Recap of Ayeka Café

Ayeka Café began meeting in January 2018 as a time for AARC members to gather together, ask each other and themselves the question ‘How are you?’ and listen to what emerged. After a good run, our last Ayeka Café meeting was October 4.

Rabbi Ora asked one of Ayeka Café’s regulars, Judith Jacobs, to write about her experiences over the past 10 months.

“The monthly Ayeka Café meetings, facilitated by Rabbi Ora, were an opportunity for Recon members to meet in a less formal setting. I attended these meetings since they began. I found that they offered me opportunities to explore different parts of me.  There were three types of activities in which I engaged. The first involved dyads in which we took turns at being a listener and a talker. Not only did these experiences let me learn about someone else, they let me explore some of my own feelings. A second experience that I enjoyed was a more artistic one. In this I used a drawing pad and colored markers to represent my world, including my two cats – Sonya and Amber. This was just for me and not shared with anyone else. Lastly, one evening I had a rush of words filling my head and took the opportunity to journal these ideas. Again, this was just for me. Each person who attended an Ayeka Café took from it an amplified version of what they brought to the meeting.”

—Judith Jacobs

Thanks to all who participated and shared of themselves.

Stay tuned for an announcement in the coming weeks about “Ritual Lab & Learning,” a new AARC program launching January 2019.

Come Meet Us and Learn about Reconstructionist Judaism

Click on image for full size flyer.

On Sunday afternoon October 21st, AARC Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner, Beit Sefer director Clare Kinberg, membership chair Marcy Epstein, and board chair Debbie Field will  lead an introductory session on Reconstructionist Judaism.
“Come Meet Us” will be an excellent opportunity for individuals and families who want to learn more about our congregation.  At the same time our members can deepen their understanding of Reconstructionist values and conception of creative, participatory Judaism.

Come meet us!

October 21, 2018

2-4pm at the JCC

Please RSVP here to help with planning

 

Yom Kippur Afternoon Sessions 2018

AARC Yom Kippur practice is to have afternoon sessions of learning, discussion, meditation, and song between the morning service which ends about 2pm and our community Yizkor service, which begins at 5:30pm.  The hour-and-a-half sessions are at 2:15 to 3:30pm and 3:45 to 5pm.

Workshop led by Rev Joe Summers and Anita Ruben-Meiller

Poor People’s Campaign in Washtenaw County

Justice, justice, you shall pursue…” (Deuteronomy 16:18-21)

2:15-3:30pm

In this time of increased exposure to, and awareness of, the injustices in our world, our country, our state and our community, we may feel called upon more than ever to engage in activities and causes that promote justice. I know I was when I was exposed to a presentation by Rev. Joe Summers and others about the Poor People’s Campaign in March of this year.  Please join me and Rev. Summers to hear about the local and national impact of this past Spring’s 6-weeks of action, “the Call for a Moral Revival” and to find out how the Washtenaw County chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign is moving forward to have an impactful presence as we head towards midterm elections.


Text study led by Michal and Josh Samuel

Jonah, the very odd prophet

What is the book of Jonah trying to tell us?

2:15-3:30pm

 

 


Sing, Chant, Walk led by Deb Kraus

3:45-5pm

For the past two years on Yom Kippur afternoon, I have found myself outside with other members, singing and chanting our way through the afternoon between services. It’s been deeply meaningful to us, and a great way to pass the time. You are welcome to join us for all or part of this time. I’ll provide some song sheets but we will also have machzors nearby to aid us in our efforts.  We’ll meet outside if we can and inside if we can’t.


Workshop led by Deborah Fisch

Reproductive Justice: Who is Offered Up to Molech?

Do not allow any of your offspring to be offered up to Molech … (Leviticus 18:21)

3:45-5pm

 

 

Concern for children ranks high in our sacred texts, particularly around Yom Kippur. The Binding of Isaac (the Akedah) rejects child sacrifice, in contrast to prevailing custom at the time. This rejection is codified by the verse in Leviticus.

Fast forward several thousand years to see what Jewish law and American law have to say about the primacy of children’s welfare … and a figure who is absent in these conversations: the mother. Who knows what is best for the child? Whose welfare matters more? This workshop uses the lens of Reproductive Justice to examine law and custom around pregnancy and childbirth. The mother/birthing person and fetus: whose rights prevail?

Us, God and Challah

touching the challah

“Everyone touch someone who is touching the challah!”

by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

On the ground learning

Jewish/Arab education and organizing in Israel and Palestine

An evening of stories in support of the bilingual storybook and curriculum Sweet Tea with Mint

Thursday, June 14, 7-9pm
Temple Beth Emeth, lower level
2309 Packard, Ann Arbor
Click here to view and save a flyer for the event

Sweet Tea with Mint

Several members of our community have made trips to Israel/Palestine recently, specifically visiting organizations of Israeli and Palestinian educators and activists who, amidst a present of terrible conflict,  are working toward a viable future for the region’s peoples. On June 14th, they will be telling stories from their trips at an event organized to raise money for a bilingual educational project.

Sweet Tea With Mint and Other Stories is the heart of a new educational curriculum that was developed by Hagar: Jewish-Arab Education for Equality in Beer Sheva. The anthology is composed of six stories focusing on Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holidays, written by distinguished children’s writers in Hebrew and Arabic. Hagar is dedicated to creating a shared space for Jewish and Arab residents of the Negev – a space based on the foundations of multiculturalism, bilingualism and equality.

The storytellers at the event include AARC members Rebecca Kanner, Alice Mishkan and Debbie Zivan. Clare Kinberg, AARC Communications Coordinator will MC.

Rebecca traveled to Israel/Palestine in May 2017, her first visit in over 30 years.  She was part of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence (CJNV) delegation of over 100 Jewish activists from around the world.  CJNV was in a coalition with 5 Palestinian, Israeli and diaspora groups that created the Sumud Freedom Camp in the West Bank village of Sarura, in South Hebron.

Alice just returned from her third year leading a study abroad to Israel and Palestine through the University of Michigan. This year, Michigan students partnered with Palestinian students at Sakhnin Teacher’s College. Students learned about the differences in educations systems for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and Jewish Israelis. Students compared these to education systems in the United States, and learned about how education can be a tool for social change.

Debbie is just back from a family trip to Israel/Palestine for her nephew’s wedding. In addition to visiting with family (half of whom live on settlements), Debbie and family toured Hebron, the Jerusalem Hand in Hand school and stayed overnight in Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salaam. The combination of celebrating with family, seeing examples of how Arab and Jewish Israelis are prioritizing pathways to peace and a dual narrative tour that stressed the wrongs of the “other side” made for an interesting trip – a trip that created a sense of urgency to find ways to make a difference.

Hagar’s director of Director of Partnerships and Resource Development, Karen Abu Adra, will also be present to tell us more about the school and its importance to the Negev region. Karen is originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania but has been married to a Bedouin dentist from Segev Shalom, Israel and living in Israel since 1993. They have three adult sons.  Karen taught English for 13 years in a Bedouin high school in the Bedouin city of Rahat and has been working for Hagar for a year and half.

There is a very nice connection between Hagar and the Reconstructionist movement. Hagar’s Executive Director, Sam Shube, writes:

My name is Sam Shube and I’m CEO of the Hagar Association. I served as director of Kehillat Mevakshei Derech in Jerusalem, Israel’s first Reconstructionist congregation.  Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, z”l, was a member of Mevakshei when he lived in Israel.  The motive force for its establishment was Rabbi Jack Cohen, z”l, one of Kaplan’s leading students in Israel, a man I knew and loved.  Other Reconstructionist leaders of Mevakshei have included Jewish educator Norman Schainin.  Though I am not an ordained rabbi, my Master’s Thesis was on Kaplan and John Dewey, and I’ve always adhered to Kaplan’s views on Jewish civilization and democracy.  (I’m still a member of Mevakshei, where I occasionally read Torah and give a sermon).

I’ve lived in Israel for over 30 years (I did my undergraduate work at JTS and Columbia) and served in a variety of nonprofits. Of everything I’ve seen in this country, however, Hagar — the bilingual school in Beer Sheba — is the most familiar reflection of Kaplan’s idea of community.  Hagar’s Arab and Jewish families are intensively active on a day-to-day level, organizing field trips and fundraisers, and providing mutual assistance.   Last night at our Iftar celebration (the traditional Ramadan break-fast), Jewish and Arab families helped their children prepare gifts for hospitalized Gazan children – at the very time when Israel and the Hamas were trading rockets and artillery just a few miles to the west.   And I myself used to platform to raise funds from parents for scholarships to help needy families cover tuition fees.   Other recent community events have included discussions on the Moslem and Jewish connection with Jerusalem, and a visit to a Beer Sheba mosque.

Hagar’s community is remarkably diverse.  It includes Arabs from urban centers in northern Israel and Bedouins’ from the Negev, Jews from underserved neighborhoods in town and professors from the university.  Our community welcomes LGBT families, something not to be taken for granted in the more traditional environment of both Jewish and Arab communities in southern Israel.   In fact, the very existence of an Arab Jewish school in Beer Sheba – as opposed to more culturally liberal parts of Israel – is a miracle in and of itself.

Jewish Views on Reparations

by Clare Kinberg

May 19th, Erev Shavuot, was an evening of study, cheesecake and blintzes for AARC. There were four study sessions; I hope to do a blog post on each one:

  • Jonas Higbee: “Building a Community Response to Fascism: Lessons from Richard Spencer’s Visit to MSU”
  • Clare Kinberg: “Shavuot4BlackLives: Jewish Views on Reparations”
  • Etta King Heisler: “Belonging in America:  What is Belonging and How Does it Broaden, Limit, Deepen, or Otherwise Define Our Community?”
  • Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner:  “A Long and ‘Twisted’ Relationship: Us, God, and…Challah?”

First up, my session on “Jewish Views on Reparations.” My impetus for the session was “Shilumim,” the shavuot4blacklives study guide put together by Graie Barasch-Hagans, Koach Baruch Frasier and Mackenzie Zev Reynolds and distributed by Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ).

Shilumim is the Hebrew word meaning ‘reparations;’ ‘Leshalem’ is ‘to pay’ from the same root as ‘shalem,’ to make whole. The concept of the study guide is to extend the theme of Shavuot, which Jews begin to count down to on the second night of Passover, the beginning of our liberation, and which traditionally ends with the revelation at Mt Sinai, the receiving of the Torah seven weeks later. Graie, KB and Mackenzie suggest we extend this trajectory another several weeks to end on Juneteenth (June 19) with a focus on what is needed to fulfill liberation. That is, reparations.

Shavuot4blacklives introduces the study by reminding us when the Vision For Black Lives Platform was released in 2016, many members of the Jewish community had strong reactions to the way that Israel was characterized in the document, particularly the use of the word “genocide” in connection to the Palestinian people. At the same time, “Jews of Color in our community called on all of us to remain committed to the Movement For Black Lives, to racial justice, and by extension, to Black Jews no matter what.” They offer this study guide on the reparations sections of the Platform as one way to do that.

The Israelites despoiling the Egyptians. Image from f. 13 of the ‘Golden Haggadah.” 1325–1349

Our discussion was framed using Aryeh Bernstein’s essay, “The Torah Case for Reparations,” in which he draws on many places in Torah to conclude “Jews must support reparations in principle, because we took reparations for our slave labor, we were commanded by God to do so, and we were promised these reparations in the earliest Divine plan for our liberation.” The Bernstein article, a long, worthwhile read (with lots of excellent links) is a specifically Jewish follow-up to Ta-Nehisi Coates 2014 Atlantic essay, “The Case for Reparations.”

As Bernstein’s essay based itself on Torah, Rabbi Sharon Brous’ LA Times Opinion piece, “Why Jews Should Support Reparations for Slavery,” is based on a rabbinic dispute in the Mishna:

Gittin 55a:12

§ The mishna teaches that Rabbi Yoḥanan ben Gudgeda further testified about a stolen beam that was already built into a building and said that the injured party receives the value of the beam but not the beam itself. With regard to this, the Sages taught in a baraita (Tosefta, Bava Kamma 10:5): If one robbed another of a beam and built it into a building, Beit Shammai say: He must destroy the entire building and return the beam to its owners. And Beit Hillel say: The injured party receives only the value of the beam but not the beam itself, due to an ordinance instituted for the sake of the penitent. In order to encourage repentance, the Sages were lenient and required the robber to return only the value of the beam. The mishna was taught in accordance with the opinion of Beit Hillel

I included in our discussion packet two pieces on Affirmative Action that have relevance to our current moment, a moment in which political concord among representatives of Black and Jewish communities is needed, yet is unfortunately characterized by significant discord.

One recent example of the discord: When Starbucks announced that they were closing for an afternoon (Tuesday, May 29) to do a company-wide training on racial bias, they initially included the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) as a consultant on the training. The inclusion of the ADL was immediately met with push-back from some Black activists, which, in turn, was met by dismay from many Jews who think of the ADL as an outstanding leader of anti-bias education. Contemporary Black activists cite the ADL’s frequent coordination with law enforcement and the ADL’s support for U.S. police being trained on crowd-control and counter-terrorism in Israel.

I brought into our Shavuot  discussion my own perspective which relates back to the 1970s when, to my dismay, the ADL argued against Affirmative Action programs, then among the chief policy proposals advocated by African American organizations. The ADL had determined that Affirmative Action was not good for the Jews. Our Ann Arbor community should be interested in the history revealed in this 2003 article “Jews temper views on affirmative action”:

“In the Supreme Court’s landmark 1978 decision against affirmative action in Regents of the University of California v. Bakke, Jewish groups lined up in vocal opposition to affirmative programs. In that decision, the court banned quotas but allowed racial criteria to be used in admissions decisions. This time around [2003], their positions are more muted, as well as more diverse. Only the Anti-Defamation League, one of the then-staunchest leaders of the national fight against affirmative action, has filed a brief opposing Michigan’s program.”

I included the 2017 article “Affirmative Action as Reparations” to make the link between the current arguments for reparations and the original thinking behind Affirmative Action.

Menachem Begin protesting against the Reparations from Germany Agreement in March 1952. The sign reads: “Our honor shall not be sold for money. Our blood shall not be atoned by goods. We shall wipe out the disgrace!”

Finally, I included the Yad Vashem Shoah Research Center document on “Reparations and Restitutions,” which, to the surprise of most of us at the table, begins by saying, ‘From 1953-1965, West Germany paid the State of Israel, Jewish survivors, and German refugees hundreds of millions of dollars in a symbolic attempt to make up for the crimes committed by the Nazis during the Holocaust.” The early growth if Israel’s economy was made possible by this money, yet it caused deep division among Jews.

There is a lot of information in this blog, and I hope much food for thought. The comments are open below for any who want to continue this discussion here.

 

AARC Shavuot 2018: Belonging, Behaving, Believing

“In 1934 Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan, the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism, wrote his classic text Judaism As Civilization. Kaplan taught that there are three ways of identifying with a religious community: by believing, by behaving, and by belonging…And it’s true that no matter what Jews believe, and no matter how Jews behave, there is an underlying, fundamental and intrinsic interconnection that ties us together in a common history and present reality.”

–Rabbi Joe Klein

Celebrate Shavuot with a Night of Learning

Saturday May 19, 7-10 pm at the JCC

Choose from 4 study sessions taught by AARC community members

Eat cheesecake and other dairy sweets

Bring a box of grain to donate to Food Gatherers

Close the evening with Havdallah

7:00 PM:  Gather

7:15-8:15:  Jonas Higbee: “Building a Community Response to Fascism: Lessons from Richard Spencer’s Visit to MSU” (‘Behaving’)

7:15-8:15:  Clare Kinberg: “Shavuot4BlackLives: Jewish Views on Reparations” (‘Behaving’)

8:15-8:30:  Cheesecake Break

8:30-9:30:  Etta King Heisler: “Belonging in America:  What is Belonging and How Does it Broaden, Limit, Deepen, or Otherwise Define Our Community?” (‘Belonging’)

8:30-9:30:  Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner:  “A Long and ‘Twisted’ Relationship: Us, God, and…Challah?” (‘Believing’)

9:30-10:00:  Havdallah

Next Year, Together

At Mimouna this year, we had a serious discussion after Shulchan Orekh/Dinner feast that began with Rabbi Ora making a connection to the afikoman and asking us questions about our relationships with our neighbors:

The word afikoman can be broken up into two Aramaic words, אפיקו מן, meaning “bring out sustenance.” According to the mystical text Sefer HaSichot, eating the afikoman draws down God’s infinite bounty into the framework of our material world.

In light of our many blessings, and the blessings of being in relationship, let’s answer these questions together:

  1. What relationships do we (individually and collectively) already have with local Muslim communities?
  2. In the coming year, what new relationships might be established?
  3. What could AARC’s Mimouna celebration look like next year?

We talked about ways we individually and as a Jewish congregation could grow our relationships with other vulnerable and targeted communities. As a beginning, here are some upcoming activities that were mentioned:

 

This Sunday, April 15, 3-7pm, Open House at the Islamic Center of Ann Arbor, sponsored by the Muslim Association of Ann Arbor.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday and Saturday April 20 and 21st, Temple Beth Emeth Social Action Committee is hosting Jan Harboe, author of Train to Crystal City, a book about the secret American internment camp and incarceration of U.S. citizens of German and Japanese descent during WWII.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, April 25, the film And Then They Came for Us about the Japanese interment during WWII, at UM-Rackham Amphitheatre, 915 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor.

Sign up to be a member of the Ann Arbor Jewish Sanctuary Ann Arbor Jewish Sanctuary and Immigration Committee by going to this website, We Were Strangers, MI. 

 

Here is a really good article from the Detroit Jewish News, “Detainee Defenders,”  about the work to defend several hundred Iraqi who have been detained with deportation orders.

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.

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.