

AARC Beit Sefer/Religious School 2018: Building Bridges

Rabbi Ora singing with the Beit Sefer

Enrollment is open for the 2018-2019 AARC Beit Sefer/Religious School year! On this page you will find links to both the enrollment form and the tuition form. Teachers Aaron Jackson, Shlomit Cohen and Beit Sefer Director Clare Kinberg are looking forward to a great year of building bridges. In fact, that will be our theme for the year: Livnot Gesher/Building Bridges. Bridges to our better selves, bridges to new friends, to our diverse communities, and to other faith communities.

We hope to see everyone (and any friends you have who may be thinking of joining the congregation or enrolling in Beit Sefer) at our

Annual Congregation Picnic and BBQ
August 26th, 2018
Noon to 3pm
Lillie Park North Shelter (closest to Ellsworth)

Members and Beit Sefer families, you can sign up to help with the picnic here.

The fall offers many opportunities for new families to connect with AARC and our Beit Sefer. In addition to to the picnic, we will again be having children’s services during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The first day of Beit Sefer will be September 16 at the JCC. That’s right in between Rosh Hashanah (erev RH is Sept 9) and Yom Kippur. The next weekend we’ll be building our sukkah at the Farm on Jennings as we do every year, but this year we are trying something new! We’ll build the sukkah on Saturday afternoon and stay for an optional sleep over! Please contact Clare Kinberg (ckinberg@gmail.com) or Beit Sefer Committee chair Stacy Dieve (stacyweinberg@gmail.com) with any questions, suggestions of potential new students, or with offers to help with the picnic and sukkah building/sleep over.

 

#MoralEmergency

On July 2, 2018 in La Opinión, the largest Spanish-language newspaper in the United States, Bend the Arc published a translation of the Declaration of a State of Moral Emergency, signed by over 200 Jewish organizations and more than 18,000 American Jews in response to the Trump administration’s separation and detention of immigrant families.  Reconstructing Judaism, the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and many Reconstructionist congregations are among the signers. Here is a link to a pdf of the full-page ad.

For more ways to get involved with other local Jews organizing to serve our immigrant neighbors threatened with deportation, see the blog and website “We Were Strangers MI.”

 

To this country, in whose promise we still believe, to the millions of people who are outraged and horrified, and especially to the thousands of children who have been separated from their families, we declare our nation to be in a state of moral emergency.

This Administration has established border policies unprecedented in their scope and cruelty, that are inflicting physical, mental, and emotional harm on immigrants and punishing those seeking refuge at our borders.

We are anguished by the stories and images of desperate parents torn from their babies and detention facilities packed with children. We shudder with the knowledge that these inhumane policies are committed in our name, and we lift our voices in protest.

The Jewish community, like many others, knows all too well what it looks like for a government to criminalize the most vulnerable, to lie and obfuscate to justify grossly immoral practices under the banner of “the law,” to interpret holy scripture as a cover for human cruelty, to normalize what can never be made normal. We have seen this before.

When crying children are taken from their parents’ arms, the American Jewish community must not remain silent.

To those who are targeted by these cruel policies, know that the Jewish community hears your cries. We will take risks to support you, and we will demand that our nation’s leaders take action. We will not abide the claim that people didn’t know or understand the extent of your suffering; we will not allow your torment to be in vain.

Our government can persist in this inhumane behavior only if good people remain silent.

And so we declare a state of moral emergency, and we rise to meet this moment. Even as our democratic institutions are under duress, we raise our voices and take decisive action. United by the wisdom of our tradition, we stand with immigrants, refugees and asylum-seekers, with the children, and with their parents. We declare: Not here. Not now. Not in our name.

Letter from Lillie Schneyer

Mark, Jacob and Lillie Schneyer, Debbie Field looking proud at Lillie graduation from Carleton, June 2018.

In June 2018, Lillie Schneyer, daughter of AARC board president Debbie Field and Mark Schneyer, graduated from Carleton College, with majors in sociology and anthropology. Next, she’ll be following in the footsteps of Rabbi Alana, Rabbi Ora, and Molly Kraus-Steinmetz by spending the year doing social justice work through Avodah. Lillie is raising money to support that work, here is a link to her fundraiser!
Below is Lillie’s letter to our AARC community.

Hello, family and friends!

If you know me at all, you know that I like to be useful, try to be a positive force in my community, and, like most people, I am a little unsure of what I want to do with my life. Searching for a job for after college was initially overwhelming; it’s a big world, and I could do so many things. When I found Avodah, it was clearly a perfect fit. Through Avodah’s Jewish Service Corps program, I was matched with a supportive community, an organization that helps people, and a job that will allow me to be useful and learn more about the world.

Thanks to Avodah’s job matching program, I will spend the next year working as a volunteer coordinator at Cabrini Green Legal Aid (CGLA) in Chicago. CGLA serves people who have been negatively impacted by the criminal justice system. By helping with expungement and record sealing petitions, other legal services, and partnering with social service organizations, CGLA helps its clients overcome barriers related to their arrests and convictions as they build better lives. As the volunteer coordinator, I’m excited to bring my energy and organizational skills to help make this work possible.

Avodah is making this all happen for me, and I am especially thrilled about the opportunity to live with other young Jewish adults doing similar social justice work. Through the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, I have been lucky to grow up with a Jewish community full of learning and friendship. I hope that next year, the Avodah community will help me discover what being a Jewish adult might look like for me, and and I look forward to the support, challenges, and new friends that it will bring

I am so excited for this unique opportunity, and your support for this campaign would mean a lot as I work to raise $1500 before I leave for Chicago in August. Whatever you feel comfortable donating will be much appreciated, and please reach out to me if you have any questions or want to know more. Thank you for your time!

Us, God and Challah

touching the challah

“Everyone touch someone who is touching the challah!”

by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

It’s hard for me to resist an easy pun, so when I decided to teach a Shavuot session on challah and how this seemingly innocuous bread is rooted in a fraught relationship between the Jewish people and God, I couldn’t help myself; I named the session, “A Long and ‘Twisted’ Relationship: Us, God, and Challah.”

We began our tikkun leil session by each sharing a memory of challah from our childhoods. We then asked and attempted to answer the question: Why do we eat challah on Shabbat?

Looking through Numbers 15 (click here to access the entire source sheet/study guide), we learned that the mitzvah of challah comes from a commandment in the Torah to set aside a loaf of bread for God “as a gift.” And why 2 gift-loaves, and not just one? Because as the Israelites wandered in the desert, God “rained down bread” for them from the sky – aka manna – and on Fridays, two portions of manna fell, so that the Israelites would not have to gather food on Shabbat.

As we read through the manna story, it became clear that manna was 1. Given by God quite begrudgingly, and 2. That the Israelites mistrusted that God would continuously and consistently provide them with food. The episode of the manna quickly became a test of Israelite faith; the Israelites were ordered by Moses to gather only as much manna as they could eat each day; any manna stored for the following day would rot and become infested with maggots.

The rabbis of the Mishnaic and Talmudic eras had a field day with this enmeshed relationship as the Israelites sought safety and comfort in sustenance and God used food to teach them a lesson. The rabbis considered a variety of lenses through which to understand the relationship:

Rabbi Tarfon imagined God gently extending a hand each morning to deliver the manna like dew, and he imagined that at the same time, God collected Israelite prayers and returned with them to heaven.

Rabbi Shimon wondered why the manna didn’t simply descend once a year, and suggested alternately that 1. God wanted closeness with the Israelites, and thought that their reliance on daily deliveries of manna would reinforce the bond; 2. God wanted to reassure the hungry Israelites that they would consistently be provided for; or 3. God didn’t want to burden the Israelites by making them carry a year’s worth of manna as they trekked through the desert.

So: what are your earliest memories of biting into this sweet and complicated bread? How does challah keep you anchored to God, your ancestors, or tradition?

Zander McLane Bar Mitzvah dvar: Shelach

Shabbat shalom! My Torah portion is Shelach. At the beginning of Shelach, all the Israelites are in the desert near Canaan when God tells Moses to send twelve spies, one from each of the twelve tribes, to go check out Canaan. Moses sends the spies to the hill country so that they can come back and tell the people what kind of land it is, and he also tells them to bring back ripe grapes to show what kinds of fruits grow in Canaan.

When the spies get there, they look around the country and eventually find grapes so big that they need two people and a frame of wood to carry the grapes.

After forty days in Canaan, the twelve spies come back to the Israelites and report their findings. Ten of the spies end up telling the community that the people of Canaan are giants, and will kill everybody. Thus the community goes into terror. The whole community shouts and cries, saying that that they would rather go back to Egypt and be slaves again because it is better to be a slave than to fall to the sword.

When God hears this, God gets mad. God says to Moses that God is going to strike the Israelites down because they don’t have faith in God, and will make a nation more numerous than the Israelites to replace them.

Moses begs God not to destroy the Israelites and, while God and Moses are talking, the people sneak away. (Just kidding!) What actually happens is that Moses begs for God’s mercy for the Israelites and, because of Moses, God changes their punishment. Rather than being killed, God decides that the unfaithful Israelites will wander the wilderness for forty years, one year for each day the spies scouted the land, and their children will wander until the last of their carcasses drop.

And then there’s some boring and important stuff about offerings… But who cares about that! Moving on.

As I was reading through my Torah portion, the question I was most curious about was why there were twelve spies, exactly. In my Haftorah portion, forty years after the events I just described, Joshua sends two new spies (these ones do a slightly better job) to Jericho, the city they want to conquer. In the first few minutes of being in Jericho they get caught, and hide in a woman’s house. The woman is named Rahab and she is awesome, because when the king’s men see the spies go into her house she lies to the king’s men and says they’re not there. This allows the spies to escape out her window. In return for this great deed the spies tie a red cord on her window so when the Israelite army comes back to attack the city, they make sure not to kill anyone in her house.

As you can see, in my Haftorah, there are only two spies; but in my Torah portion, there are twelve. Why this discrepancy in numbers, when in both cases there are spies being sent to check out the land they want to conquer? How did they decide who to send as spies, and how many?

Now, I’m gonna pull a Rashi here. Rashi was a medieval French rabbi and you could say he had the catchphrase, “what’s bugging Rashi?” because he would be bugged by practical details of what was happening in Torah stories and interpret them. So instead of what’s bugging Rashi, “what’s bugging Zander?” When I came up with this joke, I thought it was funny that my and Rashi’s Hebrew names are both Shlomo.

So what’s bugging me is this question: why was it important to send exactly these twelve people in Shelach to scout out the Land of Israel?

To get some things straight, these people were not the best spies of the Israelites. These people were the sons of the chiefs of the twelve tribes. So why send these people, and not, like, actual trained spies?

My answer to this is, maybe these sons of the chiefs were seen to be trustworthy people by all the tribes, and when they would report back to their own tribe, their tribe would trust their report. Also, maybe, the thought process was that the more people you send, the harder it is for lies to get through. Just see how that went down! Because in factuality ten lied and two didn’t (Joshua and Caleb, the people who called out the liars).

Also, wouldn’t having one spy from each of the different tribes potentially lead to conflict? At the very least, if each spy was from a different tribe, they’d probably have different customs, and each do things differently. This might cause a lot of disagreement within the group.

On the other hand, there would be a couple advantages to sending spies from different tribes; they probably wouldn’t know each other that well, so they wouldn’t have any dirt on each other, and wouldn’t be able to manipulate each other. Another advantage of sending one spy from each Israelite tribe is that they would be a very diverse group, with a diverse skill set. They could each weigh in to get the best possible solution to any problem that could come up as they were traveling.

As you can see there could have been advantages and disadvantages to sending these twelve spies. But what actually happened was that their spying was a complete disaster — ten lied and two told the truth, and the Israelites were almost destroyed!

So: Whose idea was it to send out twelve spies in the first place then? If we look back at my Torah portion, it says in Numbers chapter 13, verse 1: “And God spoke to Moses, saying, ‘Send men to scout the land of Canaan, which I am giving to the Israelite people; send one man from each of their ancestral tribes, each one a chieftain among them.’”

So it seems as though God told Moses to send one spy from each tribe. But Ibn Ezra (who was a Spanish Rabbi dude, which is interesting that the two rabbis I have talked about were both from the middle ages, and were from countries that were rivals at certain points in history) — Ibn Ezra says that when it’s written in the Torah “Send forth,” that what actually happened was first God said to the Israelites “Go and conquer.” Then the Israelites said to themselves: “Let’s send people first.” And only after this, God said: “Send forth men.”

According to Ibn Ezra, then, the Israelites were the ones who wanted the reassurance of spies — it wasn’t something that God thought should happen in the first place. It was more like God was saying, “fine, you can have that” — like God was bitter.

All in all, I have to say, that sending twelve spies wasn’t the best idea that the Israelites had. It made God mad, plus it seems like the Israelites were not the sharpest knives in the drawer, because they chose such bad spies! And because those ancient Israelites were so gullible, if Joshua and Caleb had not called out the ten spies that lied, we’d all be Egyptian. So thank goodness that the liars got called out.

A couple lessons I think we can draw from this story is that there’s not always strength in numbers. Also that liars never prosper, meaning that people who lie always can and will be found out eventually.

So kids (and maybe parents too), this is why you don’t lie. There is always some negative unintended effects from lying, cheating, and other non-truthful behaviour, like loss of trust and punishment. As the prophet Jeremiah eloquently states, “The Lord God is truth.” Also, in the Talmud, Pesachim 113b, it is written, “The Holy One, blessed be God, hates a person who says one thing with his mouth and another in his heart.” I know I sounded like a book there, but the point is, Judaism teaches us: don’t lie.

AARC 2018 High School Grads!

This year, six AARC members graduated high school! Mazel tov to the families, and best wishes for each graduate as they head into a new stage of their life.

Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos’ son Harry Bagenstos graduated from Greenhills School with awards in History/Social Science and Debate. Harry will be attending Wesleyan University in the fall. Margo and Sam’s daughter Leila Bagenstos graduated Greenhills with awards in Writing and French and will be attending Bryn Mawr College in the fall.

 

 

 

 

Eli Shoup, son of Sarai Brachman Shoup and David Shoup, is headed to Chicago to attend DePaul University in the fall.

 

 

Max Resnick, Paul Resnick and Caroline Richardson’s son, graduated from Community High School.  He will be going to the University of Michigan in the fall to study economics.  He is a highly ranked Hearthstone player.  For his graduation present he will be traveling to Austin Texas to play in a Hearthstone tournament.

 

 

Saul Vielmetti, son of Deborah Fisch and Edward Vielmetti, graduated from Community High School. He will be attending Eastern next year to study Technical Theater.

 

 

Debbie Zivan and Cheryl Jeffery’s son Brayan Zivan is doing a gap year with Tivnu in Portland. The Tivnu Gap Year is nine months of hands-on Jewish social justice engagement. Participants create a community living together, discovering the Pacific Northwest, and exploring the bond between Jewish life and social justice while working with Portland’s cutting-edge grassroots organizations.

 

 

 

 

A letter from Anita about the Poor People’s Campaign

Dear AARC,

Yesterday I participated in the fifth week of rallies and actions with the Poor People’s Campaign. An effort initiated long ago by Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., it has been re-awakened  by Rev. William Barber, who speaks of it as a national call for a moral revival.

In 30 or more states, in their Capitol cities, protests have been held each week since May 14. The next local rally will be next Monday, June 18, this time in Detroit, and then on the 25th there will be a national protest in D.C.  Each week has had a theme and a related action of civil disobedience.

You may not have heard about the Poor People’s Campaign and their acts of civil disobedience. Here is a good article about the Poor People’s Campaign, that also answers some of the questions folks are asking about the civil disobedience portion of the campaign and why people were asked to used social media to publicize and promote the demands and goals.

This week’s theme was fair wages and affordable housing. We were joined  in Lansing by a large group from Detroit, D15, fighting for a $15 minimum wage. The civil disobedience took place at the Michigan State Department of Housing Development, where a group called Moratorium Now had a scheduled meeting to try to reverse the decision to use millions of dollars to demolish homes in Detroit and elsewhere instead of helping people in foreclosure.

We were a diverse group racially and age wise. There was a strong clergy presence, and Rabbis Alana Alpert and Ariana Silverman were among them.

Jewish Text Study

EVERYBODY’S GOT A RIGHT TO LIVE: JOBS, INCOME,
THE RIGHT TO ORGANIZE AND HOUSING
by Rabbi Michael Rothbaum

I was trained for the civil disobedience action and volunteered to be one of those to be arrested. There is personal and legal support teams for those who volunteer for an action. The movement is well organized and spirits are kept lifted through chant and song. I am writing this to encourage anyone with the inclination and availability to participate next Monday. The Michigan chapter has a web page and a Facebook page.

The Poor People’s Campaign is worth your attention if you feel called to speak for justice in any of these areas: universal healthcare, LGBT rights, gender equality, fair wages, affordable housing, public education, free higher education, an end to racism etc.

Shalom,

Anita Rubin-Meiller

Belonging in America

By Etta Heisler

I was delighted to dive back into Jewish education at this year’s Shavuot celebration. For five years I worked at the Jewish Women’s Archive writing curricula and supporting Jewish educators as they incorporated contemporary Jewish texts and women’s voices into their work. Upon returning to my roots here in Ann Arbor (and quite literally as a program director at a nature center), I had no idea how much I was missing getting to dissect, share, and explore Jewish texts in this setting.

A quick note: this Shavuot, it was particularly meaningful for me to do some teaching as I continue to mourn the recent death of my Savta, my grandmother Dr. Diane Averbach King. My Savta was a passionate educator and respected scholar, in addition to being a doting and committed grandparent. While much of her work focused on Hebrew and Israel education, she is one of the few people I could always call to talk through ideas, struggles, or interesting new sources. I greatly appreciate the AARC community for inviting me to participate in this way–I cannot say enough how meaningful it was to connect with her memory at this time.

In my session, we explored our own experiences belonging–or not–in Jewish community before diving into four non-traditional “Jewish texts” that depict Jewish life in America: a photograph, a page from a newsletter, an excerpt of letter from a daughter to her parents, and a screen shot of a social media post. I have included the text study packet via Google Drive–feel free to use it or share it, just make sure you give credit where credit is due!

Thinking about the current political state of our country, and of the Jewish community both in the US and globally, there were several ideas that rose to the front of my mind as I looked through sources on jwa.org for this session:

  1. What is the relationship between personal identity and community identity?
  2. What makes, or who defines, a community?
  3. How does one know if one is “in” or “out” of a given community? In other words, how does one know if one belongs in a community or not?
  4. What is the relationship between inclusion (saying who is in) and exclusion (saying who is out) in creating community?

As we looked at each source, we started first with observation (I do, after all, work in science education, so we followed the scientific method). I like to use some standard questions adapted from the method of Visual Thinking Strategies: “What is going on in this source? What do we see/read that makes us say that? What information is missing or confusing?” After we explored, looked for evidence, and hypothesized, I provided some additional historical context and we asked “What more can we see or understand? What more do we want to know?”

In the end, our conversation barely got started before time was up (perhaps next year, we’ll have an all-night session?!). However, our wide-ranging discussion did leave me with a few observations that I think we might be able to use to draw some generalities around the idea of “Belonging,” our theme for the night:

  1. There are many forces that create belonging, some are experienced internally in individuals, and some are experienced externally in groups.
  2. One does not have to feel that one belongs in order for others to see them as part of a community.
  3. Search for belonging can sometimes lead to cohesion and sometimes to separation, or even bigotry.

I encourage you to take one, some, or all of these sources and explore them on your own, with friends at a Shabbat dinner or lunch, or a chevruta learning partner either face-to-face or virtually. What questions do these sources raise for you? What lessons can they teach us, or what insight can they provide about our contemporary communities? How do they help us understand our own sense of belonging–or exclusion?

Thank you again for this tremendous opportunity. Looking forward to learning more!