This article on the AARC book group and AARC members with personal connections to Ruth Bader Ginsburg appeared in the January 2023 Washtenaw Jewish News. See page 10 here.
You are invited join the AARC Book Group on Sunday, November 13, 2022 at 11:30am on Zoom as we discuss the new book by the AARC’s Aaron Ahuvia, The Things we Love: How Our Passions Connect Us and Make Us Who We Are.
Aaron and his wife Aura were founders of the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Havurah, which later became the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation (AARC). It’s always great to feature books by an AARC member at the book group!
Please email Greg Saltzman at firstname.lastname@example.org for the AARC book group Zoom link.
Below is an interview with Aaron Ahuvia from the October 2022 Washtenaw Jewish News.
Happy 5th birthday to the AARC book group! Launched in 2014 by Jon Sweeny and Judith Jacobs, the group offers a welcoming and cozy environment in which AARC members and friends gather for intellectually stimulating discussion, friendship, networking, and nourishment. Over the years, the reading selections have ranged from a book about Tiananmen Square (our very first meeting) to books about Israel/Palestine, Jewish history and culture, politics, spirituality, death and dying, anthropology, and more.
Carol Levin comments, “My favorite things about the book group have been getting to know everyone (as a newcomer to AARC, it’s a great gateway to the community), stimulating discussion among a variety of backgrounds and experiences, and Greg and Audrey’s fabulous hospitality.”
Speaking of hospitality, appreciation is owed to everyone who has hosted the AARC book group over the years, including a huge thank you to Greg Saltzman and Audrey Newell for being our regular book group hosts, and to Greg for serving as a terrific coordinator. We have recently switched from a Sunday morning spot to a Sunday noon start time, allowing us to welcome Beit Sefer (religious school) staff to our meetings.
Several group participants identified their favorite books from among the many we’ve read and discussed.
- Carol Levin selected Guide For the Perplexed, by Dara Horn. “I love how Horn draws connections between the historical figures Moses Maimonides and Solomon Schechter and relates their lives, and personalities, and ethical questions to today’s world of espionage and intelligence.”
- Greg Salztman picked as his favorite The Golem and the Jinni, by Helene Wecker. “I liked the mix of historical fiction and fantasy. The golem was a fundamentally good being, and I could enthusiastically root for her triumph as she faced various perils.”
- Martha Kransdorf chose Setting Fires, by Kate Wenner, as her favorite book group pick. “I know the shul and the rabbi who were the inspirations for those portrayed in the book, and I certainly know the NYC neighborhood where some of the story occurred. I was also moved by the mystery behind the father of the protagonist and of the arsonist.”
- Avi Eisbruch’s favorite book group pick is To The End of the Land, by David Grossman. Avi says “I liked the way the rich inner life and maternal struggle of the main character Ora were portrayed as well as how the intersection of private and public/national events were entwined in the story.”
February with Rabbi Ora
The book group was especially well attended the past two Februaries, when Rabbi Ora chose the readings and led the discussion.
- February 2018: Rabbi Ora led us in discussing Understanding Antisemitism, by Jews For Racial & Economic Justice.
- February 2019: Rabbi Ora guided our conversation about a chapter of Radical Judaism: Rethinking God & Tradition, by Rabbi Art Green.
We are delighted to announce that Rabbi Ora will again lead the book group on Sunday, February 9, 2020, book selection to be announced.
Interested in joining the AARC book group? We’d love to have you! Simply reach out to Greg at email@example.com. You are welcome to come every month or as often as you like. Our selection for Sunday, December 8, 2019 is Like Dreamers: The Story of the Israeli Paratroopers Who Reunited Jerusalem and Divided a Nation, by Yossi Klein Halevi. The book for Sunday, January 12, 2019 is The Girl from Foreign: A Memoir, by Sadia Shepard.
The AARC Book group invites you to join our upcoming discussion of a part of the book Radical Judaism: Rethinking God & Tradition, by Arthur Green, on Sunday, February 24, 2019 at 9:45am, at the home of Greg Saltzman and Audrey Newell. You can read the portion we will be discussing in this PDF file. It’s the preface, intro, and first chapter of the book.
Full details, including exact location, are found here. All are welcome. Please RSVP to Greg Saltzman at firstname.lastname@example.org if you plan to attend.
Rabbi Ora will be leading our discussion of Radical Judaiasm. This is the second year in a row that Rabbi Ora has agreed to join the book group to lead a discussion on a text of her choosing.
We asked Rabbi Ora to provide background on the Arthur Green book. Below are her thoughts.
I first met Rabbi Art Green in February 2010 – after I’d decided to attend rabbinical school, but before I’d chosen RRC and was still considering Hebrew College as an option. At the time and now, ‘Art,’ as he’s often called, was the dean of Hebrew College. I don’t recall many details from the few hours I spent there in his presence – just an overall sense of warmth, joyfulness, and curiosity coming from him. Over the past 9 years, though, I’ve had the chance to study a number of his books, including Radical Judaism, of course, but also his Guide to the Zohar and his beautiful translation of R. Yehuda Leib Alter’s writings, Language of Truth: the Torah Commentary of the Sefat Emet.
I wanted our book group to get a taste of Radical Judaism because Art Green so artfully weaves together the theological with the personal. In the Introduction, he shares how he struggled with what some might call a ‘loss of faith,’ but what he calls ‘the pillars of naïve faith [giving] way’ as he came to reject a personal God in favor of a more pantheistic sense of holiness and unity in the world. Green describes how, as a teenager, he could ‘affirm neither particular providence nor a God who governed history,’ and writes: ‘…I am not a ‘believer’ in the conventional Jewish or Western sense. I simply do not encounter God as ‘He’ is usually described in the Western religious context, a Supreme Being or Creator who exists outside or beyond the universe, who created this world as an act of personal will, and who guides and protects it.’
Art Green’s process feels very Reconstructionist to me – both the God-wrestling, and the image of God that he ultimately settles on. Many of us raised in the Jewish tradition go through, at one time or another, a similar kind of wrestling. And that’s precisely what Reconstructionism invites us to do – to not just sit (comfortably or uncomfortably) with the beliefs that have been passed down to us, but to work towards a faith tradition that feels honest, spiritually nourishing, and even transcendent.
Art Green also has a powerful vision for the role that religion can play in shaping what he calls ‘this moment of transition in planetary and human history’ – a moment in which ‘unless we take drastic steps to change our way of living, our patterns of consumption, and our most essential understanding of our relationship to the world in which we exist, we are at great risk of destroying our earthly home and rendering it a wasteland.’ Art Green sees Judaism’s deep truths as tools to help us rise to these challenges.
We look forward to seeing you on Sunday, February 24. Be sure to RSVP to Greg at the email above. Happy reading!
Yesterday, the last day of Hanukkah 5778, Rabbi Marc Gopin posted on Facebook some words of deep wisdom:
“It was very hard to let go of the light this year. Light in darkness feels deeply resonant now, and difficult to resist a sense of foreboding.
Sometimes when you have been caught vulnerable by thieves and criminals, especially when they disguise themselves to beguile the foolish, and sometimes in order to avoid bloodshed, you need to let them steal their trillions. Sometimes you need to learn a harsh lesson, and then build a better security system, a better community of safety and mutual protection, a better community of fair law for all.
This is the only antidote, this inescapable need to reconcile and build trust among the decent rich and poor, the decent women and men, the decent secular and religious. We can do this. Even when it’s darkest outside, there is the amazing light we conjure.”
Hanukkah is always close to the Winter Solstice, but also independent from it. In a reflection on Hanukkah and the Winter Solstice, Rabbi Arthur Waskow wrote in Seasons of Our Joy:
If we see Hanukkah as intentionally, not accidentally, placed at the moment of the darkest sun and darkest moon, then one aspect of the candles seems to be an assertion of our hope for renewed light. Just as at Sukkot we poured the water in order to remind God to pour out rain, perhaps one reason for us to light the candles is to remind God to renew the sun and moon. Indeed, the miracle of eight days’ light from one day’s oil sounds like an echo of the Mishnah’s comment that at the Sukkot water pouring, one log (measure) of water was enough for eight days’ pouring.
On her website “tel shemesh: celebrating and creating earth-based traditions in Judaism,” Rabbi Jill Hammer tells us “There are a number of Jewish stories about the winter solstice. Here are some of the legends Jews can tell one another during the darkest days of winter…” You can read more of her Rabbi Hammer’s teaching on Hanukkah and Winter Solstice here.
And finally, Marcia Falk includes the poem “Winter Solstice” as part of her amidah sequence where it appears in the second-section which re-creates the traditional theme of g’vurot, “strength,” affirming God’s power as m’hayeyh meytim, “reviver of the dead.”‘ For her full discussion of this concept in her creative prayers, see the wonderful book Jewish American Poetry: Poems, Commentary and Reflections. I highly recommend we each have in households her The Book of Blessings: New Jewish Prayers for Daily Life, the Sabbath, and the New Moon Festival (CCAR Press, 2017). Copyright © 1996, 2017 by Marcia Lee Falk. Also, I found on her website that she has done mizrachs (decorative plaques hung on the eastern wall of the home) with her poems and original paintings. Check them out: beautiful gifts for yourself and others.
I’ve written about Shavuot several times over the past few years. In 2015, I wrote on the culmination of the counting of the Omer and the concept of “our lives as torah.” Last year, when Loving Day and Shavuot fell at the same time, I reflected on Jews and interracial marriage. In that blog, I recounted reasons I’d found that we read The Book of Ruth on Shavuot, “…the story takes place during the seasonal harvest that the holiday marks; Ruth’s acceptance of the Israelite faith is analogous to the Jewish people’s acceptance of Torah; and because of the legend that King David, a descendant of Ruth, died on Shavuot.”
Last week my friend Abbie Egherman told me about the 1972 Isaac Asimov book, The Story of Ruth. Abbie is on a search for books that will inspire us, as Jews, to become more deeply and actively involved in refugee support and resettlement. According to Asimov’s memoir, his retelling of Ruth’s story is a long essay treating the book “as a plea for tolerance against the cruelty of the scribe Ezra, who forced the Jews to ‘put away’ their foreign wives.” Asimov’s essay places the story in context of the culture of the time it was written, but his purpose, as explained in his memoir, was to reflect on the potential of any people to become persecutors when in positions of power. In particular, he wanted Jews to look at our own history, situations in which we have been in power as well as eras when we have not.
There will be plenty of time to discuss Asimov’s reflection, as well as other retellings of the Book of Ruth at our congregation’s Shavuot gathering.
AARC Shavuot in Stages
May 30, 2017
Location: Marcy Epstein’s home, 1307 Henry St.:
6:30pm Holiday blessing, Parsha Study, and Spring Soup
7:30 Community celebration with flower strands and wreaths and Ice cream treats
8:30 “Many Books of Ruth” Real storytelling, with wine and cheese tasting
May 31st 6:30-7:30 Yiskor/Memorial Serivce at the JCC
contact for Marcy: email@example.com
When Carol Lessure sent out an announcement last week of the publication of AARC member Rena Seltzer’s new book, The Coach’s Guide for Women Professors, Margo Schlanger was reminded that she had begun working on a list of books by AARC members. The bibliography currently has thirteen books by eight authors. I know there are lots more! As a librarian, I love bibliographies and I’d really like to fill out this one, and post it on our website. So, if you are an AARC member who has written and published a book, send me the details! This blog could use some book reviews as well. If you are willing to write short reviews of interest to AARC members, contact me and we’ll talk.
And, Rena, mazel tov on the new book!