Barbara Boyk Rust: Spiritual Leader and Teacher

BBRustBarbara Boyk Rust was one of AARC’s founding members.  Eighteen months ago, she was ordained as a spiritual teacher and leader by a Bet Din of four leaders.  Her approach to Jewish observance centers around meditation and sacred chant.  Along with member Allison Stupka, Barbara will be leading our Kabbalat Shabbat service on Friday, December 18, at 6:30. Here, Barbara shares with the community some of her thoughts about her recent ordination process:

What prompted you to undertake the process of ordination? What was the preparation like?

Before moving further into spiritual leadership I needed the review and affirmation of others whom I hold as teachers, mentors and guides.  I needed them to say either “yes” or “no” to my sense of being called to teach and lead in a spiritual context.

Early rabbinic ordination, smicha or smichut l’rabanut, involved the laying on of hands from one rabbi to the next.  Some of the meanings of smicha are to rely on, or to be authorized.  Though I am following a unique path, it did not feel appropriate to me to take further steps authorized by myself alone.  Using a template similar to the origins of Jewish rabbinic ordination I held myself accountable to those who teach me and those whom I serve for recognition, validation and affirmation of this step of my journey as a spiritual leader and teacher.

Part of what I shared with them was the story of my journey, recapped briefly here:

I have been pursuing my spiritual path consciously since my mid-teens.  For more than half my life now, individuals, families and communities have asked me to serve as creator, facilitator and leader of holiday and life cycle celebrations.  Long ago, Reb Zalman Schacter-Shalomi said something to the effect of, ‘if 200 people think you’re a rabbi, you’re a rabbi.’  While I met that criteria long ago, I decided not to complete rabbinic training through the Aleph Rabbinic Program though I was enrolled in it for some years while I completed an interdisciplinary doctorate at The University of Michigan in Higher Education and Clinical Psychology. [Read more…]

Member Profiles: Mark and Erica Ackerman

erica ackerman mark ackermanMark and Erica Ackerman have lived in the Burns Park area of Ann Arbor since 2001. Mark is a professor at UM in the School of Information and in the Division of Computer Science and Engineering in the College of Engineering where he does research in human-computer interaction (social computing). Erica is a web developer at the University, as well. They have two grown children, Rebecca and Zachary. Rebecca is a data analyst for a non-profit in New York City, and Zach was recently elected to the Ann Arbor City Council. You can read an interview with Zach about his election here.

Among other things, Mark is a news junkie, and Erica is active in the Democratic Party and has a passion for fighting global warming. An example of Erica’s blogging on the subject can be seen here. Mark and Erica began coming to AARC High Holiday services several years ago, and have gradually gotten more involved in the congregation.

Q&A with City Council Primary Winner Zachary Ackerman

Zachary Ackerman, 21 year old U-M student and son of AARC members Erica and Mark, won the August 4, 2015 primary for 3rd ward City Councilperson and will run unopposed in the November election.  In the busy days following his primary victory, Zach kindly agreed to answer a few questions about his experiences, including his Jewish upbringing.

Emily Eisbruch (EE): Congratulations Zach!  How do you balance your campaign with the responsibilities of being a University of Michigan student?
Zachary Ackerman (ZA) : Balance in one’s personal life is always difficult to strike. Luckily, being a student allows for flexibility. This summer, when I really hit the campaign trail running, I was working full time at the University’s IT department. From time to time, people will express concern about how I will balance work on Council with work as a student. The reality is that I will only be both a student and a representative on Council for one or two meetings.

EE: How has this campaign experience compared to your expectations? What have you learned?  What are your hopes moving forward?
ZA: I’ve worked professionally for Democratic politicians for a number of years, but being the candidate is very different. Knocking on fifty strangers’ doors a day is really putting yourself out there. What I found most interesting and most valuable is how different each household, each street, and each neighborhood in the Third Ward really is. It was critical that I did knock every door in the ward because every household proved to have its own concerns with the City. I look forward to getting to work to address those priorities.

EE: How, if at all, did Jewish upbringing or education feed into your interest in public service?
ZA: I was raised on stories of my great-grandparents and my grandfather. My grandfather’s parents came to the United States in the wake of the Russian pogroms. Like so many they had nothing to their names but their faith and family. They settled in Columbus, OH and opened up a small tailor shop, which went on to serve the growing Jewish community of Columbus. It was there that they helped found an Orthodox congregation and raised my grandfather. My grandfather died young from wounds he sustained in Italy in WWII, but he used his short life to its utmost. After the war, he became a pharmacist, serving the community his parents had helped root. As the owner of Ackerman Drug, he helped local kids pay their way through school, and filled prescriptions for the sick and indigent. I was raised to be a mensch like my grandfather. I was raised to believe community can and should take care of its own.

EE: Tell us about your Jewish background.  Did you participate in Jewish activities growing up?
ZA: I grew up a member of the Beth Israel congregation here in Ann Arbor. There, I attended Hebrew school three times a week and became a bar mitzvah (my Torah portion was Ki Tavo). A few years ago, my parents joined the AARC. Since then, I’ve joined them for High Holiday services and look forward to seeing everyone again soon.

: Thank you Zach, and we hope to see you soon at the AARC also!




Isaac Shore and Gil Eisbruch Graduate Profiles

Every year our AARC community kvells with graduates and their families as they move from one stage of their lives and educations to the next.  This year we say mazel tov to quite a few: Isaac Shore, son of Rena Seltzer and Pam Shore, graduated from Ann Arbor Community High School; Gil Eisbruch, son of Emily and Avi Eisbruch, graduated from Carleton College in Minnesota; Samuel Lichtman-Mikol, son of Lori Lichtman, graduated from Kalamazoo College; and Julie and Kevin Norris’ son Russell Norris graduated from Muhlenberg College and their daughter, Leah Norris, graduated from a master’s program at University of Colorado. (And my apologies if I’ve missed any — mazel tov to them, too!)

As a parent of a rising high school senior embarking on the college quest, I am always curious what our community’s high school and college graduates think of the schools they’ve attended. With this in mind, I sought out recent graduates Gil Eisbruch and Isaac Shore with a bevy of questions. Both the Eisbruch and Seltzer/Shore families have been AARC members since their children were very young, 1995 and 2000, respectively.

Isaac Shore, Ann Arbor Community High 2015

Isaac Shore, Ann Arbor Community High, 2015

I interviewed Isaac Shore this week, the very day he returned from an overnight orientation at the College of Wooster, a small liberal arts college near Akron, OH, about 3 hours drive from Ann Arbor. Isaac became bar mitzvah at AARC four years ago.

Isaac told me how much he appreciated his slightly alternative Ann Arbor education: Hebrew Day School for elementary, Ann Arbor Open for middle school, and Community for high school. “I didn’t have to deal with a lot of bureaucracy, or people who don’t know each other,” he explained. He chose Wooster over Kalamazoo College and Michigan State, partly because it seemed the right size, about 2000 students. It helped to know that Jonah Ahuvia, the son of long-time Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Havurah members Aura and Aaron Ahuvia, is at Wooster, too. Isaac has varied interests: history, political science, biology, and physics, among them. He seemed relieved that he has another year before he should declare a major. Although Wooster is not known for its Jewish presence, it recently started offering Hebrew, he told me. And coincidently, Isaac’s roommate for the overnight enrollment process was a Jewish student from the San Francisco Bay Area. Isaac will be joining the other Wooster freshmen the last week in August.

Like Isaac, Gil Eisbruch had his bar mitzvah with the “hav.” Gil’s bar mitzvah was in 2006, a distant nine years ago. Gil, too, is a graduate of Ann Arbor’s Community High. And as of this month, he is a Bachelor of Arts in Computer Science from Carleton College in Northfield, MN, south of the Twin Cities.  I asked Gil why he chose Carleton. Like Isaac, he said that knowing someone there was an important influence. “My next door neighbor who is four years older than me went to Carleton and liked it,” Gil told me. (Lillie Schneyer, daughter of Mark Schneyer and Debbie Field, is a rising sophomore at Carleton as well.) When he began at Carleton, Gil imagined that he’d be a math major. A slight shift led him to his computer science major, which he loved.

Gil, on left, building a Sukkah with his friends in Jewish Students of Carleton

Gil, on left, building a Sukkah with his friends in Jewish Students of Carleton

Turns out there is much more Jewish life at Carleton than Gil first imagined. His mom had cautioned him that he may be one of the few Jewish students. But Gil discovered that Jewish Students of Carleton is an active campus group. And his sophomore year, he lived in the Jewish Interest House, a kosher living situation for five students who organize Shabbat dinners and services that 20 to 30 students regularly attend. After his sophomore year, Gil continued to attend Shabbat services on an irregular basis, as well as participate in Jewish holiday celebrations. Another passion of Gil’s was the ultimate frisbee team—which took 5th place in last year’s national tournament. Gil made good friends among both non-Jewish and Jewish students, one of whom is planning to attend rabbinical school at Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.

Emily, Gil, Avi and a friend at Gil's graduation from Carleton

Emily, Gil, Avi and Dafna at Gil’s graduation from Carleton. Gil’s sister Dafna, 26, came to Minnesota from Haifa where she lives.

This summer Gil plans on hanging out in Ann Arbor. Then, in August he’ll be moving to Milwaukee to work in the City Year program of Americorp where he’ll be working in a high school or middle school as a mentor and tutor. He hopes to eventually be a high school teacher.



Many thanks to Isaac and Gil for allowing us to profile them here.


AARC Profiles in the Washtenaw Jewish News

Over the years, the Washtenaw Jewish News has profiled quite a few of AARC’s members, focusing on their books or other achievements.


New Member Profile: Sally George Wright

Sally George, far left, with her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.

Sally George, far left, with her daughter, son-in-law, and granddaughter.

Sally George Wright recently moved permanently to Michigan from Montana, where she had lived on the Fort Peck Indian Reservation, home to the Assiniboine, Sioux and other Native American tribes. In her profession as a clinical psychologist, she had been working there with traumatized children and their families for about ten years. While living on the Fort Peck Reservation, the closest synagogue was a five hour drive, making Jewish community difficult. The ability to be active in a Jewish community, to access the healthcare at the U. Mich hospital system, and, not least, to be near her daughter and 2-year-old granddaughter, who live in Saline, drew her to Ann Arbor.

Before living on the reservation, Sally George lived in Billings, MT where she was Vice President of Congregation Beth Aaron (Reform). Her leadership at Beth Aaron included the year 1993, when during Hanukkah a cement block was thrown through the window of another leader in the Jewish community. Even though the KKK and other white supremacist groups had been agitating in Montana and other Northwest states for many years, the Billings community stood up strongly against anti-Semitism and other expressions of religious, racial and ethnic hatred. The members of Sally George’s congregation had already formed a mutually supportive relationship with members of a nearby Black church, and together they formed the nucleus of the legendary response, recounted in more than one book and a movie, Not In Our Town. Billings residents of different religions organized vigils in solidarity and nearly 10,000 of them placed Hanukkiot in their windows so that anti-Semites wouldn’t know who was Jewish. Though the wider community’s actions in support of Jews was bold and forthright, opinions within the Jewish community about how to respond to violent anti-Semitism ranged from the “lay low” variety to the more confrontational. Sally George still vividly remembers chairing some of the meetings within her congregation where differences were aired. Suffice it to say, she comes to AARC as a tempered Jewish community leader.

After attending our warm and participatory high holiday services, Sally George knew that AARC was the congregation for her. She is an accomplished flutist and former children’s choir leader, and enjoys the singing and instrumental accompaniment in our services. Although she has yet to find and unpack the box with her instruments, she looks forward to playing again. She is also looking forward to studying Hebrew, getting to know other AARC families, and especially reaching out to other older members for Shabbat dinners and other socializing.


Board Member Julie Norris

Julie and Kevin Norriw

Julie and Kevin Norris

AARC board member Julie Norris has been a member of the Havurah/Congregation since she and her family moved here in 2003 from the Philadelphia area.  At that time her daughter Leah had recently had her bat mitzvah at Or Hadash, a Reconstructionist congregation  in Fort Washington, PA. Julie says they felt lucky to be moving to a place with a Recon community. Before long Julie’s husband, Kevin, was on the Havurah’s board, their son Russell was enrolled in the Beit Sefer, and  Leah was helping out as a Beit Sefer teaching assistant.

Leah and Russell

Leah and Russell

I asked Julie, who grew up in a Reform congregation, what drew her to Reconstructionism.  “We first discovered Or Hadash just because it was close to where we were living in Fort Washington, but found that we immediately felt part of the congregational life. It was a Jewish environment that felt pared down to what was meaningful in religious practice. It didn’t bother with the glitter and schmaltz, but focused on what was elemental and authentic about Jewish practice.” She’s found those same values in AARC, she says.  For instance, AARC’s High Holiday services “create a safe, non-judgmental environment that allows for full participation and true reflection.”

Julie will be helping to facilitate the March 8 congregational meeting at which we will be focusing on our future, applying our values to our personal commitments to AARC as well as to our search for a new rabbi. We are so fortunate to have Julie on the board at this time. For twenty years (1989-2011) Julie was president of her own coaching and leadership development company. Since then she has worked for the law firm, Honigman, Miller, Schwartz and Cohn where she leads a professional development team. “After so many years as a member of the Havurah, I joined the board intrigued by our readiness to hire a rabbi, to change and grow,” she says. “We have learned so much about ourselves these past two years, which will serve to sustain and strengthen us.”

Meet Laura Shpiro and Justin Edmondson

Laura wrote last week about the thoughts on the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz. But we haven’t yet introduced her, and Justin, to the congregation, although they joined a few months ago.  So here’s Laura’s profile of the two of them.  Welcome!

Laura & Justin Shpiro

Justin and I moved from Los Angeles to Ann Arbor in October 2011.  Justin was in Los Angeles completing his post-doctoral fellowship in Theoretical Heliophysics at Jet Propulsion Labs.  I was born and raised in LA, except for the four years I spent at Brandeis, and even attended law school in my beloved city of Los Angeles.  Justin and I met on JDate (and I am a big proponent of the site!), and fell in love pretty darned quickly.  When his fellowship ended, it made sense for him to choose a position at the University of Michigan, where he obtained all three of his degrees.  Plus, Momma Mary Lou (Justin’s mom) lives in Ann Arbor, making the moving to Ann Arbor a no-brainer. Since every region has use for social justice attorneys,  I had little excuse not to pick up and move.  Plus, you know, I love the guy.

Although it took us three years to join AARC, we knew it would be our home within a month of moving to Ann Arbor.  We are rather political, extremely liberal, and believe the answer to a better world lies in tikkun olam.  Indeed, our most heated argument is over who is further left, politically.  Obviously, the answer is that I am.  (The writer of history is she who wields the pen!)

Our first experience with AARC was attending High Holiday services; looking around the room, we knew we had found our home.  The more AARC congregants we meet, the more we fall in love with the congregation.  We’re looking forward to many years together!

Shalom, ahava v’tzedek (peace, love and justice),

Welcome to the Burokers!

BurokersPlease welcome our newest members, the Burokers!  They (well, ok, Sherri) write:

Hello!  We are the Buroker family – Sherri, Lyle, Morgan (13), and Shae  (10).  We also have 3 cats, whom we adore!  I (Sherri) grew up in Miami, FL, and Lyle grew up in Syracuse, NY.  I currently work as a substitute teacher.  I am also a health & fitness instructor, which is where my passion lies.  Lyle works for Ford Motor Credit.

We moved to Canton, MI in 2011.  Previously, we lived in West Palm Beach, FL; Franklin, TN (girls born here); and San Jose, CA.  We are happy to now call this beautiful state of Michigan “home!”  I always say we live like tourists, after moving so much!  We have explored a bit of the lower peninsula, and look forward to visiting up north this summer. I enjoy activities outside (doing my best in the winters), planning and spending time with family and friends, and reading. I am also an active volunteer at our elementary school.   Lyle enjoys riding his road bike and playing golf.  As a family, we love to ride bikes, play games, explore our (and surrounding) communities’ activities, or just hang out.  Morgan and Shae both play travel soccer, with other recreation sports sprinkled in.  They love creative projects, and spending time with friends.  Morgan will be celebrating her Bat Mitzvah this coming August!

We were drawn to AARC because of the welcoming and inclusive atmosphere.  We are delighted to get to get to know and grow with this dynamic community.

The Dopp/Berman family gets profiled!

Dopp-Berman Family

Deb & Rich, Ian & Jordan

Deb Berman and Rich Dopp joined AARC several years ago, but haven’t had a member profile yet.  So find out much more about them in this lovely piece at; turns out they were serious gymnasts in college and have been doing fascinating things since.  (Nice throwback Thursday pictures, too.)  Their kids, Ian and Jordan, will have a b’nei mitzvah with us in November 2015.