Welcome Marilyn and Len Kirsch!

Len and Marilyn Kirsch recently moved from Long Island, New York to Ann Arbor to be near their daughter Jennifer, her husband Peter, and their grandchild Jacob. Len is a semi-retired aviation and seaport attorney and Marilyn is a retired elementary school teacher. Jennifer is a psychologist in town, and Peter is a dentist working in South Lyons and Milan. Jacob is 19 months and attends the JCC three days a week. They reside near the Briarwood Mall, but will be moving to a Toll Brothers Town House on Scio Church Road in the Spring.  Len and Marilyn belonged to a Conservative Synagogue in Syosset, New York and Len was an elected member of the Syosset School Board for 11 years. They are excited to be part of a dynamic congregation and hope to help the congregation grow in size.

Welcome Jeff Siegfried!

Still photo from a video of Jeff’s dissertation concert Yizkor: In Memoriam, on November 18. Click on photo for the video. The recital was dedicated to the victims of the Tree of Life Synagogue shooting in Pittsburgh. It features music that explores Jewish identity, including pieces by Leonard Bernstein, Yinam Leef, Ziv Slama, Ellwood Derr, Ödön Pártos, and Betty Olivero.

Hi! I’m Jeff. I’ve lived in Ann Arbor for a few years now and perhaps like many others I’ve been attending High Holy Days services at AARC only to disappear for the rest of the year. At Yom Kippur this year I realized that I am seeking a deeper sense of nourishment and community and I chose to become a member and to make Shabbat services a steadier practice for me.

I am a doctoral student in saxophone at UM and I live near campus. I grew up in Bellingham, Washington. Prior to my coming to Ann Arbor, I lived in Tucson and Chicago.

I am drawn to the progressive, inquisitive, and welcoming atmosphere at AARC and I look forward to getting to know all of you more. My partner, Ione, was also able to come to a Rosh Hashanah service and wants to come to more events as her schedule allows as well. As the occasion arises, I’d love to be involved in making music in and around AARC events.

My hobbies include cooking, bicycling, reading, and dancing. I can’t wait to get to know all of you better!

Welcome Grayson Neff Family!

Our family is excited to join AARC! We are a family of four: myself (Adrianne Neff), my wife Carla Grayson, and our children Noah Grayson Neff, age 18, and Sylvie Grayson Neff, age 11. We have lived in Dexter for the past 8 years and before that were Ann Arborites for many years. Carla and I celebrated our 20th wedding anniversary this summer. We were married at TBE by Rabbi Levy in 1998, and he re-married us legally when it became possible in 2015.

We live in rural Dexter Township and have a property where we keep chickens and turkeys and enjoy gardening and watching the wildlife in our woods and small pond. I am a Physician Assistant working in urgent care. I enjoy cooking, home improvement projects, boating, and working with our pets and farm animals.  Carla is a lecturer in the Psychology Department at University of Michigan. She enjoys watercolors and coloring, yoga, and gardening.

Our son Noah graduated from Dexter High School in June. He will be with us for Rosh Hashanah at AARC, and then will be moving to Flagstaff, Arizona, where he will be joining the Conservation Corps and working on environmental restoration projects in national parks, forests, and our other public lands. Our daughter Sylvie is entering 6th grade in the Dexter schools. She spent 3 weeks at Camp Tavor this summer and met some other kids from AARC there. Sylvie plays lacrosse and field hockey, enjoys video games, photography, and playing with her pet cat and dog, and just started her own business selling eggs from our free-range chickens at the Webster Farmer’s Market.

Carla and I were married at TBE, Noah celebrated his Bar Mitzvah there, and the congregation was a happy home for us for many years. However, in recent years we allowed our involvement to lapse as life events moved us to become less involved with TBE and our Judaism in general. We are currently renewing our commitment to Jewish practice and community, and after much reflection, we realized that our desires, needs and values most closely align with the Reconstructionist movement, and we made the decision to join AARC. We are looking forward to being members of a smaller congregation.

Although we are new members, we already have deep ties to AARC including many dear friends and acquaintances who are members. We spent the High Holidays at AARC last year, and we loved the services and Rabbi Ora. We are eager to meet new people, make new friends, and join in the community and spiritual life of AARC.

Toby Citrin and Phyllis Blumenfeld: Old Friends and New Members

Phyllis and I are approaching our 25th wedding anniversary next year. She’s a retired professor of education, having researched, taught and practiced educational psychology, student engagement and project-based learning at the UM School of Education for almost 40 years. I’m a “nominally retired” adjunct professor at the UM School of Public Health, having researched, taught and practiced public health policy, genetics policy and community engagement for 37 years. Phyllis grew up in Brooklyn (Brighton Beach), studied at Brown (then Pembroke) and received her Ph.D. at UCLA. I grew up in Detroit, attended Harvard College and Harvard Law School, and spent the next 10 years working in our Detroit-centered family business. After the business was sold I transitioned into academe when a series of voluntary positions in Detroit’s and Michigan’s health systems led to my being invited to join the UM Public Health faculty. Now that I’m reducing my university work-load, I’ve been increasingly active coordinating the Michigan advocacy activities for J Street.

My daughter Ana, from my first marriage, went to the University of California Santa Barbara and “never returned.” She’s now a public interest environmental lawyer defending the California coastal environment from the constant threats of developers. She and her husband, Tim, have given me two awesome grandchildren, Toby “the Younger” and Kaia (pictured here with Ana). Phyllis and I escape the Michigan winters by moving to Santa Barbara for several months each year.

Joining AARC marks for me the fruition of a spiritual path that included the birth of Temple Israel in the 1940s, the creation of Congregation T’Chiyah (now the Reconstructionist Congregation of Detroit) with Carl Levin and our friends in 1977, and a period of membership at Temple Beth Emeth. I’ve had a growing interest in AARC, where I have several valued friends and associates. Visiting a recent service and meeting Rabbi Ora made it clear that AARC would become a cherished spiritual home for us.

Welcome the Hall family to AARC

We are very excited to be new members of AARC! We are a family of four and more, living in two households and with multiple faiths, but united in our journey through life together. We are: Noah, Jennifer, Ella (age 14) and Miles (age 11).  Noah is a law professor at Wayne State University and University of Michigan, Jennifer works at Zingerman’s Delicatessen, Ella is a freshman at Skyline High School, and Miles is a 6th grader at Forsythe Middle School.

Our path to AARC is the result of Miles wanting to explore his Jewish heritage. Noah grew up culturally Jewish in New York and Connecticut, made his bar mitzvah in a Reform temple, but other than that experience, didn’t really spend too much time in a temple at any point in his life.  Jennifer grew up Catholic, attended church every Sunday with her family and graduated from a Catholic high school, but then as a young adult, decided church and religion wasn’t an important part of her life.

When our kids were young, we sought out a faith community to be part of and joined the First Congregational Church of Ann Arbor, where Jennifer is still an involved member.  This congregation is very welcoming, inclusive of all people, whatever their story and is very much focused on serving the needs of our community.  When our son Miles started asking about his Jewish background and a desire to make his bar mitzvah, we were very pleased to find AARC because it welcomed our family as we are and spoke to all our values of community, inclusivity, and service.

Miles joined the Beit Sefer last year and is looking forward to starting again this fall.  We’ve joined the congregation for a few events, have appreciated how welcomed we’ve already been, and look forward to getting to know everyone more in the future.

Welcome new members Gillian, Alex, Wesley and Wade Jackson

We are so glad to be new members of AARC! We are a family of four: Myself (Gillian), my husband Alex, our 5-year-old Wesley, and our 3-year-old Wade.

We recently relocated to Chelsea from Asheville, NC. We wanted to be closer to family and soon after setting that intention, Alex found his dream job doing sustainable architecture in Ann Arbor. Before living in NC, Alex and I both did undergrad at U of M and Alex got his Masters of Architecture at U of Oregon. Before becoming a stay at home mom, I worked as a medical assistant.

As a family we enjoy gardening, canoeing, hiking, spending time with friends/family, cooking and general adventuring. Wes is starting kindergarten this year and Wade is starting preschool. Wes will also start his second year of Beit Sefer this fall.

I was delighted to find AARC last year during the high holidays. I was raised Reform but hadn’t found a synagogue I resonated with personally until now. I appreciate how the Reconstructionist tradition upholds our culture and traditions with a more humanist and naturalist tilt. I spent a lot of time in Hebrew school as a kid and it was an important part of my identity. I’m glad to be back in the fold and to share it with my own family. I’ve enjoyed everyone I’ve gotten to know over the year and look forward to years to come!

Welcome Sherry and Steve Lessens

Sherry and Steve Lessens returned to Ann Arbor this past summer after a forty year “break.”  Sherry grew up in a Cleveland suburb, and Steve is from the small town of Lowell, MI. They met as undergrads at the University of Michigan and married during grad school.  Steve went to U of M med school and Sherry got a Masters in Counseling while working in Plymouth.  Steve’s residency took them to Milwaukee for a short time, and they finally ended up in Shelby, MI for thirty-eight years.  Shelby is a very small town (1800 people!) along Lake Michigan that is very rural, very conservative, and quite poor. While Steve served as a family doc, Sherry worked as an elementary school counselor. Their temple, B’nai Israel was 30 miles away in Muskegon, but it grew to be an important part of their lives. The membership is less than 80 families, but it includes all denominations of Judaism, and the members became dear friends. Leaving was hard.

The Lessens family includes two children.  David is a family doc in Anchorage, married with two small children, and Jennifer and her husband with two boys live nearby in Okemos.
Once both Steve and Sherry retired, they immediately chose to return to Ann Arbor. They missed the culture, the people, the music, and the availability of great public transportation, to say nothing of being so much closer to a temple, to their daughter,  and getting away from ALL THAT SNOW!! AARC seemed like the perfect fit once they attended the small Friday night service this August at Hillel. They are both anxious to meet new people and expand their religious experiences.

Welcome Kopald Family: Seth, Kathy, Ahava, Clara, and Levi

We are very happy to be a part of AARC.

Our families easily merged together over the last three years, but officially this past July, Kathy and I were married.  At the end of October,  we moved into our renovated home.  We have three wonderful teenagers: Ahava, Clara, and Levi and our dog Hazel.  I was born and raised in the Detroit area, moved to Oregon after college and then to Ann Arbor when Ahava was two.  Kathy, born and raised in Port Austin, came to Ann Arbor to study at U of M.  She fell in love with Ann Arbor and made her home here.  I feel like the luckiest guy in the world that Kathy and Clara have come into our lives and we are truly one happy family.  I have been in the field of Early Childhood Education my working life and now design and build specialty construction projects.  I also work with people as an Internal Family Systems Practitioner.  Kathy is a designer and artist, who works at U-M designing websites and leading and designing high profile campaigns for the Office of the Vice President for Communications.

I found AARC in my search for the right fit for a Jewish community.  I have tried many and like parts of each, but nothing felt just right, until now.  After attending AARC High Holiday services in the past and many events as a member, I believe I found our community.  I think the AARC is an accepting and welcoming group that allows people to be themselves and let their light shine. We look forward to meeting all of you.

Alice Mishkin: new member, familiar face

I first got involved in AARC back when it was the Havurah. While an undergraduate at Michigan, I taught kindergarten to a class full of Elis (who are all now heading to college themselves!). Originally from East Lansing, and having grown up in Kehillat Israel, I found a lot of comfort in the DIY nature of the Havurah.

After graduating from U-M, I spent time in DC, New York, Tel Aviv and the West Bank working with Jewish nonprofits doing human rights and social justice work. I returned to Ann Arbor to complete my Masters in Social Work and Jewish Communal Leadership, and found myself drawn back to the comfort of the AARC community.

I now teach courses in social justice and social identity at U-M and work as a lead organizer with the Center for Jewish Nonviolence, an international nonprofit committed to nonviolent resistance to the Occupation.

I live on the West Side with my partner and when these cold, dreary winter months are over you’ll find us taking walks around the West Side, restocking our coffee supply at Argus, and attempting to grow our garden.

After attending a yoga/meditation shabbat last month, I was delighted when Debbie reeled me into joining the AARC and I’m looking forward to being a full member of the community (most importantly getting a permanent name tag)!

 

Introducing Carol Ullmann, Matt McLane, Zander and Ellie

New members Carol Ullmann and Matt McLane both grew up in Michigan, Carol in Rochester Hills and Matt in Portland, not far from Lansing. They met through mutual friends in Ann Arbor while in college. Except for a 2 year “exile” in Northville, they have lived in east A2/west Ypsi/Pittsfield Township since 1999.

Carol and Matt have two delightful children. Zander is a 6th grader at Scarlett and a Boy Scout in Troop 7. He wants to be a programmer. He loves to read, especially books by Rick Riordan. He also loves to cook, play trumpet, draw, and design video games.

Elinor is a 2nd grader at Carpenter Elementary and a Brownie Girl Scout (currently selling cookies!). She loves to go camping and fishing, play board games, and do anything that involves hanging out with other people.

Carol works with AARC member Dave Nelson as a freelance writer, and it was Dave who invited Carol and Matt to check out AARC. After Carol and Ellie attended a Fourth Friday Shabbat service and potluck last May, the family decided the congregation was a good fit for their family. They signed the kids up for Beit Sefer and have been active since.

In describing themselves, Carol says, “Matt is a very capable outdoorsman, a kid at heart, and is assistant scoutmaster for Troop 7. He likes to fearlessly make stuff and is currently building a teardrop camper. I am deeply involved in fiber arts. I write, grow food, teach knitting, and am co-owner of Washtenaw Wool Company, which sells hand-dyed yarn and spinning fiber on Etsy and to local retailers.