Ann Arbor Jews prepare for white supremacist speaker at UMich

In anticipation of Richard Spencer’s likely speech on UMich campus during 2018 spring break, Jews in Ann Arbor are preparing. The visit raises an array of  issues for the University and the community. On January 10, 2018 Spencer’s team sued the University of Cincinnati in a scenario similar to what’s happening in Ann Arbor.

Jews in Ann Arbor are adopting a variety of approaches to preparing for Spencer. The comment feature on this blog post is open so that you can weigh in on your reactions to these.

In mid-December the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor sent out a letter, co-signed by the leadership of most Ann Arbor congregations including AARC, which urged us to prepare for Spencer’s appearance here. The letter says in part, “We are reaching out to Ann Arbor city representatives, the Ann Arbor Police Department, and to the University with the aim of collaborating on effective measures to ensure the safety of our community’s people and institutions…”

Many UM students and faculty are taking an activist approach which eschews collaborating with the police. The Detroit Jewish News reported on protests here. The Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan campaign is bringing together many constituencies targeted by white supremacy and rising white nationalism. Their statement of organization reads:

Richard Spencer has invited himself to speak at the University of Michigan. We have preemptively created this protest event (date to be determined if and when he comes to campus) to get people thinking about what they will be doing when a prominent white supremacist and his supporters arrive on campus and in our community.
We support a diversity of tactics being used against Spencer. We are not interested in telling people what to do on this day, nor do we see it as our role to do so. #StopSpencer is not planning any official protest or event.
Safety is our primary concern. Any form of protest that does not center the needs and well-being of marginalized people is not one that will be effective in protesting Spencer, who will be targeting those same folx. We call on you to critically reflect on your actions, and what groups you choose to work with, in order to understand the potential impacts (harmful or not) on others.
The fight against white supremacy, racism, police violence, Islamophobia and antisemitism is ongoing work. Richard Spencer’s visit is merely a symptom of the white supremacy that is institutionalized in this University, our local government, and local and state police forces (ie the Ann Arbor Police Department). We condemn the history of collaboration between white supremacists and police, which specifically occurred in the 80s and 90s in Ann Arbor. We ask that you acknowledge the legacy of local resistance, and lend your resources to groups already involved in the fight against white supremacy.
We encourage you to leverage your privilege, power, or capacity to take collective action against Spencer in any way you are able. We believe it is imperative to dismantle white supremacy in all its forms.
In solidarity,
Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan

Recently, Jewish students have organized the ad hoc Ann Arbor Jews Against White Supremacy, which is aligned with the campus Stop Spencer campaign.

Two upcoming events of interest:

Stop Spencer at the University of Michigan Town Hall Meeting,

Saturday January 13, 2:30-4:30 in the Anderson Room at the Michigan Union. The purpose of this event is to learn about Richard Spencer’s potential visit from Stop Spencer organizers and community members. For facebook info on the Town Hall.

And specifically for Jews (though everyone is welcome), on Saturday January 27, 7-9pm, a havdallah “to resist antisemitism and white supremacy.” Location to be announced. The purpose of this gathering is to join together with “members of the Jewish community in Ann Arbor for community-building, story sharing, and organizing for the first of a two-part Havdallah gatherings!  Richard Spencer’s visit to the University of Michigan is harmful to our Jewish community. It also deeply affects (Jewish and non-Jewish) people of color, queer, trans*, and two-spirit folks, Muslim people, immigrants, and other groups targeted by white supremacy.” For facebook info on the havdallah.

This post is open for comments. What do you think?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

New Parenting Group during Beit Sefer, other special January events

Seth and Kathy Kopald

AARC is starting up a new parenting group twice a month on Sunday mornings during Beit Sefer/Religious School. Parents with kids of any age are welcome, including parents of preschool and toddlers. We will offer childcare during the group meetings.

This free, parenting discussion group will be facilitated by Seth Kopald, an Internal Family Systems (IFS) practitioner, parent educator, former Montessori teacher, education consultant, and former Head of School. The Sunday morning groups will run from 9:30-11 every other week, beginning January 14th at the JCC. Seth, Kathy and their family joined AARC this past year.  You can read their New Member Profile here.

Seth will introduce the IFS model in conjunction with Attachment Parenting theory. He will facilitate enriching and generative discussions about parenting with a focus on helping parents discover how their internal world affects their parenting and their level of peace and joy while parenting. Discussion will also include strategies for loving yet clear child discipline/guidance practices.  Coffee available!

On January 28th, AARC Beit Sefer is co-planning a special Tu B’shvat environmental conservation program with the Jewish Cultural Society.  Parents and all other members of AARC are invited to come for the event,”Bats of the World,” presented by the Organization for Bat Conservation. The fun begins at 10:30am at the JCC.

January Calendar of AARC Events

Sunday January 7, 11am JCC: AARC “Third Age” group. Friendly discussion on enhancing Jewish life for members 60 (more or less) and older. This is the second get-together of a new group initiated by the Membership Committee co-chair Marcy Epstein.
Saturday January 13: Second Saturday Shabbat Morning Service. Signup for member lunch here.
Sunday January 14, AARC Book Club9:45-11:30am, home of Greg Saltzman. The book will be: Mohsin Hamid, Exit West (2017) – fiction, short list for Man Booker prize.
Sunday January 14, Parenting Group led by Seth Kopald during Beit Sefer, 9:30-10:45. This group will meet every other week during Beit Sefer through February.
Sunday January 14, during Beit Sefer, Amit Weitzer, Executive Director of Habonim Dror Camp Tavor, will present about camp to students and parents.
January 26Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, with tot shabbat and potluck, at the JCC.
January 28th 10:30am, JCC: Beit Sefer and all congregation “Bats Around the World” environmental conservation program co-sponsored with Jewish Cultural Society.

About Lincoln’s Nigun

Cover of Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble’s 2014 album, “Nigunim Vol IV Brooklyn Spirituals.”

At our October Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, Rabbi Ora introduced a new to us nigun [a mystical musical melody] for “L’cha Dodi.” Composed by Joey Weisenberg, it is called “Lincoln’s Nigun,” which immediately generated speculation, Why Lincoln?

Evidently, we are not the only ones curious about the nigun’s title. Just last month, Tablet Magazine published a story on the background of “Lincoln’s Nigun,” “If You Like the Music at Brooklyn’s Hippest Shul, Thank Abe Lincoln.” If you have the time, read the article. But to summarize, Weisenberg’s composition was inspired by both a story related in Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln about respect the troops showed President Lincoln (the soldiers would part to the left and right to make way for Lincoln) and a phrase in “L’cha Dodi”: “yamin u’smol tifrotzi/to the left and to the right they part ways” expressing respectful welcome for Shabbat.

Weisenberg also characterized the music as influenced by Civil War Americana, as well as traditional Jewish melodies. For some, the melody brought to mind the song “Ashokan Farewell” from Ken Burn’s Civil War miniseries, composed by Jay Ungar, the only song in the soundtrack not composed during the Civil War. (In writing this blog, I also found out that Jay Ungar played at Paul Resnick and Caroline Richardson’s wedding!)

May we enjoy singing this together for many Shabbats to come.

 

 

About our Selichot Prayer Service, Sat Sept 16

by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

The practice of Selichot goes back at least 2,000 years, and may be even older: Legend has it that when King David realized the Jerusalem Temple would eventually be destroyed, he begged God to tell him how the Jewish people would be able to connect with God while in exile. God told King David that the people could recite ‘selichot’–penitential prayers–to bring them closer to God, and that they should include a recitation of the “Thirteen Attributes of God,” a passage from Exodus evoking God’s compassionate nature–and one that we now recite throughout Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur: “Adonai! Adonai! A God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, rich in steadfast kindness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit all punishment…”

As Jewish tradition evolved, it became customary to recite Selichot prayers in the days and weeks leading up to Rosh haShana. In Eastern Europe, Selichot were originally recited early in the morning, prior to dawn. There was a custom in Eastern Europe that the person in charge of prayers would make the rounds of the village, knocking three times on each door and saying, “Israel, holy people, awake, arouse yourselves and rise for the service of the Creator!” It later became common practice to hold the first Selichot service–considered the most important–at a time more convenient for the masses. Therefore, the Selichot service was moved to Saturday night.

For our own Selichot service this Saturday night, we’ll end Shabbat together with Havdallah, and then learn a few soulful niggunim – wordless melodies – that will form an aural backdrop to our Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur services. If you’d like to get a head-start on learning these melodies, or if you’re not able to make it to Selichot, here are 2 of the tunes we’ll be learning: Joey Weisenberg’s Shochein Ad and Nishmat Kol Chai.

Selichot Prayer Service
 Saturday, September 16
8pm
each bring a candle (we’ll have extras if you forget)
 Touchstone Common House
(yellow building at the front right behind the Touchstone sign)
 560 Little Lake Drive (off Jackson Rd between Wagner and Zeeb)

please park on the street

 

Yom Kippur Workshops 2017

It’s our Yom Kippur tradition at AARC to have several afternoon sessions for study, meditation, and discussion. This year, there will be three sessions; two from about 2:15 to 3:30 pm, and one from 3:45 to 5 pm.

 

 

Barbara Boyk Rust

Meditation and Sacred Chant for the Quiet of the Day
led by Barbara Boyk Rust
2:15pm

One of the blessings of Yom Kippur’s fast is the cleansing, purifying and opening we experience as we abstain from food and other routines.   Giving ourselves over to a day of prayer and reflection in community affords us a unique opportunity to deepen our spiritual contact.  Through sacred Hebrew chant and meditation this time together will support our entering a state of deep meditative consciousness to quiet our mind that we might hear the still small voice within and receive guidance for the year that is beginning.

 

 

Margo Schlanger

American Immigration
hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stranger)
a discussion led by Margo Schlanger
2:15pm

Margo Schlanger will facilitate a discussion on American immigration enforcement and the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stranger). Margo is a member of AARC and a law professor whose recent work has focused on challenging the Trump Administration’s ramped-up immigration enforcement; she is counsel in federal cases challenging the administration’s “Muslim ban” executive order and its effort to deport hundreds of Detroit-area Iraqi nationals who have been here for decades.

 

Danny Steinmetz

 Jewish burial and mourning practices
a workshop led by Danny Steinmetz
3:45pm

Over several millenia, Jews have developed distinctive practices for dealing with death.  Traditionally, Jews do not leave the deceased unattended before burial, and use simple shrouds and coffins. After burial the focus shifts to the mourners and their obligations to console and care for mourners. The presentation will cover some of these practices (as well as their origin and rationale) and consider implications for a Reconstructionist community. The presentation will be by Danny Steinmetz is an ex-rabbinical student and a former chair of the AARC board. 

 

What AARC members are reading about Charlottesville

Charlottesville, VA August 12, 2017. Photo by Andy Campbell from an article by writer and parent Jen Margulies suggested by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner: White Supremacy Is Bad for the Jews. Let’s Be Bad for White Supremacy

Most of us read a lot, and we’ve probably read plenty about Charlottesville. But we don’t all have the opportunity to think about these things with others in our Jewish community. As a beginning, I asked several AARC members what they have read this week that they found thoughtful, representative of what they are thinking, or want others in our Jewish community to read. Many of the pieces below were new to me and I’m grateful to have read them. Please add your own links in the comments.

Greg Saltzman contributed an 2016 article with background to the President’s connection to the Klan:  In 1927, Donald Trump’s Father was Arrested after a Klan Riot In Queens

Sarai Brachman Shoup suggested the The VICE video Charlottesville: Race and Terror

Margo Schlanger says she learned from these two articles

Kira Berman brought  Hymn: A New Poem by Sherman Alexie

[excerpt]

I will silently sit and carefully listen to new stories
About other people’s tragedies and glories.

I will not assume my pain and joy are better.
I will not claim my people invented gravity or weather.

And, oh, I know I will still feel my rage and rage and rage
But I won’t act like I’m the only person onstage.

I am one more citizen marching against hatred.
Alone, we are defenseless. Collected, we are sacred.

We will march by the millions. We will tremble and grieve.
We will praise and weep and laugh. We will believe.

We will be courageous with our love. We will risk danger
As we sing and sing and sing to welcome strangers.

Culinary historian Michael Twitty reading from the Torah.

Marcy Epstein wanted to make sure LGBTQ perspectives are included such as this piece by Michael Twitty: I’m Black, Jewish and Gay and Food is my Weapon Against Bigotry 

Deborah Fisch found this both informative and hopeful: Life After Hate: Trump Admin Stops Funding Former Neo-Nazis Who Now Fight White Supremacy

For a long read and deep analysis on racism and antisemitism, Eric Ward’s Skin in the Game: How Antisemitism Animates White Nationalism is a must read.

If you have any thoughts on these pieces, or additional suggestions, please add in the comments section.

 

Rabbi Alana discusses faith and millennials with Ray Suarez

Rabbi Alana Alpert

Rabbi Alana was part of an “On Point” radio discussion among “millennial” clergy on July 6, 2017. In this discussion a rabbi, an imam, an Episcopal priest and a Catholic priest discuss why they have dedicated their lives to the clergy. Asking questions about declining numbers of people affiliating with congregations, the host Ray Suarez seemed to be motivated by concern for his own daughter, recently ordained as an Episcopal priest. Rabbi Alana did a great job in challenging the assumptions that young people are not interested in religion and getting in strong statements about creative Judaism and the spiritual pull of social justice activism. She also gave some good explanations of the work Detroit Jews for Justice is doing. Take a listen!

We have two more opportunities this summer to participate in Rabbi Alana led services. On July 28, AARC will have its regular Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat and Potluck at the Jewish Community Center. And, news flash, Rabbi Alana will lead a Reconstructionist service at the Community-Wide Shabbat at Hillel on August 25th. Because August 25th is a fourth Friday, AARC is moving our regular service to Hillel on that evening. More about this will be posted soon. In the meantime, you can register for the free dinner here. There will be children’s activities, several choices for services (TBE and BIC are having their congregational services at Hillel that evening as well), in additional to a communal dinner.

Isaac Asimov’s Book of Ruth

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

Everyone Welcome

RSVP Here 

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

Also:

May 31st 6:30-7:30 Yiskor/Memorial Serivce at the JCC

contact for Marcy: dr_marcy@hotmail.com

AARC members are teachers

With the spring holidays, Tu B’Shevat, Purim, Passover, and Shavuot, AARC is coming near the end of two years of our members stepping up, without rabbinical direction, to plan our community’s observances. Of course, having started as a havurah, without a rabbi, many veteran members were used to planning holidays and services. And Rabbi Alana has been an inspiring service leader over this time.

In a few months, sure to quickly fly by, AARC’s new rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner, will be in Ann Arbor to begin her tenure with us and we are anticipating her leadership with excitement, and admittedly, relief. I’d like to shine a light on a few of the lay leaders who’ve filled in this year, not just administratively and logistically, but as religious and spiritual teachers.

From an article “Who is a Reconstructionist Jew” on the Reconstructionist Judaism Website: Reconstructionist communities challenge Jews to participate fully in our shared Jewish civilization. From building a sukkah to appreciating Jewish music, from caring for the Jewish young and old to leading Torah study – community members should experience Jewish civilization in our day as fully as they experience secular civilization.

Judaism will continue to be a dynamic civilization only if we choose to participate, create and transmit vitality to future generations. Reconstructionist rabbis work in partnership with committed lay people to formulate guidelines that serve as Jewish touchstones for our times. These guidelines are presented and democratically considered in Reconstructionist communities as standards for enhancing the Jewish life of the individual and the community rather than as binding laws.

A couple of weeks ago Jack Edelstein led our Second Saturday Shabbat morning service and discussion with such aplomb, I can’t wait till he leads again. Jack is my model of a Reconstructionist: knowledgeable in Hebrew, traditional prayer and Jewish source texts, he reads the Recon siddur/prayer book “beneath the line,” that is, during prayer, he emphasizes modern interpretations and understandings of the kavanah/intentions of the prayers. He led the discussion with respect for everyone’s input. My advice to all, next time Jack leads a service, come!

Over this past year, Evelyn Neuhaus, Margo Schlanger, Debbie Zivan, Barbara Boyk-Rust, and Allison Stupka have led Saturday morning services. Each of them brought learning of great value to the service. Dina Kurz has planned our last two Purims, and Rachel Baron Singer edited a new Haggadah just for us. Carol Lessure, Marcy Epstein, Mike Ehmann, Carole Caplan, and Nancy Meadow (and if others, please forgive me) have hosted home observances this year. Marcy is already planning for our Shavuot observance, May 30. I want to extend a thank you to all of them for helping us “participate fully in our shared Jewish civilization.” And I want to extend an invitation to each of our members to consider sharing your knowledge, skills, and spiritual leadership with the community as we move forward.

In May, Deb Kraus will be leading Fourth Friday and the following Saturday (when Peter Cohn will become Bar Mitzvah), and in June, Josh and Michal Samuels will lead. We are incredibly lucky to have these teachers in our congregation and we can all look forward to learning with them.

Beginning an AARC practice of yahrzeit reminders

Graphic from the Ritual Well article “Marking the First Yahrzeit”

When Debbie Zivan, Rebecca Kanner and I met last month to talk about establishing a system for AARC to acknowledge our members families’ yahrzeits, we knew this was so important to us because we want our congregation to support us, and all our members, in practicing the Jewish rituals of mourning and remembrance. Our plan is to collect the yahrzeit dates that each of our members would like to remember and that these dates will be noted each year with a mailed notice to the member and a reading of the upcoming yahrzeits at our monthly Fourth Friday Shabbat services. To begin this for AARC, members can send Rebecca [rnmik@yahoo.com ] the dates of the death of their immediate family members.

I found this concise information about the practice of yahrzeit on the website of Reconstructionist congregation Kehilat HaNahar of New Hope, PA. It is written by their rabbi, Diana Miller.

Yahrzeit Information

What is Yahrzeit?

Yahrzeit is a Yiddish word meaning “a year’s time.” The yahrzeit is the annual anniversary of the death of a person, based on the Hebrew calendar (although some individuals observe it on the Gregorian calendar). The yahrzeit is determined from the day of death rather than the day of burial. If three or more days elapse between death and burial, one opinion says the yahrzeit is reckoned from the day of burial only for the first year and from that point forward, on the day of death. If you do not know the exact day of death, you may choose a date to observe as the yahrzeit.

Why observe Yahrzeit?

Commemorating the anniversary of a death year after year allows you to honor the deceased and the legacy he or she has left behind. It also helps you remain in touch with the memory of the deceased, while at the same time continuing to move through the cycle of life. In this way, death becomes part of the cycle of life itself.

The first yahrzeit is especially important psychologically because it helps you acknowledge that you have made it through an entire year without your loved one…all the holidays, the seasons and the occasions you usually would have spent with that person in the physical world.

Spiritually, yahrzeit is a ”soul-guiding” ritual, a process that acknowledges that the living and the dead are in an ongoing process of interconnection. It helps strengthen the spiritual bond between the world of the living and the soul of the departed.

What happens on Yahrzeit?

This day is a solemn day of remembrance. Typically, people attend synagogue or a place where there is a minyan to say Kaddish Yatom, or Mourner’s Kaddish, for their loved one. At Kehilat HaNahar, your loved one’s name will be read on the Friday night Shabbat service before the actual yahrzeit date. Many families attend this service for that reason. It is also common for a family member to have an aliyah, which is the honor of “going up” to the Torah in memory of the deceased loved one. A special prayer known as “El Maley Rachamin” may be recited. Some people also visit the cemetery around this time or give tzedakah (charitable donations) to commemorate the yahrzeit. Another tradition is to fast during yahrzeit for a parent and, if so, to avoid attending weddings because of their celebratory mood.

What if I forget the Yahrzeit?

The synagogue office will send you a written reminder of your loved one’s yahrzeit approximately one month before the date and an email notice about 10 days before. However, if you forget or were unable to observe the Yahrzeit, simply observe it when you remember.

What about the Yarzheit candle?

The custom of lighting a special yahrzeit candle comes from the Book of Proverbs (20:27): Ner Hashem nishmat adam (“The soul of man is a candle of the Lord”).  Sometimes it’s called a memorial candle or a ner neshama, a “soul candle.” The candle is typically lit the evening before the yahrzeit date. There is no specific prayer for the candle-lighting.