Workshops on “Art and Midrash”

by Idelle Hammond-Sass

Idelle Hammond-Sass and Carol Levin will hold a Hanukkah workshop on Sunday morning, December 13, 10-11:30am. To participate, sign up here.

I’m excited to be offering Zoom workshops on “Art and Midrash” for AARC. In this first blog, I talk about our Yom Kippur workshop on Jonah (and the Whale). On that day, our small group began with the study of the haftarah text and midrash about the reluctant prophet. We then took twenty minutes to put our images and words on paper. Finally, we shared our results, saying what the art meant to us.

As artist and author Pat Allen says, “Art is a way of knowing.” Art is a useful tool for understanding stories and themes. The use of drawing and color to explore themes can open our imagination to the story. We discover images through associations and connections. In this context, it doesn’t matter so much what our art looks like; we need to leave our inner critics out of the picture and focus on what the art says to us!

During the pandemic, how many of us have been affected by our own isolation? Have we felt that this time has frustrated our inclinations to be of help to others, do our work, deliver a message, even feel safe in our own spaces? Or has it been a retreat, a time of introspection and discovery?


The Haftarah text reads: “And the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah.” (Jonah 1:17). Rabbi Tarphon’s midrash is vibrantly visual and imaginative:

That fish was specially appointed from the six days of Creation to swallow up Jonah, as it is said, “And the Lord had prepared a great fish to swallow up Jonah” (ibid.). He entered its mouth just as a man enters the great synagogue, and he stood (therein). The two eyes of the fish were like windows of glass giving light to Jonah.
Rabbi Meir said: || One pearl was suspended inside the belly of the fish and it gave illumination to Jonah, like this sun which shines with its might at noon…” 

Nedarim 38a:15 נדרים לח א:טו

drawing by Rita Gelman

Sally George Wright expressed her workshop experience as, “The drawing, and seeking a verbal way of explaining, helped me identify what I need to work on for the New Year. This was much better than trying to identify major ways I missed the mark. Turning back became, how can I move forward?”

Picture 2

Evelyn Neuhaus, documentary filmmaker (NEVER A BYSTANDER), connected with a video we watched. Evelyn saw that Jonah’s warning to the people was an act of generosity and realized that her film on Irene Butter was also an act of generosity. Her drawing expresses feelings about generosity, compassion, and lovingkindness.

Witnessing our artwork by writing helps us notice things about our art, finding meaning in the images, colors, or marks. Free writing, making word associations, noticing the choices we make in our drawings can lead to new meanings. Sometimes it may lead to more writing, such as this poem by Carol Bloom Levin, author and illustrator of Haggadah Regatta.

Sanctuary 2020

On Yom Kippur, we read how Jonah 
was swallowed alive by a whale. 
For some, it’s a frightful tale
about facing fears alone.
But during this pandemic year
the message for me is hope.

Isolation is opportunity 
to atone.
Sheltered within the dark, 
Jonah’s prayers bring 
him resolve to accept 
responsibility.

Chaos invites a reckoning 
and lockdown awakens the call
to refocus perspective
on humanity. 

As light fills my sanctuary
I peer into its heart, 
ever grateful to
connect. 

 Swimming Toward the Light, Out of the Depths
Another insight into the creative process came from yours truly, Idelle Hammond-Sass. When I began this drawing, I found myself making circles, imagining water, turbulence, the unknown. I wrote, “the opening is small, I can get out – I am out of turbulent waters of judgment and fear. Becoming. She swims, I swim up and out, moving, limbs in motion… The place of potential, of release, air, of forgiveness, love – all possible.”


Next in the series: 

Hanukkah workshop on Sunday morning, December 13, 10-11:30am. 
Co-hosts Carol Levin and Idelle Hammond-Sass explore Hanukkah themes of resilience, resistance, and persistence. Bring your light into the darkest time of the year!

Idelle Hammond-Sass is an Ann Arbor artist, jewelry designer and Open Studio Process facilitator.

AARC Members Plan for a Robust Winter of Programming

What a blessing it is to belong to a community whose members take ownership of the collective and are truly accountable to one another. On November 15, almost every AARC household gathered for our Annual Membership Meeting, this year on Zoom, in order to honor the multitudes of volunteers over the last year and make plans for the year to come. The meeting format serves as evidence that AARC members are the rubber that meets the road when it comes to working together to build up this community. It took nearly the first half of the meeting to simply thank everyone who had made contributions to the congregation in the last year! In the second half, members split into groups to brainstorm ways to make our programming during this winter even better.

Several programming ideas came up more than once. These are summarized below, each accompanied by a sign-up genius so that members can continue to organize to implement their ideas. If you have another idea that you would like to add to this list, please email Gillian or comment below.

  • Provide more congregation-hosted gatherings for members to celebrate Jewish holidays and provide opportunities for Jewish learning. Rabbi Ora and staff are working on upcoming Jewish educational programs, but members are needed to help host social and/or holiday gatherings. In that vein, we encourage a different household to host each night of Hanukkah this year. The format is very flexible: you can simply light candles and share a story, or you could host a game night, a discussion group, an art activity … the only limit is your imagination! Sign up here to host a night of Hanukkah. We will create a Zoom link for you on our congregation Zoom account at your requested time.
  • Establish additional community gatherings that accommodate different schedules. Many of us have been participating in weekly Mishpocha groups, where members come together to share their lives and provide meaningful community connection during this time of isolation. One suggestion was to form a new Mishpocha group that meets later in the evening to accommodate parent schedules. If you would like to sign up for this group, please sign up here. If you would like to suggest a different time for a Mishpocha group, please email us and we will add another sign-up genius.
  • Put together an AARC Social Justice Working Group. This group would be self-directed initially in deciding how to pursue social justice work on behalf of our congregation. If you would like to participate in this Social Justice Working Group, please sign up here
  • Open up an Israel/Palestine discussion and/or working group. This may or may not include the formation of a Beit Din (court of ethics) for the Ann Arbor area. Some members suggested we must work harder to engage with the political issues happening in the Middle East. If you would like to be a part of this Israel/Palestine Working Group, please sign up here.

Thank you to everyone for generating enough ideas to keep us busy for months to come! The comments will be open on this blog. If you would like to add another idea, please do so below or email Gillian!

What Comes After the Paint and Swastikas

By David Erik Nelson

You almost certainly heard about the desecration of a Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids shortly before the election, where “TRUMP” and “MAGA” were spray-painted over the names of the honored dead.

[source]

Maybe these pictures worried you. Maybe they frightened you. Maybe they embarrassed you—because, let’s be honest: it’s shameful to be bullied, to get the “Kick Me!” sign pasted to your back again and again, century after century.  

Or maybe you didn’t feel much of anything. Maybe you’ve grown numb; one more slap in the face at the tail end of four years of unprovoked suckerpunches, it can all sort of blur together. I get that.

I don’t exactly have words for how it made me feel.

I saw these pictures of the Jewish cemetery in Grand Rapids, and I immediately thought back to the swastikas spray-painted on Temple Jacob last winter, way up in the Upper Peninsula town of Hancock. And I thought about the dozens of swastikas and slurs that defaced our local skatepark back in 2017.

(I go to that skatepark a lot. It was hard not to take it personally.)

And I thought about the increase in anti-Jewish hate crimes here in America over the past four years. I thought about the increasingly violent nature of those crimes.

I thought about the bomb threats. And the synagogue shootings. And the stabbings. And the rallies. And the men with guns in the capitol.

And so on.

And I felt hopeless. And I was afraid.

So I emailed the rabbi of Congregation Ahavas Israel, who maintain the cemetery in Grand Rapids that was desecrated on election’s eve. I wrote to voice our support and solidarity, and to ask what they might need to restore the cemetery.

Rabbi David J.B. Krishef replied almost immediately:

“Hi Dave — the cemetery was cleaned by a small group of people who live around the corner and took it upon themselves to clean the stones without even letting us know what they were doing, and a few other people, including one from Ann Arbor, who drove in and decided to wash the paint off. We are grateful for all of the love and support and positive notes we’ve received.” 

It dawned on me that this second half of the story is rarely reported, but often the case:

A lone jackass skulks around smearing his petty foulness in the dark; the whole community—not just Jews, but people from all over the community unwilling to let ugliness linger—return in the light to set things right.

That’s what happened in the cemetery in Grand Rapids. And when I went back and checked, I discovered it’s also what happened at Temple Jacob in Hancock.

And that’s what happened here in Ann Arbor, too; I know, because I saw it: I went to the skatepark the day after it was tagged. The city had already power-washed away the paint. And unknown members of the community at large had come through with colored chalk and, every place where there’d been a symbol of hate, replaced it with a message of welcoming and love:

[source]

What I saw in Ann Arbor was not the exception; it was the rule, even now, in this time of widely reported “unprecedented division and unrest.” And maybe it feels like we’re mired in a time of unprecedented division and unrest because we only report the first half of the story—the smeared paint, the thrown punch, the shots fired—and then move on to the next catastrophe, without checking back to see what comes after the paint and the screaming: a nation of folks ready to take it upon themselves to fix whatever any single angry loner chooses to break.

Wild Geese, Mountains, Rivers,

The AARC Enriches Services with Poetry

– Emily Eisbruch, special to the Washtenaw Jewish News January Edition

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

What can be better than poetic verse and vivid imagery to elevate and move our spirits? The Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation (AARC) features beautiful and thought provoking poetry in its worship services, led by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner. Here’s a chat with Rabbi Ora about the role of poetry in Jewish services.  

Rabbi Ora, what inspired your interest  in incorporating poetry into Jewish services? 

I grew up attending a Conservative shul in Toronto where Shabbat prayers were usually sung with the same melodies and there was rarely any deviation from the strict ‘keva’ (order of service). When I moved to Philadelphia in 2011 to attend the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, I joined Fringes, a chavurah co-founded by feminist activist poet Elliott batTzedek. Fringes services feature a mix of traditional liturgy and contemporary poetry.  I learned from davening (praying) with Fringes that poems can shake up our expectations of what prayer looks and feels like. 

What do you see as the role of poetry in worship services?

Poems crack open our hearts when we’re feeling broken, or tired, or fearful or numb. Poems offer an ‘aha’ moment; they help us feel seen, and less alone. Good poetry reminds us that there is beauty in the world — beauty that we’ve witnessed, and beauty that others have witnessed and bring to us in a gift of words. Poetry is remedy, balm, revolution, or reminder of how interconnected we all are. 

What does poetry provide that the siddur / prayerbook does not?

The siddur is full of gorgeous poetry! The psalms and the prophets are featured widely in our Shabbat siddur, and are profound and powerful poetry. But there are two real challenges to appreciating the poetry of the prayerbook: One, services are usually in Hebrew, and most North American Jews aren’t fluent Hebrew speakers. This means that a lot of the beauty of the language gets lost. And two, any poem that gets repeated again and again will lose a lot of its vividness. Bringing new poetry into services cuts through the lulling effect of repetition. Poetry—if it’s good, if it gets us and we get it—says, ‘Wake up! Pay attention!’

How does poetry compare to music/song in services? 

Poetry is an invitation to awaken to what’s holy in the world and in ourselves. It’s a chance to see things in a new light, or to feel seen. For these reasons, I think of poetry as more of an individual experience — though I do love that moment when, just after our congregation finishes reading a new poem out loud, you can hear a collective murmur of ‘wow’ and ‘yes.’ Singing together is more about the collective experience, feeling the sound of many voices resonating in the room or in our bodies.

What are your favorite sources for poetry to use in services?

Poetryfoundation.org and poets.org are consistently great online sources. Lately I’ve been enjoying drawing from the book Poetry of Presence: An Anthology of Mindfulness Poems, by Phyllis Cole-Dai (editor) and Ruby R. Wilson (editor).

Who/what are some of your favorite poets and favorite poems?  

Consistent favorites are Adrienne Rich, Yehuda Amichai, Ada Limon, Ross Gay, Carl Phillips, Mary Oliver, and for services in particular, Rumi and Rainer Maria Rilke. 

Mary Oliver’s ‘Wild Geese’ (shown below) is an antidote to the harshness and shaming that lives in some aspects of our Jewish tradition, our world, and ourselves. 

Wild Geese, by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert repenting. 
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves. 
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 
Meanwhile the world goes on. 
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain 
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers. 
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again. Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting – 
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

To learn more about the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, and see for yourself how poetry is used to enrich the services, please visit aarecon.org, or contact Gillian Jackson at aarcgillian@gmail.com or Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner at rabbi@aarecon.org. 

AARC Bands Together for Comfort and Comradery on Election Day

As most of America settled in for a night of watching poll numbers roll in, a pensive bunch of AARC members opened a night of song with ‘Stand By Me’ by Ben E. King. As the numbers trickled in, comfort was found in classic Jewish songs such as ‘Oseh Shalom’ and ‘Olam Chesed,’ as well as old favorites such as ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ and ‘If I had a Hammer.’ Old friends and new shared thoughts, checked in about what support they might need, and found solace in community.

On the day after the election, the community was welcomed to the weekly Wednesday check-in to discuss how they are doing and what they would like from the community going forward. It is such a blessing to have a community of people invested in providing care for each other during this challenging time! Some ideas for future programming were Jewish learning groups, explorations of Judaism and social justice, interfaith work, and opportunities for personal growth and connection. If you have ideas for programming during the winter months of the pandemic, please email us!

See below for some of the music we enjoyed on Tuesday night.

November Events with AARC

There is SO much going on this month! It is heartening that our Jewish community – both local and national – is coming together for mutual support during this season. Please see the events listed below to learn more!

Sunday, November 1st. Limmud Michigan eFestival. Limmud MI will host a day of workshops with something for everyone. Some examples: “How to Be A Spiritual Badass through the Power of the Feminine Divine,” with Rabbi Tamara Kolton, “When Bigots Cite Scripture,” with Saeed Kahn and David Polsky, and “Beauty and Brutality: Art of the Holocaust,” with Jacob Kraus – and MANY more. Sign up here.

Songs for the Revolution! Tuesday, November 3rd, 8pm until we’re done! We could spend all evening on November 3rd anxiously watching the news … and/or we could sing together! Join Rabbi Ora and members as we keep one another company, schmooze, and sing our favorite (secular and Jewish) songs of hope, resistance, and revolution. If you have a song you’d like to sing or lead, please email the lyrics to Rabbi Ora by November 1, or download the lyrics in advance and be prepared to screen share.

Friday, November 6th, 5-5:30pm. Post Election/Pre-Shabbat Pause with Bend the Arc Ann Arbor (Rabbi Ora will be a speaker at this event). Regardless of the outcome (if we have one), this is a chance to gather with others to breathe, to gain strength for the work ahead, and to sing, yell, cry, and laugh. RSVP to Bend the Arc for a Zoom Link.

Sunday, November 8th, Global Day of Jewish Learning with Reconstructing Judaism. The Global Day of Jewish Learning is a project to unite Jewish communities through study of our shared texts, with a 24-hour period of live-streamed events around the world. This year’s theme is about Judaism’s vision of human dignity, the ethics of inclusivity, and the imperative to decrease marginalization. It will take place on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020More information can be found here.

Second Saturday Shabbat Morning Service. November 14th. Ta’Shma: Come and Learn begins at 10am; Shabbat service begins at 10:30. Meditation, prayer, discussion, community. Everyone is welcome! Zoom link will be sent out the week before the event. 

Annual Membership Meeting. Sunday, November 15th, 1-2:30pm. We’ll discuss what kind of COVID-safe programming we’d like to see in Fall-Winter 2020/2021. If you have ideas for new programs or ways to innovate old ones, and how you can help, please come prepared to present your idea at the Annual Meeting.

AARC Book Club. Sunday, November 22nd, 1-2:30pm. We will discuss Michal Lemberger’s book of short stories, After Abel, and Other StoriesThis book updates the midrash tradition by telling the stories of Eve and eight other women mentioned briefly in the Hebrew Bible. If you would like to join this online discussion, please email Greg Saltzman.

Friday, November 27th, 6:30pm. Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat. Come connect with community, rest, recharge, rejuvenate. Everyone welcome. 


Seth Kopald’s Simchat Torah Shabbat D’var Torah

Rabbi Ora asked me these questions: “What is a metaphor/image that speaks to your experience of simcha (joy), and why? And what, if anything, is Jewish/spiritual about simcha for you?” 

From my personal experience, and based on the work I do with people everyday, Joy seems to emerge when we return to our natural, birthright qualities of our true Selves. I believe our natural qualities include curiosity, compassion, creativity, playfulness, and the capacity to feel joy. I believe we are all born with a light inside, connected to G-d, the universe, to life itself. That light carries and supports our freedom to express who we are. A light that allows joy to flourish, if it is allowed to shine unencumbered. 

Yet life seems to carry hurtful experiences that appear to dim or almost extinguish our light, sometimes beginning in the womb. On the other hand, when children receive unconditional love, when people around them value what they bring, their uniqueness of expression and thought, children don’t need to take on beliefs like feeling they are too much or not enough. They can shine their light with joy and perhaps carry that into adulthood. Simultaneously, our culture and even our religion can impose burdens on us as well. Of course, Judaism carries many gifts, rich in tradition: learning, sacred rituals, and resilience. For me, I realize that I have taken on intergenerational burdens tied to my understanding of what it means to be Jewish. I have always felt like I have to look over my shoulder for my own safety, and perhaps I need to hide, like our ancestors did in caves. 

A week or so ago, I looked inside myself and asked my system if I carried such legacy burdens. I saw myself sitting at the Passover table as a young child. I heard a voice in me say, “we must suffer” and when I asked why, it said, “in order to survive.” I looked around the 1970s table. I was with my family, no joy and little unconditional love, but there was more heaviness. The story of Passover. The gift of freedom came with a cost – the suffering we endured – slavery, witnessing plagues, death of sons, seas swallowing people, angels shushed for cheering, and we decided to never go into the promised land. To this day, my system has never allowed me to go to Israel, as if I still carry the burden of slavery in Egypt. This young part of me showed me the burdens that cover my joy during Passover, burdens I still carry today. 

This inner experience happened the same day I saw Rabbi Ora’s email inviting me to give this dvar torah. The depth of the timing felt sublime. I asked myself: Where is the joy? Where is the joy of the Jewish people? Is it in Israel, where people feel they have a homeland? I cannot say. Is it in the siddur? The one I was forced to get through in Hebrew school? No. As I explored this topic more deeply within myself, I saw the contrasting Jewish experiences I have had in my life.

You see, Joy was in the siddur at Summer camp. There was a loving Jewish community in which I lived for four weeks at a time. I went to both sessions, so eight weeks of Joy. We prayed every morning in a circle, swaying together, our voices filling the Beit Am. The dancing, the discussions, the ease of being together. Joyfully singing the birkat hamazon after every meal. The machine of Society gone, our burden of suffering paused. The sadness carried in the songs we sang felt more like a beautiful sadness, one that tied us all together. Then it was time to go home again, back to Hebrew school where I wanted to say to the Rabbi, “This isn’t being Jewish! This is a fashion show. We are running through the motions. No kavanah. It’s not from the heart.” Ironically, when I studied for my bar mitzvah, which was shared by another boy, an old school rabbi showed up for me and helped me learn my torah portion. He literally slammed his fist on the desk and shouted with passion, “You have to sing loud, and slow, From Your Heart!” One of the best moments of my Jewish life – sitting across the table from this mysterious rabbi. He felt like a wizard to me. And there we were on my bar mitzvah day, the other boy racing through, I drummed up my courage and sang from my heart. 

At camp, on kabbalat shabbat, we heard a story of a young boy who lived in an orthodox village. He walked into the synagogue one day, the old men davening in a murmur. The boy, not knowing the prayers, started singing what he knew, the Hebrew alphabet. He sang the alphabet with joy, no words, a nigun from the heart — and he was hushed by the men, shaming his natural love for G-d. The Rabbi stopped the service and shared what he saw: the boy was the only one truly praying. 

In our Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, I see heart connection often. Rabbi Ora is a model for us. She allows her natural light to shine. Her words take us to deep understanding and compassion and she shares her heartfelt niguns with us all. One of our congregants led us in a nigun over the high holidays, her heart open and her voice connected deeply. She let her light shine. 

On this day we celebrate Simchat Torah with our new friends at Congregation Agudas Achim. 

The torah itself seems to hold the light that we all share inside, I feel its resonance. It’s not the words or the stories inside the torah scrolls, it’s the gestalt of it all that resonates with me. And today we roll it back to the beginning, B’reshit, when G-d sparked the first light of creation, the light that is within all of us. “G-d saw the light that it was good.” Yes, when I feel my light and the light of others, it does feel good. 

Our light may be covered, like the clouds cover the sun, but it is there nonetheless. Perhaps today as we roll back to the story of creation, the beginning of what we see as life itself, we can begin to unload the burdens we gathered along the way and those given to us by our lineage. Let the clouds part even briefly, so we can go back to our natural state and feel our light and the innate birthright qualities of that light. To me this is Joy, the return to ourSelves, and that is what I wish for all of you today. 

The Jews of old had light, and happiness and joy — may it be so for us! Esther 8:16

Inspired by my ancestors and the work of Richard Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems (IFS) Model and all the wonderful IFS leaders.

One Farmer’s COVID Holiday Thoughts, October 2020

By Carole Caplan

This year—in this unusual and uncertain year—unable to gather in community, I chose instead to pray outside.

The words and songs of the service streamed out of my phone which sat neatly tucked into my tool belt

I had been weeding as I prayed along, enjoying the morning sunshine and the cool fall air.

I think it was out somewhere between the rows of fading sunflowers and the newly planted kale that I surprisingly ran into God…or perhaps it was that God, equally as surprised, ran into me.

The familiar tunes had tugged at my heart, and suddenly—without thinking—I had sprung up and began to dance, twirling to the music with the sun on my face and laughing like a little girl.

As the laughter turned to tears—you know, as it often does when we allow ourselves to open past the veneer of the everyday—I had an undeniable sense of being connected to these growing and dying things around me, to the cycles of the seasons they follow—and to the rhythms they look to teach me about year after year. 

Similarly, I felt connected to a growing and dying peoplehood, a Jewish project spanning space and centuries that was reaching out to me there in the field that very day.

For a moment I felt completely a part of, not apart from, and I felt it deep inside my bones.

As a farmer, the agricultural content of our Jewish teachings and rituals are not lost on me as I steward this small piece of land.

On Sukkot we are told to build huts to dwell in—structures consciously designed to be unstable—a roof which lets the rain in, and walls fragile enough to be blown over with the next big wind. We wave water-dependent species in all directions, and as Sukkot closes, we beat water-loving willows on the ground as we pray for rain—rain that might come at just the right time and in just the right amounts. At the same time, as farmers we are gathering in the harvest, the tactile abundance of the year which might nourish us through the cold months ahead. We buy seed and we plan for a harvest we can only trust will one day come to be.

As Jews, I think we are called to live precariously amidst the plenty precisely to remind us that despite our efforts for control, the future remains unknown. And even given that unknown, we are called to remember that this is not to be the time of our worry, but rather it is called the time of our rejoicing. The teachings seem eager to imply that joy is the fertile ground in which we can plan and plant for happiness. Happiness that might come from choices well made, and from a life well lived, but one that nonetheless, is not guaranteed.

The teachings seem eager to imply that joy is the fertile ground in which we can plan and plant for happiness.

In the bounty of the winter squash piled high in the barn awaiting market, gratitude comes easily for me and helps me access that type of joy. And with that joy, there inevitably comes hope. Farmers are incredibly hopeful people, you know. We have to be. The odds of seeds growing and plants reaching maturity against the realities of droughts, of floods, of untimely frosts and heat spells, of pests and disease…well, it’s all a practice of patiently tending what is in front of you today, despite the knowledge that disappointments and failures abound. Yet what remains certain to the farmer is that growth is possible, and that alone seems to provide the energy for one to endure, to remain adaptable, and to do the hard work that needs to be done.

If hope holds space for possibility and roots itself in joy, then perhaps joy is a fertile and abundant attitude waiting for us right outside the doors and walls we build as we attempt to keep ourselves safe. So, I invite you to join me outside. Come out to the farm sometime. Put your hands in the dirt. Soften. Connect. Find yourself to be a part of life. And listen. Joy dwells here, I am sure, and is calling out to each of us echoing our ancient texts: May we be grateful, may we be blessed, and may we merit to live many days upon the soil.

Photo: Pezibear

High Holidays 2020 Was An Epic Team Effort! Thank You To All Of Our Volunteers!!!

One of the qualities that makes our congregation a warm and welcoming organization is the sense of family and responsibility that we hold for one another. When someone gets involved in the workings of AARC, it becomes apparent to them that each and every member brings something valuable to the table, be it music, writing, community building, law, activism, education, technological expertise, etc. We could not be who we are without every single one of us. It is a rare honor to be a part of such an organization, one that everyone believes in and values.

In this spirit, we would like to take time to recognize the list of wonderful volunteers that helped make the High Holidays happen this year. Thank you, thank you, thank you to all of you!!

Haftorah readers: Melissa Meiller, Molly Kraus-Steinmetz, Carl Gombert, Rose Basch, Ruby Lowenstein, Tommy Cohn, Noah Resnicow, Ari Basch, Otto Nelson, Miriam Stidd, Jacob Schneyer, Eli Kirshner, Sam Ball, Jasmine Lowenstein, Brayan Zivan, Lillie Schneyer, Elliot Bramson, Zander McLane

Zoom Gabbais: Hannah Davis, Rebecca Kanner, Brenna Deichman, Debbie Gombert, Jeff Baasch, Deborah Fisch, Mark Schneller, Amy Tracy Welles

Discussion monitors: Clare Kinberg, Debbie Field, Emily Eisbruch

Tishrei Bag Committee: Laurie White, Carol Levin, Jen Hall, Evelyn Neuhaus, Clare Kinberg

Tishrei Bag Construction Crew: The Meadows Family, The Reichman Family, The Levin Family, The Dieve Family, The Jackson Family

Welcoming remarks: Deborah Fisch, Sam Bagenstos, Dave Nelson

Tech Committee: Mark Schneyer, Erica Ackerman, Stephanie Rowden, Hannah Davis

Haftarah Video: Stephanie Rowden and Andy Kirschner

Torah readers: Deborah Fisch, Evelyn Neuhaus, Tara Cohen, Deb Kraus, Molly Kraus-Steinmetz, Amie Ritchie, Rena Seltzer, Tommy Cohn, Gabrielle Pescador, Keith Kurz, Jonathan Weinberg, Avi Eisbruch, Janet Kelman, Lori Lichtman

Children’s services: Clare Kinberg, Laurie White, R. Ora

Poetry readers: Stacy Dieve, Kira Berman, Debbie Gombert, Laurie White, Evelyn Neuhaus, Vicki Goldwyn, Janet Greenhut

Singers/Musicians: Etta Heisler, Hannah Davis, Debbie Gombert, Margo Schlanger

Shofar Blower: Etta Heisler

Equipment: Dave Nelson, Stephanie Rowden, Andy Kirschner, Hannah Davis, Clare Kinberg, Gabrielle Pescador, Peter

Workshop Leaders: Anita Rubin-Meiler, Idelle Hammond-Sass, Alan Haber, Lori Lichtman, Emily Eisbruch, Deb Kraus

Community Yizkor: Claudia Kraus-Piper and Leora Druckman

Board: Deborah Fisch, Rebecca Kanner, Stacy Dieve, Rena Basch, Eric Bramson, Erica Ackerman, Carol Ullman, Sam Bagenstos,

Logistics/Planning Team: Dave Nelson, Deb Kraus, Gillian Jackson, Clare Kinberg, Deborah Fisch, Rebecca Kanner

Of course, if we accidentally omitted anyone’s name, we beg your forgiveness! The comments are open to anyone who would like to offer more gratitude to our amazing community.

October Events at AARC

Second Saturday Shabbat Morning Service. October 10th, 10-11:30am. We will celebrate a special ‘Simchat Shabbat’ (Simchat Torah/Shabbat mashup) with Congregation Agudas Achim from Attleboro, MA. We’ll begin with a Ta Shma on the value of simcha (joy) taught by Agudas Achim’s Rabbi Alex Weissman, then sing and pray together, and listen to members from both communities share their personal Torah on simcha. I hope you’ll join us for this special opportunity to expand our sense of community and open our metaphorical sukkah to these special ushpizin (guests). Email us for the Zoom link.

Siddur/Machzor Book Exchange! Sunday October 18th, 2-4pm at the JCC of Ann Arbor. We received lots of feedback that holding the High Holidays Machzorim in your hands was an important part of attending services together this year. In this spirit we have set up a time to bring back your Machzor and exchange it for a Shabbat Siddur. We will also use the occasion to collect canned goods to donate to Food Gatherers. Volunteers will be stationed in the parking lot of the JCC to receive your Machzor and sign you out a Siddur. Masks and social distancing will be in place. We look forward to seeing all of your smiling faces again! If you have any questions or will be unable to make it, please email us.

Tuesday October 27, 7-8:15 pm: Transforming Fear into Courage (Ometz Lev) with Rabbi Marc Margolius. In a time of widespread fear and anxiety for ourselves and our world, how can we cultivate an inner life which enables us to respond courageously and wisely to the needs of this moment, instead of reacting out of fear? Rabbi Marc Margolius of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality will lead a session on Jewish mindfulness practice as a practical tool to help us identify, develop, and strengthen our innate abilities to bear difficult thoughts and feelings, cultivate and access inner calm, and speak and act courageously. Zoom link will be sent out the week before the event.