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.

Welcome Rachel and Bryan

Our newest members are Rachel Baron Singer and Bryan Singer. Here’s Rachel’s introduction:

“Bryan is a postdoctoral student in the Biopsychology Department at the University of Michigan, and I’m currently working towards a Masters degree at Wayne State University in Library and Information Science.

Bryan and Rachel

Bryan and Rachel

We moved from Chicago to Ann Arbor in January 2013 with our pet rabbits, Pierrot and LeFou, and have settled in relatively well, despite our firm refusal to switch allegiances from the Chicago Dog to the Coney.

Because neither of our hometowns had Jewish communities large enough to support more than one synagogue, we were both raised in the Reform movement by default. However, we’ve long identified with the tenets of Reconstructionism, and are very excited to finally belong to a Reconstructionist congregation.

Outside of his research, Bryan’s passions include hiking, photography, travel, and the Chicago Bulls. Meanwhile, I enjoy writing about film studies, collecting vintage Nancy Drew novels, learning about mid-century modern architecture, and supporting West Bromwich Albion F.C. in the English Premier League (don’t worry, nobody else has heard of them, either).

Pierrot and LeFou

Pierrot and LeFou

We very much enjoyed attending AARC services for the high holidays and look forward to meeting the other members!”


Welcome Back, Ellen!

Ellen Dannin, our once and now-current member, is back to Ann Arbor from State College, Pennsylvania.  She writes:

Ellen Dannin

Ellen Dannin

I first joined the Reconstructionist movement as a member of Congregation T’chiyah in Detroit (and was also then a member of  the National Havurah movement). Over the years, and many moves, I have been a member of Reconstructionist congregations of Dor Hadash in San Diego, the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Havurah, and now back to Ann Arbor after a stint in State College, PA. For many years, I’ve written liturgy, divrei Torah, rituals, and other work focused on Judaism. A year ago, I gave myself a challenge of searching for water in each week’s parasha. I figured that the story of people traveling around a dry area of the world was unlikely to have water as a theme. Little did I know that water in some form existed in almost every week.

In my non-Jewish life, I have taught labor and employment law at various schools and write on privatization, including infrastructure privatization.

I am so happy to be back in Ann Arbor and to reconnect with friends and make new ones.



New member intro: Welcome the Nelson/Spindler family!

In our ongoing series of new member intros, I’m happy to introduce the Nelson/Spindler family:  Cara Spindler, Dave Nelson, and Aziza and Otto.


Dave says:  “I’m the tall one; Cara is the pretty one.”






Some Q & A’s:

What brought you to Ann Arbor and how long have you been here?

Cara and I both came to Ann Arbor as U-M undergrads twenty years ago, and have been here ever since.

Tell us about your prior involvement in the congregation:  

We’ve been skulking around the periphery of the AARC for several years (Otto’s been in Beit Sefer for, I dunno, maybe three or four years now).

What are some things you like to do? 

Um . . . being outside? The kids are very into imagining insane things and playing made up games that I find totally inscrutable (as well as Pokemon–ugh), while my wife and I hope to get to see a movie again some day. And we all read a fair bit.

Many of us already know Dave, Cara, and their kids — if you don’t, say hi the next chance you get!

And welcome to the Bramsons, too!


Candace, Elliot, Eric

New AARC members Eric and Candace Bramson have lived in Ann Arbor over 20 years.  They met at the University of Michigan Ballroom Dance Club in the mid 90s, and still enjoy dancing today.

Eric is an engineer at Ford Motor Company and enjoys photography, biking and bird watching. Candace works for Pfizer doing clinical research and likes learning languages (currently studying French), biking, and running. Their son Elliot, who has attended the Beit Seifer for the last 3 years, is in 4th grade at Angell Elementary and loves legos, stuffed animals, and anything University of Michigan.

The Bramsons look forward to strengthening their connection to the Jewish community and becoming involved in the congregation’s celebrations and activities.


Welcome the Angus family!

Here’s how our new members, the Anguses introduce themselves:

We are the Angus family, Dale, Orna, Aden (12) and Sara (9). We met the Reconstructionist Hav in 2013. I (Orna) grew up in Ann Arbor. Dale grew up in Marysville, MI. We met when he attended EMU. We are an interfaith marriage.

We recently moved back to Dexter in 2010 to be closer to my parents. Dale works for Thule in Manufacturing Sales, and I work at Pittsfield Charter Township as the Deputy Treasurer.

Our children love sports and various activities. Aden enjoys playing basketball & golf, and Sara is a gymnast. They both enjoy school and spending time with friends. As a family we enjoy biking and kayaking in the local parks. We have two dogs Catcher, and Kelly they love to cuddle. The family favorite books & movie would be the Harry Potter Series.. Favorite Foods: (Dale) BBQ, (Orna) Italian, (Aden) BBQ or Buffalo wings, (Sara) Chinese Food.