Appreciation For The Mitzvah Corps

By: Barbara Boyk Rust

Reading Anita’s message about the Mitzvah Corps spurred me to write this appreciation of the generosity I am receiving from the group.

I am recovering very well from a major surgery that I had in the autumn of 2019.  It has been a more extensive process than initially anticipated and my needs for assistance have surpassed anything I have experienced yet in this life.  For many of us who take joy in giving care, it is a new challenge to allow ourselves to be cared for, especially when it is more care over a longer period of time than we imagined possible.

  For the last few months and ongoing into the future I need rides to attend the physical therapy that is helping me with one of the key aspects of my healing, attaining structural balance and increasing freedom of motion.

Friends and family are helping me in many ways, and I need even more help as this is an extended period of healing.  Also, given the world condition with the pandemic, I am not comfortable using public or private transportation like Uber, etc.

The congregation members, in particular, Anita Rubin-Meiller, Claudia Kraus Piper, Mike Ehmann, Janet Greenhut and Rebecca Kanner are helping me enormously.

  First there’s the ride itself, their vehicles are clean and safe and feel appropriately tended given the pandemic, all these are stress relievers for me.

  Secondly, they’re all great drivers!  I am not able to drive at present and this loss of control is not easy for me.  Being driven by individuals who are at ease and competent at the wheel offers a calming feeling of being cared for and protected.

Third, as healing is my full-time preoccupation, I am not seeing many people outside of my household in a given week.  With the pandemic this is even more the case for all of us.  When the driver comes to get me, I have the enjoyment of pleasant company and interesting conversation over the time we are together.  Since this is an ongoing healing project for me, our relationships are developing gradually as our conversations evolve over the weeks and now months of our connecting in this way.

What’s the hub of the wheel of community?  Connection.  And the spokes of that wheel head out in many directions.  The spoke that is helping me heal, giving me blessing, and affording me safe and consistent transportation over months to a vital part of my recovery is the spoke of generous giving of time and effort every Monday and Thursday at about 12:30 pm, when someone shows up at my home and takes me to PT.  I am grateful and appreciative beyond words for all that it takes in order for this gifting to me to occur.

These mitzvah doers have a spoke of connection to me, yes, and through their goodness, to the One that connects us all.  It’s a blessing.

Congratulations 2020 AARC Graduates!

Congratulations to this year’s graduates! AARC graduates earn an extra gold star for their ability to demonstrate strength and resilience during the COVID-19 pandemic. Mazel tov to the graduates on their accomplishments and to the parents and families of these outstanding young adults!

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Caleb Shoup is graduating from Pioneer High School and is headed to the University of Michigan, where he will attend the Residential College.

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Jonas graduated from the MSU Honors Program this past December with majors in Theater and Economics. He earned the Board of Trustees scholarship award for “attaining the highest cumulative grade point average in the graduating class of fall 2019.” The award was presented at a board meeting held in the same place where he was arrested for protesting during his first year. Jonas lives in Lansing. He works stocking shelves at Meijer and is in the process of becoming certified to operate a forklift. He is active in immigrant rights organizing and other community activities. 

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Marley graduated from Macalester College this May. where he majored in History and minored in Theater. For most of his years at Mac, Marley worked in the Theater Department’s scene shop. He participated in many productions as actor, director, assistant manager, and stage tech. While he was a student, Marley became acquainted with the large and active theater scene in the Twin Cities. He was also active in the Macalester Jewish Organization. Marley is hunkering down at home due to the pandemic, and hopes to return to the Twin Cities when theaters open once again.

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Eli Kirshner graduated from Oberlin College with a degree in History, with Highest Honors. His thesis, “Race, Mines, and Picket Lines: The 1925-1928 Western Pennsylvania Bituminous Coal Strike,” is based on over two years of research on 1920s race relations and coal mining in the Pittsburgh area, a topic that has many connections to the present day. Eli’s Zoom presentation of his thesis was a festive opportunity for friends, family, and former teachers to to tune in. (His parents were kvelling offscreen).  Eli’s Zoom talk is here, and the written thesis is here!


AARC congratulates Caleb, Jonas, Marley, and Eli on their many accomplishments and looks forward to seeing them carry those achievements out into the world.

Photo credit: https://www.pikrepo.com/fehbo/group-of-graduating-students

Meet the Mitzvah Committee

Written by: Anita Ruben-Meiller

“Let the good in me connect to with the good in others, Until all the world is transformed through the compelling power of love” – Reb Nachman of Breslov

I am writing to you as the new(ish) coordinator of the Mitzvah Committee, having stepped into that role in January, following our annual congregational meeting. The other members of the committee are Stephanie Rowden, Mike Ehmann, Idelle Hammond-Sass, Amie Ritchie and Rena Basch.

Historically, the Mitzvah Committee has helped to coordinate assistance to meet several of the needs of our members. The requests that we receive are mostly for rides and meals. Occasionally we receive requests to help get volunteers to assist with the practicalities of organizing the space for the celebration of B’nai Mitzvot or for holding a shiva observance. Very occasionally we receive requests to offer healing chants at times of illness. The hope of the committee is to make a personal connection that allows the coordination of assistance to create ease for the member in need. Towards this end, we have divided ourselves into teams to handle certain kinds of requests. While all initial requests will come through me via email at anita1018@sbcglobal.net or text message at 734-255-2619, requests for rides will be passed on to Rena and Mike; and requests for meals will be passed on to Idelle and Stephanie.

In the past few years, members of the congregation have completed a survey letting the committee know what kind of helping tasks we might be able to call on you for. We are asking that you take a moment to update your info if your availability has changed or add your name if you are ready to volunteer now.

I know that when I was ill and had surgery some years ago, and still had kids at home to tend to, I was deeply moved by and grateful for the generous assistance that came in the form of meals delivered for us to enjoy. I know from speaking with a congregational member, Amy Rosenberg, that the help that was coordinated and delivered through members of the Mitzvah Committee made it possible for her to not only have rides to visit Marc when he was hospitalized, but also to have emotionally supportive conversations.

I hope you will both volunteer for and take advantage of the services we can provide to make life a bit easier during challenging times.

Congratulations to our Graduates!

Avi Lessure senior portrait.

Avi Engelbert Lessure, son of Carol Lessure and Jon Engelbert, graduated from Skyline High School, where he was involved in robotics and math mentoring. He enjoys working with children, serving as a madrich in the AARC Beit Sefer, and seeks to tutor students in math over the summer. He is also a competitive Hearthstone player, having qualified to play against the world’s best during the Masters Tour in both Las Vegas (June) and Seoul, Korea (August). Avi will attend the University of Michigan Honors College in the fall.   

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Zevi Kinberg-Cowan graduated from Huron High School in June 2019. She’s looking forward to visiting relatives this summer, finding a job, and living her best life. 

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Juliana Fried is graduating from Pioneer High school and will attend Western Michigan University in the fall to study elementary education, with a concentration in math. She was awarded the AAPS Dorothy Russell Scholarship for a graduating senior who plans to enter the field of education. 

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Ella Edelstein is headed to the University of Michigan
Jesse Edelstein is headed to Brown University

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Ari Basch graduated from Huron High School in June 2019 with Honors. He played clarinet in Huron’s Symphony Band and led the Computer Aided Design (CAD) on the Ratpack FIRST Robotics team. Outside of school, he enjoys music, soccer, mountain biking and ultimate Frisbee. He built his mountain bike prior to heading to the UP for a riding camp, and he plays on multiple Ultimate teams. This summer, Ari is a counselor-in-training at Camp Loookout. He will be attending University of Michigan in the fall to study engineering.

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Other High School Graduates:

  • Daniel Hirshbein
  • Elijah Shore
  • Ahava Kopald

College Graduates:

  • Isaac Shore
  • Myisha Kinberg

Congratulations to all our high school and college graduates!

AARC’s Megillah Ark

The Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation is proud to present one of our hand-crafted sacred objects, a Megillah Ark created by Alan Haber, with components crafted by Idelle Hammond-Sass. The Ark is a beautiful piece of artistry specifically designed to shelter a hand-illustrated scroll of the Book of Esther or Megillat Esther. For more on the Scroll of Esther acquired in 2016, see Barbara Boyk Rust’s blog post. Please enjoy this description of the symbolic elements of Ark in the artist’s own words:

I made it like a city within which to live and be safe, with 6 walls to hold the story. Each of the wall boards has two tenons like the boards of the tabernacle. In the front are the city gates, Boaz and Joachim. In the back is a dark post, ready also to serve as gallows. The wall boards on each side of the gate have the smile of Vashti, in the grain, through which the story unrolls.

The story scroll is held tied between 2 pieces of rosewood attached to a piece of white holly wood, which serves as the handle to draw the story out between the city gates, though the smile of Vashti. The gate is closed, with the story inside, and latched  by a piece of ebony wood, tied with a blue thread. When the gate is unlatched, the ebony latch bolt is inserted and held at the top of the gallows post and the blue thread serves as the rope and noose. The crown of Esther is on top of the central post holding the scroll, and is turned to unroll the story, and turned back to re-roll. Mordecai sits at the base of the city gate and aligns Esther when the story is returned to within the city and the latch retied. The city walls and earth below and roof above are all of cherry wood … surely a favorite of Esther, without ointments and oils.

– Alan Haber, 2019

According to Idelle Hammond-Sass, the scroll was designed by an Israeli woman artist she saw at the Janice Charach Epstein Gallery. Says Idelle:

Barbara Boyk-Rust and I purchased it, hoping to have a housing created for it. It is color-offset, richly decorated and signed.
We arranged to collaborate with Alan and I made a brass Crown etched with the Hebrew for Megillat Esther, which fits the fulcrum of the turning for the scroll. It has designs pulled from the scroll itself. Barbara and I also visited the Megillah container Alan made for Beth Israel and helped to fund the project.

Idelle Hammond-Sass, 2019

AARC 2018 High School Grads!

This year, six AARC members graduated high school! Mazel tov to the families, and best wishes for each graduate as they head into a new stage of their life.

Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos’ son Harry Bagenstos graduated from Greenhills School with awards in History/Social Science and Debate. Harry will be attending Wesleyan University in the fall. Margo and Sam’s daughter Leila Bagenstos graduated Greenhills with awards in Writing and French and will be attending Bryn Mawr College in the fall.

 

 

 

 

Eli Shoup, son of Sarai Brachman Shoup and David Shoup, is headed to Chicago to attend DePaul University in the fall.

 

 

Max Resnick, Paul Resnick and Caroline Richardson’s son, graduated from Community High School.  He will be going to the University of Michigan in the fall to study economics.  He is a highly ranked Hearthstone player.  For his graduation present he will be traveling to Austin Texas to play in a Hearthstone tournament.

 

 

Saul Vielmetti, son of Deborah Fisch and Edward Vielmetti, graduated from Community High School. He will be attending Eastern next year to study Technical Theater.

 

 

Debbie Zivan and Cheryl Jeffery’s son Brayan Zivan is doing a gap year with Tivnu in Portland. The Tivnu Gap Year is nine months of hands-on Jewish social justice engagement. Participants create a community living together, discovering the Pacific Northwest, and exploring the bond between Jewish life and social justice while working with Portland’s cutting-edge grassroots organizations.

 

 

 

 

Nice things

There has been a lot of overwhelmingly bad news lately. But nice things happen all the time, too. This blog post is to connect us to a few of the nice things that happen in our congregants’ lives.

Brayan 3rd from left, Max on the right. Congrats!

Building Award
Two AARC members, Max Resnick and Brayan Zivan competed in the SkillsUSA Michigan State Leadership Conference. Max Resnick came home with the State Championship.

 

Award and Book

Sara Ahbel-Rappe recently received a Diversity Service Award at UM, an award which recognizes faculty who contribute to equality and diversity at the university. And her book, Socratic Ignorance and Platonic Knowledge in the Dialogues of Plato, was recently published in the SUNY Press series in Western Esoteric Traditions.

Dinner with old friends

The Carol and Matt Ullmann family had dinner with some old family friends they haven’t seen in a while. It was wonderful to spend time together.

 

Endorsement

At the Michigan Democratic Party’s Endorsement Convention, held on April 15 at Cobo Hall, a historic turnout of 6,700 delegates voted to endorse Samuel Bagenstos for the Michigan Supreme Court.  The turnout was fueled by a surge of over 3,000 new members of the Democratic Party.

 

 

Quoted in the Press

Andy Kirschner talks musicals in FMT News article, “Musical resurgence has Hollywood changing its tune.”

New Company
Jeff Basch started his new company, Trove Analytics. They are commercializing a technology developed at U-M that uses algorithms to analyze an existing electrocardiogram (EKG) signal to predict a patients trajectory. The algorithm informs nurses and doctors so they can prioritize patients that are most at risk of death and take action to save their lives 7 to 30 hours before the visible onset of the deterioration.

 

 

Degrees Conferred!

This spring, several AARC families are celebrating  graduations from institutions of higher learning.  The graduates are a diverse and fascinating group! Mazel tov to the graduates and families on these milestones.

Molly Kraus-Steinmetz and her proud mom, Deb Kraus

Molly Kraus-Steinmetz graduated from Grinnell College with a major in Sociology. After spending the summer at home working with the Interfaith Committee for Peace and Justice (ICPJ), in August she will start a year-long fellowship with Avodah Service Corps in Chicago. Avodah is a Jewish leadership and social justice training organization. Molly will be an organizer with Jane Addams Senior Caucus, working on housing issues.
Molly is fundraising $1500 to support Avodah. You can donate at this link and read more about her plans.

“The forces that we’re all up against—civil and human rights violations, abuses of power, destruction of the earth, exploitation, and discrimination—are massive, and the way to fight them isn’t to stand alone. It’s through collective action. Through filling the offices of people in power with determined protesters. Through listening to people, truly hearing their fears and struggles, and helping them find a way to express them as part of a powerful chorus of voices. Through organizing. And now that I’ve finished my sociology degree, Avodah has brought me the opportunity to do all of those things at Jane Addams Senior Caucus.”

Daniel Saltzman

Gregory Saltzman and Audrey Newell had a double simcha with two of their sons graduating this year.

Daniel Saltzman graduated in May from West Point and was commissioned as a  second lieutenant in the U.S. Army.  After four months of training in Missouri as a chemical officer, he will be stationed in South Korea.  Before going to West Point, Daniel served as an Army medic in Afghanistan.

Jonathan Saltzman graduated in May from Swarthmore College.  He will begin work in July as an investment analyst for the William Penn Foundation, a charitable foundation in Philadelphia.  Jonathan will be part of a team of six who oversee the outside investment companies that manage the Foundation’s  $2.4 billion endowment.

Jonathan Saltzman

 

Sarah Kurz

Sarah Kurz, Dina and Keith Kurz’ daughter, graduated with distinction from the University of Michigan School of Medicine.  She will be returning to her undergraduate alma mater, the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, to complete a residency in Internal Medicine.  Her parents will miss the proximity they had with her during her medical school years and are so proud of her many accomplishments, honors and awards.

 

AARC 2017 High School Grads

AARC has a big crop of high school graduates this year. Tracking them down for updates on their lives, and pictures, was not an easy task. But with their parents’ help I was able to get vitals for each. Mazel tov to the graduates and to their families!

Livia Belman-Wells will be graduating from Huron High School. This summer she is taking her first trip to Israel, and in the fall she will be attending Brown University in Providence, RI.

Tommy Cohn is graduating from Skyline High School. He is heading to UM College of Engineering.

Ruby Lowenstein is graduating from Community High School and will be following her heart to Bennington College in Vermont.

Noah Resnicow is graduating from Pioneer High School. He is heading to University of Wisconsin-Madison to study journalism.

Shani Samuel is graduating from Pioneer High School. Next year she’ll be going on Habonim Dror’s gap year program, and the year after that she’ll be attending the University of Michigan.

Jacob Schneyer is graduating from Skyline High School. Next year Jacob will be going to Grinnell College in Iowa.

We have a new rabbi! Ora Nitkin-Kaner begins September 1, 2017

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

The Board of AARC is thrilled to announce that Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner (RRC ’16) will begin her tenure as our congregation’s rabbi on September 1, 2017. Rabbi Ora is spending the current year in New Orleans in an intensive chaplaincy program and will be moving to Ann Arbor in the summer of 2017.

Born and raised in Toronto, Canada, Rabbi Ora began her rabbinic studies in Philadelphia at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in 2011. From the bio published upon her graduation in June 2016:

Ora learned Judaism at home, in Hebrew day school and at the University of Toronto, where as an undergraduate she studied Jewish folktales of demonic possession and as a graduate student she studied the intergenerational transmission of Holocaust trauma. Ora fell in love with New Orleans in 2007, and made it her home from 2008 to 2010 as she worked with exonerees and received educations in justice and power and beauty.

Ora began rabbinical school because she knew five years at RRC would help shape her into the leader she seeks to be in the world. Along the way, to her surprise and delight, she also became a Reconstructionist. While at RRC, Ora has been the grateful recipient of the Ziegelman Scholarship, John Bliss Scholarship, Wexner Graduate Fellowship, Or Hadash D’var Torah Award, Alice Stein Essay Prize and Tikkun Olam Award.

Ora’s internships at RRC have helped her grow immeasurably. As a chaplain at Monroe Village, Ora learned to hold stories; as the sabbatical and student rabbi at Congregation Kehilat Shalom, she discovered what it means to love a community; as a chaplain at Bellevue Hospital, she learned how the pastoral encounter fosters healing in patient and chaplain; and as the Bert Linder Rabbinic Intern at West End Synagogue, she found her voice.

During her first time living in New Orleans, Rabbi Ora was a fellow of the Jewish service corps organization, Avodah, where she blogged on the intersections of Judaism and social justice organizing and worked with the organization Resurrection after Exoneration which was founded by death row exoneree  John “JT” Thompson. She brought her experiences from New Orleans into her rabbinic training, concluding an MLK Day d’var in 2014 with these words:

As Jews, we have seeded the world with the idea that we are made in God’s image, that each of us, black, brown and white, Jewish or gentile, innocent or guilty, have God’s light inside of us. This teaching is the birthright that we have shared with the world. And now, it’s time to honour the corollary of that birthright – that we work for justice, even when it seems hopeless, even when crime and prison seem far away, even when the dreams of freedom of men who pace 6 foot by 9 foot cells seem far from our own, quieter dreams. I have a dream that we will put aside our complacency and recognize that we cannot drink in our freedom while communities of Americans across this country are dying of thirst.

Rabbi Ora uses her life experience as the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors to learn and teach about living with fear, loss and grief by practicing gratitude and taking action. Her dvar on Bechukotai is a beautiful contemplation on these themes.

The whole AARC community looks forward to Rabbi Ora’s leadership. Over the coming months we will be planning opportunities for meeting her in person and introducing her to our community.