AARC Gatherings in the Washtenaw Jewish News

Here’s a taste of some of our events and celebrations, over the years.

Events-2007-2014

Reflections on this year’s Sukkot Retreat

By Deb Gombert

The kids are up to something.

The kids are up to something.

Carl in a tree

Carl in a tree

I’ve included two pictures to start this post off.  The picture from last year shows a group of children age 3 to 13 who have all joined together in a Very Important Quest of some sort. I wanted to share it because every year at the retreat I love the way the children play together in one group, the older and younger children joining each other in flashlight tag or other games created in the moment. This year was no different: the children created a community that mirrored the sense of community I feel at the retreat.

The other picture is a picture from this year. Carl is high up in a tree. He is alone, reading a book, enjoying a new sense of physical accomplishment in that he can climb higher than he could last year, and enjoying the near perfect weather. At the retreat this year I too found some time to be alone. I meditated, wrote in my journal and practiced accordion. Unlike Carl I was not personally aware of any new physical accomplishments since last year, but I was aware of other ways in which I have grown since last year. And as Carl did, I also enjoyed the weather – not by climbing trees, but by walking among them in the forest around the retreat center.

Last year we almost did not go to the retreat. Carl told me “Mom! We HAVE to go. It is the best weekend of the year!” I suggested [Read more…]

On Volunteering at the Community Kitchen

By Debbie Field

I’ve been cooking since childhood, and I feel pretty confident in the kitchen.  But the first time I volunteered at Food Gatherers’ Community Kitchen at the Delonis Center, I learned a lot about how the professionals do it: health department rules require meticulous attention to cleanliness, the knives are extremely sharp, and if you forget to bring your own hat, you really do have to wear one of those hairnets. If you come a few times, you graduate from mixing powdered lemonade or slicing leftover cake to making stew for 70 on the big range. If, like me, you enjoy feeding people, you will find that a fun and satisfying experience.


From Mike Ehmann: Our congregation provides volunteers for a scheduled shift the first Saturday of every month from noon to 2:30. The Community Kitchen is inside the Delonis Center, 312 W. Huron St, Ann Arbor. This is a great opportunity for adults and for youth over 12 years old to participate in this wonderful team meal prep experience. Keep in mind that only 2 of the 5 volunteers may be between 12-18 years of age. Food Gatherers and Community Kitchen staff are very grateful for our participation.

Cultivating Shmita: Re-Wilding Our Ecosystem, Our Diet, Our Medicine

By Idelle Hammond-Sass

Drake Meadow took some of us on an illuminating permaculture walk at the Fall Sukkot Retreat. It was especially relevant in this year where we are cultivating a new ‘Shmita mentality‘.

Idelle and Drake examining a plant at the 2014 Sukkot Retreat

Idelle and Drake examining a plant at the 2014 Sukkot Retreat

We learned to find edible and healing plants in our own yards and how those things that many people sacrifice to have a typical American lawn are actually better to embrace, cultivate and use in tinctures and teas. Drake’s knowledge and ability to notice plants reminded me of how little we know about the land around us.

Shmita reminds us to recognize that even when the land is fallow and wild, it can provide nourishment and even healing herbs for us. Allowing the land to rest can bring a different type of harvest as well, as local and native plants regain their footing and provide habitat and food for animals as well as perennial and edible plants for us.

In an article shared recently by Sarah Chandler, (Director of Earth Based Spiritual Practice at Adamah Farm at the Isabella Freedman Center) she demonstrates how to cultivate elderberry plants and make a tincture from it with the Jewish Greening Fellows. (The article is not available online but here are photos of the process.) This dovetailed with some of the knowledge Drake shared with us at the retreat. Drake mentioned making tinctures from other plants we found including goldenrod.

One piece of knowledge passed on by Drake came in handy recently as we toured conservation efforts in Washtenaw County with Legacy Land Trust. [Read more…]

New member intro: Welcome the Nelson/Spindler family!

In our ongoing series of new member intros, I’m happy to introduce the Nelson/Spindler family:  Cara Spindler, Dave Nelson, and Aziza and Otto.

Nelson-Spindler

Dave says:  “I’m the tall one; Cara is the pretty one.”

 

 

 

 

 

Some Q & A’s:

What brought you to Ann Arbor and how long have you been here?

Cara and I both came to Ann Arbor as U-M undergrads twenty years ago, and have been here ever since.

Tell us about your prior involvement in the congregation:  

We’ve been skulking around the periphery of the AARC for several years (Otto’s been in Beit Sefer for, I dunno, maybe three or four years now).

What are some things you like to do? 

Um . . . being outside? The kids are very into imagining insane things and playing made up games that I find totally inscrutable (as well as Pokemon–ugh), while my wife and I hope to get to see a movie again some day. And we all read a fair bit.

Many of us already know Dave, Cara, and their kids — if you don’t, say hi the next chance you get!

High Holidays Appreciation

By Carol Lessure

Each year, we relocate to the Unitarian Universalist Church so that we can welcome anyone in the community seeking a place to pray together with us on High Holidays. We are committed to this effort and providing ticketless services so that it is easy and affordable for anyone to join us. Here is a very nice note sent to us by a first time guest about their experience at our Rosh Hashanah Services this year:

We are visiting our daughter and son-in-law, and we all came to services today … I wanted to let you know that I have been to many services over the years, and I’ve even liked some of them. But this is the first service that I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt comfortable and welcome. The congregation was warm, involved, intelligent. A perfect blend of academe and community, something that I’ve found is all too rare. We’ll be back, I’m sure, when we visit again, and I think you’ll be seeing the kids again, as well.

We are grateful to everyone who helped create our wonderful High Holiday services. We had beautiful participation with service and event leadership by Rav Michal with Torah services managed by Deb Kraus. Members and guests provided singing and music, personal reflections, meaningful readings, Shmita rituals, Yom Kippur workshops and opportunities to gather after services as well. Once again, Jen Cohen supported us with her able coordination and shlepping of stuff. We are deeply appreciative of all the ways that our community comes together to support AARC High Holiday services. We thank each and every one of you.

One more note to members and everyone on our mailing list: watch your inbox (and the Monday Mailer) for a link to a quick High Holidays survey. We invite everyone who attended services to share thoughts and help us in our planning for next year’s services.

Cultivating Friendships, Community through the Sukkot Retreat

By Carol Lessure (based on welcome remarks made during Yom Kippur Services 5775)

As a community, we have much to be grateful for. I thought of this when I responded to my 10 year old son, our sceptic, about why we are Jewish and participate in High Holiday services. It is in part because we want to be a part of this community.

I also thought of this when I read a recent editorial by David Brooks in the New York Times pondering what he would do if in some fantasy world he had $500 million to give away. What did he conclude? Well, he decided he would try to set up places that cultivate friendships.

He envisions places that are NOT networking programs but some place that offers something more profound.

He would create places that “give you challenging activities to do together.” We put on High Holiday services for several hundred members and guests in a temporary location each year.

He said, “nothing inspires friendship like selflessness and cooperation in moments of difficulty.” I naturally think of our Bar and Bat Mitzvahs that we all pitch in to support each other within this small DYI congregation. We also have a Mitzvah Corps available to help members during life transitions and other times when support is needed.

“You also want to give moments when people can share confidences, about big ideas and small worries,” wrote Brooks. (Yes, we’ve got that covered.)

He envisioned a string of adult camps or retreat centers that would gather people together in seclusion. We’d prepare and clean up our meals together, and eating our meals would go on for a while. In the morning, we would read about and discuss big topics. In the afternoons, we’d play sports, take hikes and build something complicated together. At night, there’d be a bar and music.

Well that brings me back to our resident skeptic because Brooks is kind of describing our Fall Sukkot Retreat. My skeptical son has been asking me when it will be . . . since August.

As part of the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, he and the rest of my family have gained a community where we don’t network, but really delve into both intellectual and spiritual topics. We wrestle with G-d and our own perceptions of belief. After lurking around for many years, we became members and have never looked back. Through AARC, we have gained a bit of that friendship circle, of that community, that David Brooks describes.

So, David Brooks does not have $500 million, and he is not here to give us a grant to make our circle bigger. But it takes far less than that to become a member of our community. In fact, we invite people to give what they can within a range. By becoming a member you make a commitment to this community and its future, and as one that did not sign up right away I can tell you that if feels good to take that step forward.

That said, I always enjoy seeing all the guests that join us for High Holidays. I thank you all for enriching us with your participation in services this year and years past.

If you want to really experience our community come to Fourth Friday on October 24 at the JCC. We eat a communal meal after services and do the dishes together. If you aren’t coming to the Fall Sukkot Retreat this year, mark your calendars for October 2 – 4, 2015. I am pretty sure that we’ll be there.

Read more about and sign up for the Sukkot Retreat

Klezmer Music is coming to Ann Arbor

Maxwell Street Band pic 2The Maxwell Street Band

Come enjoy a rich, multi-dimensional performance that combines dance music, folk songs, theater medleys, and jazzy Yiddish pop music from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.

Concert & Dance Party

Saturday, November 1

Location: Eastern Michigan University Student Center, Main Ballroom

  • Doors open at 6:45 pm; music starts at 7:30 pm
  • Opening act: Detroit’s Kidz Klez, followed by Maxwell Street Concert and Dance Party
  • Cost: $18 per adult, $5 per student.  Kids are free.

Visit www.jewishannarbor.org to purchase tickets.

Musician’s Workshop

Sunday, November 2

Location: JCC of Ann Arbor (2935 Birch Hollow Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48108) Newman Lounge

10:00 – 11:30 am.  Learn and play klezmer music.

Register below.  After you register, you’ll get a link to download mp3’s for the workshop.  

Free to all musicians (recommended age 12 and up).  Maxwell Street’s clarinetist, violinist, and pianist will lead a master class to teach musicians of all levels how to play in the klezmer style. The musicians will receive band arrangements and coaching. By the end of the workshop, the musicians will play together as an orchestra!  Participants should be able to sightread music (or should come having already learned the assigned pieces by listening to MP3s provided in advance).

The Klezmer Concert & Workshop are organized in part by the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation with support from the Eastern Michigan University Jewish Studies, the JCC of Greater Ann Arbor, and an Impact Grant of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, as part of the Ann Arbor Yiddish Festival.

All-Logos-for-Klezmer-version-3

Register for the Musician’s Workshop here:

A D’var Torah about the Akedah

by Margo Schlanger

ShofarThe traditional Torah portion for the first day of Rosh Hashanah is about the birth of Isaac and the near-death of Ishmael, Abraham’s son by a woman whose name we never find out – Hagar, the name given in the Torah, means “foreigner.”  Ishmael, of course, is the father of the Ishmaelites.  In the Muslim tradition, he is the Muslim patriarch, ancestor of Muhammed, and more generally of the Arab Muslims.

It’s the relationship between that first day’s parsha and the parsha for today, Rosh Hashanah’s second day, that I want to talk about.  Today’s parsha is Akedah, the binding of Isaac.  As we all know, it’s a difficult portion.  If the project of our Torah reading is to find inspiration and edification, that’s a tough undertaking from a story that seems to portray just about everyone behaving badly.

How can we reconcile ourselves to a God who says to Abraham “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and offer him as a burnt offering on one of the mountains that I shall show you”?  And if the answer to that question is, it’s a test, then that raises another question:  How can we admire an Abraham who is so bold, so compassionate, as to argue with God over strangers in Sodom and Gomorrah, but not bold enough and compassionate enough to argue with God about the command to murder his own child?  If it’s a test, didn’t Abraham fail, when he set so silently to obey?

These are not new questions.  [Read more…]

Erev Rosh Hashanah Message

Rabbi Michal Woll

Rabbi Michal Woll
Photo: Stephanie Rowden

Rosh Hashanah may be the most complicated of our holy days, for its identity is fractured. In biblical tradition it was simply “day of blowing the horn.” Over millennia other purposes and themes have been layered upon it – the new year, the day of judgment, the day of remembrance, the day of crowning God, the day the world was made. I was inspired some months ago to focus this year on the last one – RH as the anniversary of creation, and tomorrow we will read a traditional alternative to the conventional torah reading – the first chapter of genesis, the original creation story.

Jews don’t seem to need to argue so much with this version of creation. One possible reason is that our tradition recognizes that the world is constantly being recreated and renewed. We sang at the opening of the service – chadesh yameinu kekedem – renew our days as of old, like at the beginning. We find in the morning liturgy: b’tuvo m’chadeish bechol yom tamid ma’aseih v’reishit – with divine goodness you renew, each day, continually, the work of creation. We too are renewed each day, reminded with the elohai neshamah – each morning we find a pure breath, a clear soul, ready for a new imprint that we make with our daily lives.

And our obligation following the second biblical creation story – the expulsion from Eden, which will be read and discussed a few weeks from now – is not to atone for the mistake of Adam and Eve but to strive to repair the gap between the world as we find it and the original vision of paradise. Unfortunately our job is not as easy as God’s was. God exclaimed: let there be light, and there was. As we will sing in the morning – baruch she’amar v’hayah ha’olam – blessed is the one who spoke and the world was. Wow – like magic. In fact, this moment is imbedded in the common language of conjuring and magic. Abra-cadabra is not merely gibberish syllables, but Talmudic Aramaic. A’bra – I create – the same root as the first line of torah – breishit bara elohim – in the beginning god created. Dabra – I will speak – related to the most common phrase in torah – vaydaber adonai el moshe – and God spoke to Moses. Abra cadabra – I create just as I speak. [Read more…]