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.


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…]

High Holidays Appreciation

By Carol Lessure

Each year, we relocate to the Unitarian Universalist Church so that we can welcome anyone in the community seeking a place to pray together with us on High Holidays. We are committed to this effort and providing ticketless services so that it is easy and affordable for anyone to join us. Here is a very nice note sent to us by a first time guest about their experience at our Rosh Hashanah Services this year:

We are visiting our daughter and son-in-law, and we all came to services today … I wanted to let you know that I have been to many services over the years, and I’ve even liked some of them. But this is the first service that I thoroughly enjoyed. I felt comfortable and welcome. The congregation was warm, involved, intelligent. A perfect blend of academe and community, something that I’ve found is all too rare. We’ll be back, I’m sure, when we visit again, and I think you’ll be seeing the kids again, as well.

We are grateful to everyone who helped create our wonderful High Holiday services. We had beautiful participation with service and event leadership by Rav Michal with Torah services managed by Deb Kraus. Members and guests provided singing and music, personal reflections, meaningful readings, Shmita rituals, Yom Kippur workshops and opportunities to gather after services as well. Once again, Jen Cohen supported us with her able coordination and shlepping of stuff. We are deeply appreciative of all the ways that our community comes together to support AARC High Holiday services. We thank each and every one of you.

One more note to members and everyone on our mailing list: watch your inbox (and the Monday Mailer) for a link to a quick High Holidays survey. We invite everyone who attended services to share thoughts and help us in our planning for next year’s services.

Fun at the Annual BBQ

Grownups, teens, and kids: Everyone likes marshmallows at our 2014 Annual Bar-b-q.

BBQ-3 (2014)

Mark and Bass





Maya likes marshmallows

Maya likes marshmallows

Roasting marshmallows

Roasting marshmallows