Friendly folks, snacks and more at Sunday Morning Community Learning

Playing the part of roving blogger, I dropped in on the AARC Community Learning group at the JCC on Sunday morning, Jan. 18, 2015.

Community Learning at the JCC on Sunday, Jan. 18. 2015

Community Learning at the JCC on Sunday, January 18. 2015

What I found was a lovely, welcoming group (they had even brought three different kinds of delicious snacks) and a lively, thoughtful, enjoyable discussion. The topic of the day was mitzvot (commandments), a topic chosen to parallel the Beit Sefer students in their learning about mitzvot. Led by Rabbi Michal, the group explored a range of interesting angles, from the abstract to the concrete. These included the concept of holiness as a Jewish thing and a universal thing, ways of attempting to build Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and Tzedakah (giving) into our lives and our family patterns, and how we feel about lighting Shabbat candles if we need to blow them out to leave the house before they burn out.

The discussion was based on a few chapters of reading from the book Living Judaism, by Rabbi Wayne Dosick. CommunityLearningBook-Wayne-Dosick Due to busy schedules, not everyone had completed the reading, yet everyone was able to jump in and share their thoughts.

The next Sunday morning Community Learning is scheduled for Sunday, Feb. 1, 2015 at the JCC.  Please Contact Rabbi Michal for more info. All are welcome.

Interfaith Musical Chairs: Learning About Our Religious Community

By Ellen Dannin

Ellen-Dannins-candlesticks3On Sunday afternoon, January 11, I was one of about 30 people – each of whom was leading a small circle of up to 4 people in an introduction to one of Ann Arbor’s religions. It was part of an event sponsored by the Interfaith Council of Washtenaw County and the dynamics were a bit like speed dating. The person leading each group got twenty minutes to provide information about the religion to the rest of the circle. Proselytizing was forbidden. Giving people information and bringing in some item that is important to the religion was encouraged.

My personal information focused on lighting shabbat candles on the candlesticks that my great-grandmother brought with her when she left Turkey in 1915.

The item I brought was my personal copy of the Reconstructonist siddur. I showed people how it reflected values important to Reconstructionist Judaism — in particular, the high priority we place upon inclusiveness. Our siddur lets people be on the same page literally and figuratively. It invites us all to participate, even if we cannot read Hebrew. It gives us ways to be creative with services. On many pages it provides information that increases our knowledge and enhances our practice. And it is a beautiful book with lovely and creative images. In short, it is a perfect example of hiddur mitzvah — expanding on and beautifying each mitzvah.

Fun AARC outing to Asian Legend and Michigan/State Theaters

By Emily Eisbruch

Enjoying Chinese dinner and a movie turned out to be the perfect way to share a great time with AARC friends on Christmas 2014.  Thanks to Mike Ehmann for graciously and efficiently coordinating a group of 33.

The Chinese dinner kicked off at Asian Legend Restaurant on East William Street about 5pm.  That place was hopping, both when we arrived and even more so when we left about 70 minutes later.  The dinner was buffet style, making it quick and easy to get firsts and seconds! (Appreciation goes to the staff at Asian Legend for welcoming our group and making everything quite seamless.) As you can see from the photos, there were plenty of smiles and lots of schmoozing.

In addition to Rav Michal and Jon and Sima joining, we had a fun surprise visit from our former Rabbinical Intern, Aura Ahuvia, now a Rabbi at Woodstock Jewish  Congregation in NY.

Along with quite a few others, my husband Avi and son Gil and I headed to the Michigan Theater after dinner to see  “The Imitation Game” about Alan Turing.  What did we think of the film? Glad this movie got made, glad we saw it, though at times it seemed overly produced to be clever and even cute. Is it ridiculously geeky to wish they had revealed a bit more about code breaking and the way the bombe (the cryptanalytic machine at Bletchley Park) worked?  Okay, I guess that’s what Wikipedia is for.

Thanks again to all the friends who made Dec. 25, 2014 special and fun.

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Rabbi Michal, Jon, and Sima Travel to Duluth to Talk Intermarriage

From member Emily Eisbruch and Rabbi Michal:

Rabbi Michal, Jon Sweeney and their daughter Sima recently traveled to Duluth, MN to participate in a Friday night presentation and a Sunday morning discussion on Intermarriage.  They were sponsored by Temple Israel in Duluth, which is affiliated with both the Union for Reform Judaism and Jewish Reconstructionist Communities.  We thought it would be great to learn about their experience in Duluth. They have kindly agreed to participate in a bit of Q&A for this blog.

JonAndMichalPhoto

Jon Sweeney & Rav Michal

Q: We know that you have spoken in the past on intermarriage and it was  the theme of your 2013 book “Crazy Mixed Up Love.”   How did the trip to Duluth come about?

A: Rabbi David Steinberg is a Reconstructionist colleague of mine and a friend of ours with an interest in the topic. The synagogue has an annual interfaith themed funded lecture program, which was officially our host.

Q: What were you expecting and what did you find in Duluth? Any surprises concerning the city or the congregation?

[Read more…]

More on Shmita: December 7 Event

Bus Tour Picture

From the last Shmita event, the Food, Land, & Justice Bus Tour (Sept. 14, 2014)

By AARC Member Carole Caplan, for the Washtenaw Jewish News

On December 7, 2014, the community is invited to gather at St. Joe’s Hospital to explore how the Jewish teachings of Shmita are coming to life through the impact of regional institutions and their commitments to local, healthy food.

Meet at St. Joe’s Women’s Health Center, 5320 Elliot Dr, Ypsilanti.
1:00pm-3:30pm.
Free.
For information, contact Carole Caplan at carolecaplan@livebychoice.com, or Idelle Hammond- Sass at Hammond_sass@msn.com

For the year’s Shmita activities, see this page.

The event is a continuation of an exciting year-long exploration of the teachings of Shmita, funded by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor late last winter. “For me, the commandments of shmita can be seen as a built-in seventh year wake-up call,” said AARC member Carole Caplan, who is co-chairing the event with fellow congregant Idelle Hammond-Sass. Caplan explains that “Shmita, which means ‘release’, is the opportunity to become conscious of our relationships with each other, with the environment, and with our understanding of true health, nourishment, and ‘enough-ness’. Just as Shabbat is an opportunity to re-set our ideas about production and consumption on a personal level, Shmita provides us with a unique and important opportunity to re-imagine and reset our practices regarding food production and consumption in and beyond our own homes out into our communities.”

AARC member and owner of Locavorious, Rena Basch, agrees. “Modern philosophy on how to celebrate and honor the Shmita years recommends we take the time to re-imagine society, re-lease the land and re-think farming”. Basch, who began working in the local sustainable food movement in 2006, founded Locavorious, a locally grown frozen fruit and vegetable CSA here in Ann Arbor. “Do you wonder how we, and our community, our congregations, our schools, and our institutions can support the values and intentions of this Shmita tradition?” Basch questioned. “This event will introduce us [Read more…]

Why another book club?

By Judith Jacobs

When I first heard that the AARC was forming a book club, I thought it was a good idea. After thinking about it, I asked myself “Why join another book club, when you already belong to two?” I decided to give it a try and here is what I learned:

The book selection can be described as eclectic. We read about China’s reaction to protests and the tragedies at Tiananmen Square and how they have ben wiped from people’s memories and are not considered a significant part of China’s history. We enjoyed visiting The Worlds of Sholom Aleichem. I found that a particular delight because his world in Russia was my family’s world and he left Russia around the time my great uncle left. “The Seven Beggars was a disaster for me. I did not understand anything that Rebbe Nachman of Breslov was telling us. Our last book, The Dalai Lama’s Cat, was an absolute delight. What could be bad? Here was a book about a prescient cat and Buddhism.

The real treat of the book club has been getting to know members of the congregation in a whole new way. People’s stories always are interesting and such a diverse group of people brings many different perspectives to the discussion.

Try the book club. It will be a different take on the AARC.

Books read so far:

  • November: The Dalai Lama’s Cat, by David Michie.
  • October:  “The Seven Beggars,” a short story by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
  • September: The Worlds of Sholom Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye, by Jeremy Dauber
  • August: The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, by Louisa Lim.

[Book club meetings are on the Calendar, and are included in the Monday Mailer–subscribe at the right on this page.]

Maxwell Street Klezmer Band Musician’s Workshop

Earlier this month six or eight AARC musician-members and about 20 other local musicians joined at the JCC for a workshop with three members of the Maxwell Street Band.  We played for about 90 minutes, putting together two pieces, Freilechs fun der Hupe and Zol Zayn Gelebt.   Photos and audio are below.

Comments from participants

  • What an incredible morning. Hope there’s a chance to do it again!
  • What terrific fun to play music with these folks!  They took a couple dozen amateur instrumentalists, fired us up with enthusiasm, and helped us play with spirit and character. An amazing morning.
  • Alex expertly assessed the abilities of over 20 musicians – from novice to skilled – who had never played together before.  By the end of the workshop we were playing as a group; Alex, Don and Gail gave each of us a new challenge or musical gem.  What fun!!!  It was a real treat to play with Maxwell Street.  Participants were all asking when the band will come back.
Freilechs fun der Hupe

Zol Zayn Gelebt

 

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The Klezmer Concert & Workshop were organized in part by the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation with support from the Eastern Michigan University Jewish Studies, the JCC of Greater Ann Arbor, and an Impact Grant of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, as part of the Ann Arbor Yiddish Festival.

AARC Gatherings in the Washtenaw Jewish News

Here’s a taste of some of our events and celebrations, over the years.

Events-2007-2014

Reflections on this year’s Sukkot Retreat

By Deb Gombert

The kids are up to something.

The kids are up to something.

Carl in a tree

Carl in a tree

I’ve included two pictures to start this post off.  The picture from last year shows a group of children age 3 to 13 who have all joined together in a Very Important Quest of some sort. I wanted to share it because every year at the retreat I love the way the children play together in one group, the older and younger children joining each other in flashlight tag or other games created in the moment. This year was no different: the children created a community that mirrored the sense of community I feel at the retreat.

The other picture is a picture from this year. Carl is high up in a tree. He is alone, reading a book, enjoying a new sense of physical accomplishment in that he can climb higher than he could last year, and enjoying the near perfect weather. At the retreat this year I too found some time to be alone. I meditated, wrote in my journal and practiced accordion. Unlike Carl I was not personally aware of any new physical accomplishments since last year, but I was aware of other ways in which I have grown since last year. And as Carl did, I also enjoyed the weather – not by climbing trees, but by walking among them in the forest around the retreat center.

Last year we almost did not go to the retreat. Carl told me “Mom! We HAVE to go. It is the best weekend of the year!” I suggested [Read more…]

Cultivating Shmita: Re-Wilding Our Ecosystem, Our Diet, Our Medicine

By Idelle Hammond-Sass

Drake Meadow took some of us on an illuminating permaculture walk at the Fall Sukkot Retreat. It was especially relevant in this year where we are cultivating a new ‘Shmita mentality‘.

Idelle and Drake examining a plant at the 2014 Sukkot Retreat

Idelle and Drake examining a plant at the 2014 Sukkot Retreat

We learned to find edible and healing plants in our own yards and how those things that many people sacrifice to have a typical American lawn are actually better to embrace, cultivate and use in tinctures and teas. Drake’s knowledge and ability to notice plants reminded me of how little we know about the land around us.

Shmita reminds us to recognize that even when the land is fallow and wild, it can provide nourishment and even healing herbs for us. Allowing the land to rest can bring a different type of harvest as well, as local and native plants regain their footing and provide habitat and food for animals as well as perennial and edible plants for us.

In an article shared recently by Sarah Chandler, (Director of Earth Based Spiritual Practice at Adamah Farm at the Isabella Freedman Center) she demonstrates how to cultivate elderberry plants and make a tincture from it with the Jewish Greening Fellows. (The article is not available online but here are photos of the process.) This dovetailed with some of the knowledge Drake shared with us at the retreat. Drake mentioned making tinctures from other plants we found including goldenrod.

One piece of knowledge passed on by Drake came in handy recently as we toured conservation efforts in Washtenaw County with Legacy Land Trust. [Read more…]