Beit Sefer B’Aviv B’Yachad באביב ביחד Sunday Relay

This Sunday, Beit Sefer students participated in a social distancing relay, B’Aviv B’Yachad (Spring Together!), that symbolized our ancestors’ journey through the desert. Education scholar and Beit Sefer teacher Shlomit Cohen created the relay journey with the goals of involving every family, celebrating Spring, and challenging the students (and their families) – all while observing social distancing requirements!

The race began with one family traveling by foot, bicycle, car or wing (?!?) to another family’s home. In front of that home, the traveling family took a photo of themselves and sent it to the group of Beit Sefer students. The arrival of the photo acted as the “baton,” prompting the family whose home was pictured in the photo to set out for the next household. Beit Sefer families are located in a long string between Ypsilanti Township and Chelsea, but the distance from one home to the next was easily manageable. School Director Clare Kinberg separately carried a replica tablet of the Ten Commandments to each household.

Please enjoy photos from each stop below. It was a joy to watch the photos come in over the morning and see the smiling faces in our beloved community.

Does this post inspire you to join Beit Sefer for next year? If so, please check out our religious school’s website!

First stop at the Pritchards’!
Zander and Eleanor thought it was a great day for a bike ride to stop number three.
Stop number three was a surprise!
Cara made scones and then got the sillies.
The Feinbergs were prepared for us!
Lovely to see Ava and Noah, Aaron and Erika on this spring day.
Thanks to Shlomit for planning the whole thing!
After Shlomit, we got to see Marcy’s Spring flowers.
Next stop, Aaron’s house.
Miles got his picture taken and hopped on his bike.
Next stop, Sappho and Bass.
Onward to Jack and Brenna.
Time for a socially distanced group pic.
Next stop Meadows!
We made it to the edge of town – hey, Sam and Joey!
Last stop, Wes and Wade!

AARC Resilience Apparent in Virtual Seders!

Jews have a long history of taking rough stones and polishing them into jewels. At one of our recent virtual check-ins, Rabbi Ora mentioned our collective tendency to manifest reliance, selected for by generations of adversity. This trait is much in evidence this Passover!

Leora Druckman’s virtual seder table

The weeks leading up to Passover were marked with not-so-subtle correlations: the scarcity of wheat, the presence of plague, etc. … But in true Reconstructionist style, we used what we had and produced seders that were gems of both levity and gratitude – and virtual ingenuity! Please enjoy these AARC members’ reflections on their seders:

“For what it’s worth, I actually quite liked it a lot. It should’ve felt cold, I suppose, but for some reason it felt extra special to see everyone do extra work to still make it happen, but also by making sure to connect with each other online against the quarantining in these times. That meant a lot for so many and was not taken for granted. It felt like it reaffirmed relationships, values, our holiday … It felt like that extra special desire to still connect and meet anyway we could, was also in our kids. This Pesach really held extra special meaning none of us could’ve ever appreciated on such a level before.”

– Mark Dieve

“It was nice to talk with family we don’t normally get to see this time of year. I took a pic of our table from the angle of the camera before we sat down.”

– Amie Ritchie

“I shared flowers (via Carole Caplan) and food with several people who usually attend our seder. Two of the three chose to attend other seders – so it was just my brother’s family and my mother sharing ours. That’s good because it took us 20 minutes to connect via Google Meet – chosen because it gave my 85 year old mother closed captions.

“Food deliveries included flowers, matzah ball soup, salads, charoset, chicken dinner ready for the oven, and all the fixings for my mother’s seder plate. She made us brisket. We did a physical distanced food exchange and visited in the sunshine with her for a bit. She was very grateful to have a seder with us.

“The computer was placed at the far end of the Seder Table.”

– Carol Lessure
Carol Lessure’s seder plate delivery package!
Carol Lessure’s seder table
Carol Lessure’s flower delivery via Carole Caplan

“The Eisbruch family enjoyed being able to join with family members and friends in time zones from Israel to California. That was a very special treat.”

– Emily Eisbruch
Deb Kraus’s cat drinking from Miriam’s cup (on cue)

So many members were able to make the most of the day and find ways to share in the depth and joy of the seder in unique and meaningful ways. How was your virtual Passover? Please share in the comments!

Purim Fun 2020

AARC experienced a long weekend of Purim fun!

Beit Sefer students began their celebration with a collaborative Purim party with the Jewish Cultural Society. The children enjoyed Purim-themed games and crafts, savored delicious snacks, and created Mishloach Manot for those in need in our community. It was a joy to celebrate with new friends from JCS; we look forward to further collaborations!

Alan Haber displays his Megillah housing.

The fun continued Monday evening with the rest of the congregation, beginning with a Megillah reading and ending with a dessert potluck. This year’s theme was “Make Some Noise!” After a parade to display the many creative costumes, members shared stories of when they had “spoken truth to power,” during a Moth-style improv storytelling exercise.

Many thanks to the Festival Committee for their hard work in putting together this evening’s events.

Ringmaster Rabbi!
Drake reads the Megillah.

AARC Attends “Stop The Bleed, Save A Life” Training

Most of us do not expect to encounter a situation in which we will be required to provide care a life-threatening injury. Yet these injuries, although rare, can occur anywhere– including places where medical help may not be quickly accessible.

To bridge this gap, several AARC members attended a “Stop The Bleed, Save A Life” training last week offered by St. Joseph Mercy Ann Arbor in conjunction with the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor and the Community Security Committee. The training was developed by the American College of Surgeons together with a coalition of medical groups following the Sandy Hook and Boston Marathon shootings, with the goal of educating civilians on rapid response to blood loss.

Uncontrolled bleeding is the number one cause of preventable death from trauma. An injured person may experience life-threatening blood loss before an ambulance is able to arrive. If a bystander is able to stop or even slow the flow of blood before the ambulance arrives, the victim’s life may be saved.

The training went over the ABCs of bleeding trauma care: Alert 911. Find the Bleeding. Compress the injury. Using an artificial arm made of foam, we learned various methods of compression, such as wound packing (shown below), applying a tourniquet (shown above), and applying pressure on top of the wound.

AARC keeps a wound care emergency kit supplied by Safety Liaison Dave Nelson in the welcome table supply basket. It contains all the supplies we would need to provide Stop the Bleed care.

Now that a few additional members of our congregation are educated in the best methods to control bleeding in a life-threatening situation, we can take pride in having learned another way to take care of one another. While we cannot be prepared for every eventuality, this training constitutes a good start. The Federation and the Community Safety Committee hope to organize further trainings on related topics.

For more information on “Stop the Bleed, Save A Life” trainings, please visit stopthebleed.org.

Participants from the AARC and the JCC practicing wound packing.

A Lovely Hanukkah With AARC

It has been another season of light and love at AARC in celebration of Hanukkah. The week began with a fun Hanukkah-themed day of learning at Beit Sefer. Over the week, many AARC families hosted friends, family, and congregants for home-hosted Hanukkah celebrations. On Friday night, we all gathered together for the congregation wide Hanukkah party during Fourth Friday Shabbat.

Fourth Friday Shabbat Hanukkah Celebration was a festive night that included a community candle lighting, festive music, and a latke cook-off!

Esteemed judges Sally Fink and Anita Rubin-Meiller hard at work evaluating the admirable qualities of each latke entry.

Beit Sefer’s annual life-sized menorah!

Beit Sefer students enjoying edible dreidels. Yum!

Menorah lighting from a home-hosted Hanukkah gathering at Marcy Epstein’s house.

AARC Attends LGBTQ Advocacy Training with Keshet

On Thursday November 7th, Rabbi Ora, Gillian Jackson, and Judith Jacobs joined congregations and Jewish organizations from all over Metro Detroit to learn how to be more inclusive and how to advocate for LGBTQ communities. The training was led by Keshet, a national organization working for the full equality of LGBTQ Jews and families. Emily Saltzman, dynamic leader from Keshet, was joined by representatives from Nextgen Detroit Pride and Stand with Trans. The training provided a framework for understanding LGBTQ core concepts such as sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation. Participants also learned about the history of LGBTQ inclusion in Jewish communities and the challenges that LGBTQ-identifying people face in our culture. The seminar concluded with an opportunity for each organization to form goals to improve its LGBTQ advocacy.

The training in Michigan grew out of a 2018 survey, the “State of Equality Index,” that reviewed areas of the US for positive policies supporting LGBTQ equality. Michigan scored as an area of high priority; this means we have many areas of law, health and safety measures, and religious recognition that must be updated to include protections for LGBTQ individuals.

As our blog about welcoming remarked, Judaism has a rich history of gender diversity and inclusion. However, modern Jewish culture still has a long way to go until our organizations make LGBTQ individuals feel safe, welcomed, and respected. Keshet suggested that organizations provide leadership on LGBTQ inclusion through programming, policy, and culture. AARC has taken steps to improve our organization on all of these fronts.

The AARC action plan includes the formation of a LGBTQ inclusion policy, a new LGBTQ welcoming section of our website, visible LGBTQ welcoming signs at our welcome table, and the organization of a new annual Pride Shabbat. If you would like to take part in the planning or implementation of any or all of these new initiatives, please email me or speak with Rabbi Ora. We look forward to hearing from you!

A Meaningful Human Rights Shabbat with Kehillat Israel

This past Saturday, AARC made the journey to Congregation Kehillat Israel in Lansing to share in celebration of Human Rights Shabbat, an annual celebration initiated by T’ruah, a Rabbinic Organization advocating for human rights in North America, Israel, and the Occupied Palestinian Territories. The annual Human Rights Shabbat initiative is intended to educate Jewish Communities about the intersection between Jewish values and the values of International Human Rights. It is typically celebrated on the Shabbat closest to the anniversary of the UN’s adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Kehillat Israel and AARC chose to focus their Human Rights Shabbat on bringing together children and families to learn and build community. Rabbi Michael Zimmerman and Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner led all of us in a beautiful Shabbat morning service that asked congregants, “What does the story of Isaac and Esau teach us about justice, forgiveness, and identity?”

Services were followed by a potluck lunch that featured not only delicious foods from both congregations, but also much enjoyable conversation between new friends and old. After lunch, Rabbi Ora led the adults in a conversation entitled, “Who Deserves Punishment? Considering ‘Goodness’ and ‘Badness’ through a Jewish Lens.” The thoughtful and stimulating conversation examined not only Jewish moral thought on crime and punishment, but also its relevance to current political policy on incarceration and the resulting reality in human terms.

Many thanks to everyone who attended last Saturday and special thanks to our hosts, Congregation Kehillat Israel, for including us in this Shabbat exploration of human rights.

A Lovely Sunday Morning Hagbah Training for AARC Members

All photos by Ella August

Keith Kurz teaches Gillian Jackson, Etta Heisler, Dave Nelson, and Eric Bramson how minimize wear on the parchment while rolling the Torah.

It was a lovely Sunday morning, crisp and sunny, when a handful of tall and strong AARC members gathered to learn Hagbah, the raising up of the Torah after a Torah reading on Shabbat or other occasion. Although the practice may sound straightforward, it requires knack and nuance. For example, when lifting the open Torah off the table, one must push down on the lower handles while pivoting the Torah upwards, rather than lifting it directly up. This and many other handy tidbits were passed down by our teacher, Keith Kurz.

Members took turns picking up, raising, and holding the Torah under the careful support of Hagbah spotters. Participants also learned the proper way to perform Gelilah, the dressing of the Torah.

As a result of this training, AARC now has many able and willing members available for Hagbah and Gelilah. Thank you to Keith Kurz and all the participants who volunteered to learn this important skill for our congregation!

To learn more about the history of our Torah, please check out these blogs by Clare Kinberg and Dave Nelson.

Etta Heisler and Eric Bramson practicing Gelilah.
Etta Heisler sporting a winning smile after mastering Hagbah.
Eric Bramson was strong and confident while lifting the Torah. Well done, Eric!
Brenna Reichman was an excellent Hagbah spotter – calm and supportive as always!
This was Gillian’s first time holding the Torah!

Happy 5th Birthday to AARC Book Group

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.

Thanks to Audrey for the outstanding lunch on Sept 15, 2019, over which we discussed Michael Sfard’s The Wall and the Gate: Israel, Palestine, and the Legal Battle for Human Rights.

Favorites

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.

We are delighted to announce that Rabbi Ora will again lead the book group on Sunday, February 9, 2020, book selection to be announced.

AARC Book Group discussing Radical Judaism: Rethinking God & Tradition with Rabbi Ora, February 2019.

Join us

Interested in joining the AARC book group? We’d love to have you! Simply reach out to Greg at gsaltzman@albion.edu. 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.

Happy reading!

Busy Weekend at AARC: Simchat Torah and a Robust Welcoming Event for New and Prospective Members

It was a busy weekend at AARC! We celebrated the Torah with Beit Sefer and held an informational event for new and prospective members.

The room was filled with excitement as the Torah was unrolled. The children were tasked with finding key words in the text. For some, this was the first time they had been up close to the Torah. After rolling up the Torah, families were led in a traditional Simchat Torah dance by Rabbi Ora and Marcy Epstein.

Beit Sefer students and families explored the Torah during Simchat Torah
Beit Sefer students created their own Torahs to celebrate Simchat Torah. Photo credit: Marcy Epstein

Later in the day, Rabbi Ora and Beit Sefer director Clare Kinberg welcomed new and prospective members at our “Meet Us” event, held to showcase Reconstructionism and our congregation. We are thrilled to welcome so many wonderful new families to our congregation!

Rabbi Ora leading our “Meet Us” event. Photo credit: Deborah Fisch
Clare Kinberg, Beit Sefer Director, teaching families about AARC’s Religious School