AARC Mimouna 2018: Abandon Bitterness, Celebrate Blessing

Photo of Mimouna foods from an article in The Nosher, includes recipes.

This year, AARC will be celebrating Mimouna on Saturday April 7, 5:30-7:30pm at the JCC. We’ll have lots of food, music, and a short ‘seder’ to learn about the symbols and traditions of Mimouna. We will also begin a conversation about things our congregation can do to form relationships with other faith communities in the coming year.

Mimouna, the traditional Moroccan Jewish celebration held the day after Passover, marks the start of spring and the return to eating chametz, i.e., leavened bread and bread by-products, which are forbidden throughout Passover. In centuries past, Muslim neighbors would bring gifts of flour, honey, milk, butter and green beans to their Jewish neighbors to help them prepare delicious, chametz-rich recipes. More recently, Moroccan Jews brought the holiday to Israel where it is now widely celebrated with picnics and visiting with friends and neighbors. Recently, an organization of Moroccan Muslim students was founded which preserves and promotes the history of Morocco’s ancient Jewish community and seeks to educate about Jewish culture to encourage harmony between Jews and Muslims.

“Unlike Passover, which is charged with religious meaning, this is a festival devoted to the celebration of community, friendship, togetherness and hospitality. Mimouna is celebrated by throwing one’s home open to friends, neighbors and even strangers, with public parties, and by sharing – a large portion of that sharing involving food. Mimouna is thus clearly all about encouraging peace, kindness and human warmth. It also centers around making music, singing and dancing,” explains an article in Haaretz which includes a recipe for the traditional crepe, mofleta.

The piyyut (ligurgical poetry) below, “Atem Yotzei Maarav ,”composed by Rabbi David Bouzaglo (1903-1975), to commemorate the Mimouna holiday tells–in Hebrew with some Judeo-Arabic interspersed–the various aspects of the holiday including the foods eaten, the friendly atmosphere, and the significance of the holiday. It tells a story of strife and its resolution, and in conclusion calls for the abandonment of bitterness between Muslims and Jews.

 

Atem Yotzei Maarav

A Moroccan Jewish Piyyut:

You, who come from the Maghreb, from Morocco, men of faith –
praise G-d in assembly, this day of the Mimouna.

Yesterday the Red Sea opened its gaping mouth before Pharaoh,
it moved over all their wagons and swallowed them.

Israel, the flock, his servants crossed through passages,
as the waves of the sea were piled up by the hand of Moses, the faithful father.

The wealth of their enemies and tormentors Israel collected,
between the waves of the sea, they received it as a gift.

On every doorstep, all congratulated each other:
“Be blessed, friend, all the months of the year.”

And in Morocco, for many generations, the Hebrews say,
in blessing their friends, “good luck, brother, good fortune!”

The strangers, their waters were spilled on them;
the fear of G-d, in Heaven poured down on them.

Loads and loads of wealth and grains
were delivered from all comers of the world to the people G-d has chosen.

And it is the way of the sons of Arabia, in Morocco,
each according to his means brings the Jews an offering of value.

Yeast, honey and flour, the milk of a healthy cow,
fish, mint, and butter with wild flowers and flowers from the garden.

This night, Hebrews and Arabs are all seated together –
they rejoice with musical instruments and singing.

The Hebrew woman wears the clothes of an Arab,
the man wears an Arab vest, and the scent of incense and perfume.

One can no longer distinguish between a Hebrew and his Arab brother,
or if they are city dwellers or villagers: the good spirit overtakes them all.

The borders between Israel and the nations are blurred
If it wasn’t for the bloodthirsty who run the states.

It is these evil kings who deliver their people to catastrophe –
They are concerned only with their thrones, not the soul who suffers.

Abandon for all time conflict and bitterness!
Stop the bitter cries! Stop in the name of peace and freedom!

(Translation – Ruben Namdar and Joshua Levitt)

Helping an Asylum Seeker

In mid-February, Margo Schlanger sent a request to ReconChat, one of our congregation’s networking tools, that said in part “the fantastic folks at the National Immigrant Justice Center have gotten an Eritrean asylum seeker out of detention and seek our help to set her on her way to her sponsor. She’s been detained for over a year.” Odile Hugonot Haber and Alan Haber responded that they could help and then sent in this report on their experience.

“There was a letter from Margo Schlanger asking if someone would pick up a NIJC client, Feven, just released from the Detroit ICE Field Office, and to take her to the Greyhound bus in Ann Arbor. She needed to get to Chicago where a friend from her country would be welcoming her, and helping her on the rest of her journey. So we went to the ICE Office in Detroit where the waiting room was full of people awaiting the release of their loved one or friends.

Many children were playing, many Latino people and some people from Africa. After 45 minutes Feven was released accompanied by an officer. She had a backpack. She was petite, her hair magnificently braided, and she spoke a few words of English. We hugged. We wanted to show her a little of Detroit. So we drove through the town and Dearborn and a bit of Ann Arbor. She wanted to see everything, and feel the fresh air. We offered to get some food right away, but she was not hungry.

As we drove we learned a little bit of her story.

She spoke Tigrinya, she was from Eritrea, seeking some kind of asylum from the violence of her village area. With her husband she had flown to Italy, which had once been the colonial overlord of the area. But in Italy there were many, many immigrants and it was difficult getting a job, so they decided to come to the US. They flew to Ecuador and then traveled by bus and foot, mostly walking, through Columbia, Panama, Costa Rica, Honduras and the length of Mexico until they came to the border at Texas.

At the border, the U.S. officials saw that she did not have a visa, and she was put in jail. First she and  her husband went to a jail in Texas where there were many immigrants. It was a very big jail where the food was varied and they could go outsides at times.

After some time, she was sent to a county jail in Michigan, which held immigrant detainees, and where she was fed only beans and rice and rice and beans, wore only an orange jail suit, and could never go outside. The nights were cold as the prisoners were given only thin sheets and a Cotton spread for the beds. This treatment continued for a year and two months, until she was released, thanks to many people’s good work at the legal end.

We were the first people she saw as a free person in America. Her happiness and relief was beautiful to see. She is a Christian from the Eastern Orthodox Church, and showed us her bible written in her own language, a script we had never seen before.

When we picked Feven up, she was very clean and the clothes she wore, given back to her on release, were fashionable and neat, though her tennis shoes had no laces, because they took the shoe laces away.

Her husband had been sent to a jail in Oklahoma. They were going to meet each other soon, yet  we did not know if he was going to be released. We did hope so. Fifteen months is a to be a long time for people whose major crime was to hope for a better life.

We gave her some food from the Mediterranean Market, a sweater for warmth, and shoe laces.  Her back pack was full. She emptied a yellow bag that had written “Hygiene Kit” on it from the Red Cross from Honduras. We found that she had had some medical problems in Jail.  We would have liked to know more but her English was limited and we did not want interrupt her happiness inquiring of a story now behind her, in her first day in her first hours of freedom. After a lunch, we put her on the Greyhound. We hoped the rest of her journey would be a more pleasant one.

We know she arrived well in Chicago, but haven’t heard more. It was a sweet mission. Maybe we will meet Feven and husband again some time.

Odile Hugonot Haber and Alan Haber

Purim Fun 2018

AARC Congregation gets ready to hear the Megillah/Scroll of Esther, Feb 2018

Dina Kurz is all the way ready to hear the megillah, 2018

Rena Basch reads a chapter of the megillah, 2018.

And then it was Dave Nelson’s turn to read the megillah on.

The Kopalds during a musical interlude in the megillah reading

Carol Ullmann reading a chapter of the megillah, 2018

Rabbi Ora chants the megillah while Mordechai, aka Otto, holds the text.

Alan Haber unfurls the Scroll of Esther from its new case while Aziza and her mom Cara look on.

Meanwhile, in the kitchen, Saul and Clare deal with the aftermath of the Purim meal

Beit Sefer makes hamentashen, 2018

Miles adds the finishing touch to the hamentashen.

 

 

Beit Sefer makes hamentashen, 2018

Work for Good with Avodah

Do you know someone in our community in their early twenties who is looking for something good to do next year?

Applications are open for the Avodah Jewish Service Corps, a year-long program of nonprofit job placements for recent college grads aged 21-26. The Avodah program is aimed to help build leadership skills, an active Jewish community life, a powerful professional network, and a more just America.

Corps Members build expertise through work placements with Avodah’s partner organizations in Chicago, New Orleans, New York, and Washington, D.C. They contribute to their partners’ work on crucial justice issues such as immigration, hunger, education, public health, and domestic violence while developing activist chops and Jewish social justice insights through Avodah’s trusted, innovative curriculum. During the year, Corps Members live and learn in the dynamic Avodah community. Home-cooked meals, late night conversations, and holiday celebrations make living in the bayit memorable and meaningful.

Both Rabbi Ora and Rabbi Alana are alumni of the Avodah fellowship program, and Molly Kraus-Steinmetz is a currently in an Avodah placement at the Jane Adamms Senior Caucus in Chicago.

When I asked Molly how her year with Avodah is going, she wrote:

This year, Avodah has given me the amazing opportunity to work full-time as a community organizer at Jane Addams Senior Caucus, a position that most recent college grads would not qualify for. I’ve been able to grow as an organizer and make real change for seniors in Chicago, and Avodah has helped me along the way by providing the emotional, financial, and professional resources I needed to succeed. Instead of moving to a new city and having to build friends and a support system from scratch, I’ve found community with the other young Jews in nonprofit jobs who are doing Avodah with me. Instead of navigating Chicago’s rapidly gentrifying housing market on my own, I’ve been living in a safe, healthy, and affordable communal living situation provided by Avodah. And for perhaps the last time in my life (unless I end up in a union) I have the support of Avodah staff ready to help me with any challenges I face in my first real job.
Many of you might remember that last summer, I was reaching out to Reconchat to fundraise for the Avodah Jewish Service Corps in preparation for my year there. At the time, I was secretly unsure what the future held and doubting whether I’d made the right choice of post-graduation jobs. Now, halfway through my Avodah year in Chicago, I feel fairly confident that I made the right choice by joining this program.
Are there things I would change about Avodah? Of course, and I’ll happily fill you in on the ups and downs if you reach out to me personally. But I also recognize that the structure of Avodah has allowed me to succeed and grow this year in a way that a traditional full-time job definitely wouldn’t, and I’m so, so glad that I ended up in this program. Avodah is an incredible opportunity for young Jews who want to make a difference, and I hope that anyone looking for a job right now will check it out.

The program provides a monthly living stipend, travel allowance, health insurance, and subsidized housing, in addition to a year of professional and leadership development. After their Service Corps year, participants will access activism, professional development, and Jewish opportunities for life through the Avodah alumni community.

Avodah is looking for leaders and not-yet-leaders, activists and organizers, challah bakers and Shabbat dinner hosts, teachers, learners, and everyone in between to spend the next year pursuing justice with Avodah.

Are you our next Jewish Service Corps Member?

Do you know someone who is wondering what they can do to help create a more just America, or how to build a career that makes a difference in people’s lives?

Find out more at avodah.net/serve, or reach out to apply@avodah.net.

Avodah is currently in rolling admissions with upcoming deadlines on 2/25 and 3/27.

Hamentashen for Iraqi Detainee Families

Support for MI Iraqi Families During Deportation Crisis

During Purim week, AARC Beit Sefer and congregation members will be baking hamentashen for the families of Iraqi detainees. On March 3, the detainees’ legal team, which includes AARC members Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos,  is hosting an informational dinner for the families of detainees, and we will be providing dessert. This will be our congregation’s way of fulfilling the Purim mitzvah of mishloach manot, giving gifts of tasty treats to friends and strangers.

 

Opportunities to Bake

Here is some background on the detainees’ situation from the ACLU of Michigan. In June 2017 hundreds of Iraqis in Michigan and throughout the country were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which intended to deport them immediately to Iraq, a country where many have not lived since they were young children. Most have been living in the United States for decades, but were previously ordered removed to Iraq—either for overstaying visas or for previous criminal convictions.

As a matter of policy, the United States has not deported people to Iraq because of dangerous country conditions, and because the Iraqi government has refused to issue travel documents. In March 2017, however, Iraq agreed to accept Iraqis deported by the United States back into the country, in exchange for being removed from President Trump’s travel ban list. Suddenly, any Iraqi with an open removal order was a target.

The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in federal court to stop the deportations on the grounds that they would likely result in persecution, torture, or even death for those deported, either because they are members of minority religions or because they are Western-affiliated.

“When the clerk calls him forward, Attorney Ed Bajoka explains he has three paths to pursue in seeking release of his client, Mukhlis Murad, who’s been detained for nearly six months. Murad is a 59-year-old suburban grandfather with numerous health problems. His adult children and his sister are in the waiting room. When asked how it’s been at home without her dad there, his 23-year-old daughter, Summer, answers swiftly and directly, ‘He’s our best friend. Murad is one of several hundred Iraqi-born U.S. residents now facing detention and deportation. Many are married to U.S. citizens. Most speak English. At least half are Chaldean and speak Aramaic — not necessarily Arabic. They are parents and grandparents, business owners, and taxpayers. Many are churchgoing Catholics.” (From the ThinkProgress article “Trump’s travel ban puts a religious minority he promised to protect in the cross hairs.”)

Hamama legal team, December 2017

In June 2017 Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered a temporary stay of deportation for Iraqis in Michigan. In July 2017 Judge Goldsmith granted an expanded preliminary injunction barring deportation of Iraqis throughout the country while they access the immigration court system, giving them time to file motions to reopen their immigration cases based on the changed country conditions or legal developments in the decades since their cases were decided.

The legal team went to court in December and asked Judge Goldsmith to order the release of these Iraqi Nationals absent a showing that any of them are a flight risk, danger to society, or face an imminent removal to Iraq. Judge Goldsmith then ordered that the government must provide bond hearings for the detained Iraqi nationals and must show by clear and convincing evidence that the detainee is a danger or a flight risk and if no bond hearing is provided, the individual must be released.

Most of the bond hearings have been completed. There have been 182 bond hearings. 119 have been granted, but 63 have been denied. However, there also a good number who were granted bond hearings, but cannot afford the bond amount.

In summary, progress has been made with reuniting many families, but a big chunk of families are still separated from their loved ones. Getting released on bond is not the end of the battle. Release just allows the individuals to work and be with their families while their individual immigration process continues.

The legal team in Hamama v. Adducci is ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Bonsitu Kitaba-Gaviglio, and Michael J. Steinberg; Legal Fellow Juan Caballero; National ACLU attorneys Lee Gelernt, Judy Rabinowitz, and Anand Balakrishnan; ACLU of Michigan Cooperating Attorneys Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos of U-M Law School; Kimberly Scott and Wendy Richards of Miller Canfield; co-counsel Nadine Yousif and Nora Youkhana of CODE Legal Aid; Susan Reed of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center; and William Swor.

Purim with AARC 2018

Who is that masked woman? (2017)

Celebrate Purim with AARC

Friday evening February 23, beginning with a brief Purim-inspired (aka upside-down and backwards) Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat.

Then we’ll read the Megillah/Scroll of Esther, have a Potluck, enjoy a shpiel and a homegrown Talent Show.

The fun begins at 6:30pm at the JCC.

You can volunteer to read an English language chapter of the megillah and/or entertain us with your talent by clicking here.

We have noise-makers, masks and hats in our box of tricks at the JCC….but feel free to bring your own!

Posts from Purims Past….

Be Happy! It’s Adar! But Why? (2016): Purim is a harbinger of spring. Like spring holidays celebrated in other cultures and religions–the Hindu celebration of Holi, Carnivale in Brazil and the Caribbean and Mardi Gras in New Orleans for examples–the elation over the departure of winter and the rebirth of the Earth is intoxicating. And Purim is clearly a holiday to be observed in the millennium, where identifying the difference between good and evil is at times totally challenging.

A Purim Vocabulary (2015): The whole megillah means “something long, complex, and possibly tedious,” as in when Jews read the Megillah Esther (Scroll of Esther) from beginning to end, all ten chapters, with breaks for hooting and hollering, each Purim. And yes, AARC is going to read the whole megillah this year….well almost. Because of the age-old “tedium” problem, there are many abridged, English language, family-friendlier, megillot to choose from. But you can still expect all ten chapters.

Friendship Scroll (2017) by Barbara Boyk Rust: For my part, this scroll is a remembrance of friendship, of beauty, of sharing in community. It is a way to offer the power of this artist’s rendering into the annual cycle of our congregation’s celebration of this holiday that asks us to marry the opposites: Haman and Mordechai, forces of good and forces of evil. May we each have a chance to dance our beauty and our joy with the rhythm of blessing and celebration for years to come.

Purim Gifts: Welcome Baskets for Refugees (2016): by Sharon Alvandi: There are many reasons to celebrate Purim and sort through a narrative that’s truly unlike any other in Jewish scripture. On Purim- the holiday of “lots”- we celebrate more than simply the idea of chance. When we listen to Esther’s story, we collectively celebrate character, resolve, and integrity. By presenting her true self–her Jewish self–to king Ahasuerus to appeal for the fate of the Jewish people of Shushan (present day Susa, Iran), Esther is a model of advocacy for herself and others. As a developing social worker, this story helps me think  about what it takes to act in a way that integrates all parts of who I am. (We will have a similar initiative this year, announced soon.)

The Self Behind the Mask (2017) by Rachel Baron Singer: It’s often said that Purim is about “the hidden” being revealed. Haman revealed his wickedness, just as Queen Esther revealed her identity to save the Jewish people. Some Jewish scholars also say the story of the Megillah is about hidden miracles or the “hidden hand of Hashem.” And when we dress up to celebrate Purim, we must also contemplate who we are when the charade ends, and then move forth with that knowledge firm inside us throughout the rest of the year.

For more the holiday, see Reconstructing Judaism’s Purim Resource Page.

 

 

 

 

 

Introduction to Mussar: Recap

Rabbi Ora led an introduction to Mussar session at the JCC on January 28th with a very nice group of 16 people. The session began with the question ‘what is Mussar?’ Rabbi Ora defined Mussar as a practice of soul development that strengthens one’s ability to love.

The group learned how Mussar is deeply ingrained in Jewish history —  in fact, Mussar (as a trend towards ethics and morality in contrast to the reification of halachah) has existed for almost 2,000 years. They then took a look at the concepts of the yetzer hatov (the good inclination) and yetzer hara (the evil inclination), and how Mussar considers every moment as an opportunity for us to choose between the two by serving ourselves or serving the other.

Rabbi Ora shared a list of online classes offered by the Center for Contemporary Mussar and the Mussar Institute, and encouraged folks to register for Beth Israel Congregation’s class beginning in March 2018. She put together a document with information about “The Center for Contemporary Mussar,” online classes through the Mussar Institute, and a class being offered at Beth Israel. Here’s a link to the document with these resources.

New Name for the Recon Movement

“Reconstructing Judaism” is the new name of the central organization of the Reconstructionist movement, replacing the former: Reconstructionist Rabbinical College & Jewish Reconstructionist Communities. The tag phrase is “Deeply rooted, boldly relevant,” which expresses our reverence for Jewish tradition and our constant quest to cultivate Jewish experiences that are meaningful.

Rabbi Deborah Waxman, Ph.D., president of Reconstructing Judaism, said that “More than ever, Judaism must be about doing, and our name is about doing.”

“Many of us grew up in a time when Judaism was simply a matter of being; we were Jewish because of the neighborhood we grew up in, the food we ate, the culture we absorbed. Not anymore,” said Waxman. “Our new name represents an active commitment to doing. ‘Reconstructing’ is the best expression of our approach to Judaism.”

Reconstructing Judaism was the memoir title of the late Rabbi Eisenstein: the first president of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College who built on the ideas of his father-in-law, Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, and launched Reconstructionist Judaism as a movement.

In arriving at this new identity, the organization employed a democratic Reconstructionist approach to decision-making, with a non-hierarchical focus on discussion, and the sharing of ideas. All told, more than 1,000 people—from Los Angeles to Montreal—shared their insights and ideas. “This was a deeply Reconstructionist process that drew on the ideas of many participants,” says Seth Rosen, chair of Reconstructing Judaism’s board of governors. “We gained a great deal of insight into what matters most to those who are drawn to Reconstructionist Judaism.”

This is going to be a busy year for Reconstructing Judaism and the movement as a whole. All whose lives have been impacted by a Reconstructionist rabbi will mark with pride the 50th anniversary of the seminary’s founding. Many of us will gather with fellow Reconstructionists from across the continent for the first Reconstructionist Convention in eight years from Nov. 15-18 in Philadelphia. The new Reconstructionist summer camp, Havaya Arts, opens on the West Coast as campers to return for another joyous summer at Camp Havaya on the East Coast. All the while, the nearly 100 affiliated Reconstructionist communities like ours—and more than 400 rabbis—will continue building a meaningful Jewish future and more perfect world.

 

 

Seven Species Recipes for Tu B’shevat

 

In the past, our Tu B’shevat seders have followed the kabbalistic tradition of the “four worlds.” Traditionally, these seders include nuts, though we found substitutes because the JCC is a Nut Free Building.

There is also a tradition of eating of the Seven Species on Tu B’Shevat. Since these don’t involve nuts, seems like a good tradition for those of us who potluck at the JCC! This Friday, January 26, 2018 is our Tu B’shevat themed Fourth Friday potluck. I’m looking forward to some new eats!

The Seven Species

Deuteronomy 8:8 tells us that Israel was “a land of wheat, barley, grapevines, figs, and pomegranates; a land of oil olives and date honey.” The seven species are:

  • Wheat (chitah in Hebrew)
  • Barley (se’orah in Hebrew)
  • Grapes (gefen in Hebrew), usually consumed as wine
  • Figs (te’enah in Hebrew)
  • Pomegranates (rimon in Hebrew)
  • Olives (zayit in Hebrew), usually consumed in oil form
  • Dates (tamar or d’vash in Hebrew)

Here’s a collection of recipes to get you started:

Ayeka Café – A Monthly Gathering

The Bible’s first story of revelation takes place in the Garden of Eden: After Adam and Eve eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they grow ashamed and fearful, and hide themselves. Then the voice of God travels through the garden, and God asks Adam and Eve: “Ayeka — Where are you?” And Adam reveals: “I heard Your voice in the garden; and I was afraid, and I hid myself.”

Translated literally, God’s question — Ayeka — means “Where are you?” But we can read it more broadly, as Adam did, to also be asking, “How or Who are you?”

Beginning February 1 2018, Rabbi Ora will host a monthly Ayeka Café for AARC members and friends. We’ll gather together to ask ourselves and each other: Ayeka? How are you, at this moment in time? There will be space to explore individual answers in a variety of modalities: through spiritual chevrutah, writing, and/or art-making.

The first Ayeka Café will be 7:30-8:30 PM on Thursday, February 1 at the Common Cup (1511 Washtenaw Avenue).

Ayeka Café is a moment to settle in, grow gentle with yourself, and hear the question: Where are you? Join us in the asking and the answering.