Misheberakh for the State and People of Israel: Rabbi Ascherman visits Ann Arbor

 By Martha Kransdorf

In the first week of May, Israeli-American human rights activist Rabbi Arik Ascherman returned to Ann Arbor on a speaking and fundraising tour. My co-pilot, Harvey Somers, and I were the anchor people for his visit here. We’d like to first of all thank AARC for their support and to thank all of the co-sponsors for the May 2 JCC Fundraising Dinner and Community Forum: Beth Israel’s Social Action Committee, Jewish Cultural Society, Pardes Hannah, & Temple Beth Emeth. In addition to Rabbi Ora, rabbis from each of the other congregations were present, and took part in the evening’s program.

Rabbi Ascherman was the head of Rabbis for Human Rights for 21 years, and last fall he founded a new organization, Torat Tzedek, Torah of Justice. At the Community Forum, he described some of the current issues that he is working on, and the list is long and quite moving. His work ranges from meeting with lawyers and interviewing people who have been threatened by settlers, to lobbying at the Knesset on behalf of poor Israelis, to helping Arab shepherds hold onto their flocks when settlers frighten them and scare them away. Torat Tzedek has also been involved helping African refugees fight the Israeli government’s efforts to deport them and helping Bedouin communities hold on to their way of life.

Rabbi Ascherman’s courage and commitment have not wavered. He won’t throw in the towel. He admits that he is somewhat less optimistic than he has been in the past, but his response is to roll up his sleeves and work harder. He urges us, similarly, to react with urgency by becoming more active.

In addition to speaking at the JCC, Rabbi Ascherman spoke at Shir Tikvah in Troy, and he led text studies at Lunch & Learn programs at TBE and at Kehillat Israel in Lansing. His visit wrapped up with an “Open House” at BIC. A busy week, by any account. We are grateful to our communities in Michigan, which contributed over $4000 to Torat Tzedek. If anyone would like more information on Rabbi Ascherman’s work or on Torat Tzedek, please feel free to get in touch with either of us.

Martha Kransdorf ,  mkransdo@umich.edu    734-663-7933

Harvey Somers,  harveysomers@gmail.com   734-780-6907

Rabbi Ascherman blogs regularly in The Times of Israel. On April 19 2018 he included this “Misheberakh — A Loving Prayer of Healing for the State and People of Israel

The Hebrew is followed by a transliteration, and then a translation.

מי שברך קדמונינו אברהם ושרה, יצחק ורבקה, יעקב לאה ורחל, הוא יברך וירפא את החולים, מדינת ישראל ועם ישראל. הקדוש ברוך הוא ימלא רחמים עלינו להחלימנו ולרפואתנו מכל מחלה המקשה עלינו להגשים את הטוב ואת השאיפות לצדק שבליבנו – ביניהן: העיוורון לנוכחותך בכל אדם והעיוורון למציאות; החירשות לקול הדממה הדקה בתוך רעש הפחד וההפחדה, קולות הענות והמלחמה במחנה; והפקודות; האטימות לסבל של האחר/ת;  הרשימו שנשאר מכל מה שסבלנו אנו, השיכרון מכוח ומשלטון; השנאה לחושב/ת אחרת מאתנו; והאהבה היתרה לארץ ישראל ולמדינת ישראל ולעם ישראל ולכל דבר קדוש המסנוור אותנו לקדושתך ולרצונך. אנא, החזק בנו את היצר הטוב והחיות את אמונתנו בעולם מתוקן במלכותך וביכולתנו לקרבו.  שלח לנו במהרה רפואה שלמה, רפואת הנפש ורפואת הגוף, בתוך שאר החולים/ות, השתא בעגלא ובזמן קרים, ונאמר אמן.

Mi sh’beirakh kadmoneinu Avraham v’Sarah, Yitzhak v’Rivkah, Ya’akov, Leah v’Rakhek, hu yivarekh v’yirapeih et ha’kholim, Medinat Yisrael v’Am Yisrael. HaKadosh Borukh Hu yimaleh rakhamim aleinu  l’hakhlamatanu v’l’rfuatanu mi’kol makhalah ha’makshah aleinu l’hagshim et ha’tov v’et ha’sheifah la’tzedek sh’b’libeinu-beiniehen: ha’ivaraon l’nokhakhutkha b’kholadam v’ha’ivaron l’mitziut; ha’khershut l’kol ha’demamah ha’dakah b’tokh ra’ash ha’pakhad v’ha’hafkhadah, kolot ha’onot v’kolot ha’milkhamah b’makhaneh v’hapekudot;   ha’atimut l’sevel shelha’akher/et; ha’rashimu sh’nishar mi’kol mah sh’avalnu anu; ha’shikaron mi’koakh u’mi’shilton; ha’sinah l’khoshev’et akheret m’itanu; v’ha’ahavah ha’yiterah l’Eretz Yisrael v’l’Medinat Yisrael, v’l’Am Yisrael, v’lkhol d’var kadosh ha’misanveir otanu l’kedushatkhah v’l’ratzonkhah. Anah, he’khezeik banu  et ha’yetzer ha’tov v’ha’khayot et emunateinu b’olam mitukan b’malkhutkha u’v’yekholteinu l’karvo.  Shlakh lanu b’meheirah refuah shleimah, refuat ha’nefesh v’refuat ha’guf, b’tokh sh’ar he’kholim, hashta b’agalah’ u’v’zman Kariv, v’nomar amein.

May the One who blessed our ancestors Abraham and Sarah, Isaac and Rebecca, Jacob, Leah and Rachel, bless and heal the ill:  the State and People of Israel.  May the Holy One of Blessing be full of mercy and us to heal us from every illness that keeps us from fulfilling the good and the aspiration for justice that is within us – Among them: Blindness to Your Presence in every human being and blindness to reality; deafness to the Still Small Voice within the thundering fear and fearmongering, the sounds of war and singing in the camp,  and orders; hatred of those who think differently than us, disproportional love for the Land of Israel, the State of Israel, the People of Israel and every holy thing that blinds us to Your Holiness and Your Will.  Please strengthen within us our good inclination and revive our faith in the possibility of a repaired world under Your Sovereignty and our ability to bring that world closer to reality. Send us complete and speedy healing of body and soul, along with all who are ill, speedily and in our day.  And let us say, Amen.

 

Mimouna 2018 in Full Color

What is Mimouna, and where does it come from?

Urchatz: Acknowledge the Source
Cultural appropriation is defined as “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.”

The holiday is traced back to medieval Morocco and the Jewish community’s Passover observance. Because the Jews could not keep chametz in their homes during the Passover holiday, it was customary to give all their flour, yeast and grain to their Muslim neighbors. On the afternoon of the last day of Passover, these neighbors would bring to the homes of their Jewish neighbors gifts of flour, honey, milk, butter and green beans to be used to prepare post-Passover chametz dishes. That evening, Jews would throw open their homes to visitors, setting out a lavish spread of traditional holiday cakes, candies, and sweetmeats.

Motzi ‘Matza’: Lift up Goodness
What is on the Mimouna ‘seder plate’? What could each object represent?
Question for your neighbor:
What would you add to the seder plate to symbolize the blessings of your life, in this moment?

Rochtza: Awash in Blessing One Mimouna custom: To dip a mint leaf in milk and wipe it across a loved one’s forehead. The accompanying blessing (in Judeo-Moroccan)? ‘Tirbehu u’tisaudu!’ – ‘May you increase (in blessing) and be satisfied!’

Maggid: Tell the Story
What are possible origins of the name ‘Mimouna’?
Mimouna may be derived from the Arabic word for good fortune (literally “protected by God,” ma’amoun). Since the end of Passover marks the beginning of the new agricultural year in North Africa, Mimouna is thought to be the ideal time to pray for a year of bounty and plentiful crops.

Shulchan Orekh:

Feasting!

Meanwhile, the kids prepared to lead us through the water. On the final day of Passover, the Israelites crossed the Red Sea.

[All words from the Mimouna “haggadah” prepared by Rabbi Ora. Photos by Marcy, Dave and Clare]

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

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.

The 5778 Sukkah Goes UP

The Sukkah is UP at The Farm on Jennings. Carole invites anyone to come and have a meal in it, and relax and enjoy the beautiful weather and land.

Havdalah in the Sukkah

 6900 Jennings Rd, 48105.

Saturday October 7

5:30pm to 7:30pm (Sunset is at 7:05).

We’ll have a potluck dinner, and close with havdallah.

Bring a dish to share. Musicians, bring your instruments.

AARC Sukkah raising begins, Oct 1 2017 at The Farm on Jennings

Cooperative Hammering

The first s’kach (organic rooftop) goes up

Decorations get made

A very long chain decoration

We invite 14 Ushpizin/honored ancestral guests: Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Leah, Miriam, Deborah, Esther, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Aaron, David (the kids named them all!)

 

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.

Teaching Our Kids Jewish Prayer

RENA conference participants

When Reconstructionist Educators get together: Teaching Hebrew Prayer

I think a lot about teaching Jewish prayer to our kids. So, I was drawn to a recent thread of discussion on the Reconstructionist Educators (RENA) email list about teaching Hebrew prayer. One director started off the discussion by saying that the students in her school usually seem bored by learning Hebrew prayers, perhaps because “prayer is so disconnected from their lives.” She is thinking about replacing Hebrew prayer study with short sessions of silence, meditation, and writing. Another person shared a reference to a lesson plan on kids writing their own prayers. The long-time director at Congregation Beth-El Zedeck in Indianapolis wrote about his school’s “tefilah laboratory” where the students learn and write prayers and practice them in the sanctuary, where the environment affects their experience. Another director wrote about engaging families with young children with prayer. A theme running through the discussions is looking at the relationship between learning Hebrew and learning prayer: connected, yet separate, too.

This year our Beit Sefer will again be experimenting with different ways to engage our students in prayer. We want students to feel comfortable with Jewish and Hebrew prayer, to understand Hebrew prayer as an expressive mode of spirituality, to know that Jewish prayer has evolved over time, and that they can be involved in creating prayer.  We want to prepare them to begin getting ready for bar or bat mitzvah, if that is the path they are on, which requires familiarity with Hebrew and Hebrew prayer. And we want them to be able to access their own spirituality through Jewish prayer. I am grateful to have a place to learn what other Reconstructionist educators are thinking about these topics.

Our students learning what goes into a Mezuzah

I’d been intending to write about the RENA conference I went to back in the low key month of Cheshvan (early November)! The annual conference is for Directors of Reconstructionist religious schools, a group that at most has 100 eligible participants. There were about 15 directors at the conference.

The Jewish Community of Amherst (MA), a Reconstructionist congregation, hosted the first two days of the meeting, and for the last day we traveled about half hour away to the Springfield Jewish Community Center. We also spent an afternoon at the National Yiddish Book Center, located on the Hampshire College campus. We had sessions on developing new structures for supplementary education, project-based learning, experiential Jewish education, and other innovations..

Now that I’ve put off writing for so long, I see that long-range impact of the conference is the group’s ongoing discussions and resource sharing, made richer and more accessible now that I’ve met the correspondents. Next year’s conference is in Boulder, CO. I look forward to attending again.

AARC Seder Photo Recap

The AARC 3rd night seder was multigenerational, heymish, inspiring, fun and began and ended on time! Everyone (all 45 of us) pitched in and brought something to share, and there was plenty of help with set up and clean up. Thank you to everyone! Here are some highlights:

Rachel Baron Singer led our 3rd night family seder, with a haggadah she compiled for us. Beginning with the candlelighting: We light candles on Passover, not just to distinguish Yom Tov as a special occasion, separate from other days of the year, but also to symbolize the light we wish to bring into the world. As we say the blessing over the candles, let us reflect on the darkness in this world and the ways in which we can both advocate for our own liberation from oppression and also become more effective allies to all others who are presently fighting for their own peace and light.

As we blessed the first cup of wine, we used new words from the American Jewish World Service Haggadah, “Tonight, we gather around the Seder table to recount the ancient Israelites’ miraculous transformation from slavery to freedom. Their story began with an awakening: As our tradition teaches, Moses saw the burning bush and recognized that he was called to liberate his people from Egypt.
Our journey, too, begins with an awakening: May this first cup of wine rouse each of us to the injustice that persists in our world today. May we recognize our own capacity to make a difference and commit ourselves to building a better world.”

This is our kids looking for the Afikomen….so skillfully hidden by Keith Kurz.

And finally, the librarian in me had to award books for the Afikomen finders (everyone, of course). And then the kids sat down and read while the rest of us finished up the wine.

 

Purim in Pictures, 2017

Pictures telling the story of AARC Purim this year. Thank you Nancy Meadow, Fred Feinberg, Keith Kurz, and Emily Eisbruch for the photos.

 

A week before Purim, Marcy Epstein hosted several families in a hamantashen, hotpot and havdallah party

 

 

 

Shlomit taught the Beit Sefer kids to sing Mishenichnas Adar/When Adar arrives we increase our Joy!

More hamantashen baking, by Rose and Rena Basch in the Feinberg kitchen. Thanks, Greg, for running them over to TBE!

 

Because of the big power outage, we had to move our Purim celebration and Temple Beth Emeth graciously opened their doors. Our megillah reading organized by Dina Kurz, with terrific music accompaniment organzied by Debbie Gombert, was concluded with a display of the Friendship Scroll, with new megillah case built by Alan Haber with bronze crown by Idelle Hammond-Sass (blog post on this coming soon).

Alan with the case closed.

Is it Esther or is it Dina Kurz?

The “Persia High School” drama…..

 

 

The shpiel writers and directors.

 

 

We continued the fun the next day at Beit Sefer, when the kids all donned hats, exchanged shalach manot bags, and of course, told the story of Queen Esther saving the Jews of Persia.

 

 

 

 

Erica Bloom on Tu B’Shevat: “Bend a little closer to the earth”

On Saturday February 11, Erica Bloom, Project Director at Growing Hope, gave this talk during our morning Shabbat service.

 

 

Hello everyone. Thank you for having me today. This is a rare opportunity for me to wear two of my hats at once. I’ve been asked to speak today to reflect on Tu B’shevat as the Program Director at Growing Hope, but also as a Jewish person who cares deeply about the natural world and access to healthy food as a human right. [Read more…]