“How can our water not be fine?”

Today makes 1660 days without access to tap drinkable water. What’s even scarier is there are places all around the country with water worse then Flint and they have no idea yet. — Mari Copeny (@LittleMissFlint) September 11, 2018

By Mark Schneyer

In her Rosh Hashanah sermon this year, Rabbi Ora urged us to “Choose Life,” and focused our attention on issues that prevent people from having access to clean water. I thought it would be useful to list some of the people and organizations mentioned in her sermon, as well as a few related ones::

Finally, Mona Hanna-Attisha, the pediatrician who stood up to advocate for the kids of Flint at a time when the state of Michigan claimed there was no problem with Flint’s water, has written a new book, What the Eyes Don’t See, telling the story of her fight and some of her own history as well. She spoke tonight in Ann Arbor, and said the title of the book refers both to the invisibility of lead in water as well as “problems we choose not to see.”

She described her inner dialogue when she was deciding to go public with the truth she was learning. “How can our water not be fine?” she said she asked herself. The government had experts testing and overseeing and enforcing the law, the water must be clean. But the evidence told her otherwise and she launched her fight.

 

Selichot/Rabbi Ora’s Elul Playlist

Music helps crack open hearts. This Saturday evening September 1, 2018, open up to the radical love and change available in this season with a musical Selichot service.

Together, we’ll learn two new niggunim (wordless melodies) that will be used as a refrain throughout Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur services. If you’d like a head start learning the melodies, here they are:

BeShem HaShem
‘Sheves Achim Niggun
Selichot Service  Saturday, September 1
8pm

each bring a candle (we’ll have extras if you forget)

 Touchstone Common House

(yellow building at the front right behind the Touchstone sign)

 560 Little Lake Drive (off Jackson Rd between Wagner and Zeeb)

please park on the street

More on Selichot here and here

 

And, if you’re looking for more music to accompany you through these last weeks of Elul, have a listen:

Joey Weisenberg and the Hadar Ensemble’s ‘Eil Adon

Leon Bridges’ ‘River’

Shir Yaacov Feit’s ‘Brokenhearted/Psalm 147

Aretha Franklin’s ‘Spirit in the Dark

John Moreland’s ‘Break My Heart Sweetly

A Hidden Niggun for Yidden

Birdtalker’s ‘Outside the Lines

Joey Weisenberg and Mattisyahu Brown’s ‘Yearning Niggun

Eitan Katz’s ‘Elul Niggun

Cry Cry Cry’s ‘Lord I Have Made You a Place in My Heart

Yom Kippur Afternoon Sessions 2018

AARC Yom Kippur practice is to have afternoon sessions of learning, discussion, meditation, and song between the morning service which ends about 2pm and our community Yizkor service, which begins at 5:30pm.  The hour-and-a-half sessions are at 2:15 to 3:30pm and 3:45 to 5pm.

Workshop led by Rev Joe Summers and Anita Ruben-Meiller

Poor People’s Campaign in Washtenaw County

Justice, justice, you shall pursue…” (Deuteronomy 16:18-21)

2:15-3:30pm

In this time of increased exposure to, and awareness of, the injustices in our world, our country, our state and our community, we may feel called upon more than ever to engage in activities and causes that promote justice. I know I was when I was exposed to a presentation by Rev. Joe Summers and others about the Poor People’s Campaign in March of this year.  Please join me and Rev. Summers to hear about the local and national impact of this past Spring’s 6-weeks of action, “the Call for a Moral Revival” and to find out how the Washtenaw County chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign is moving forward to have an impactful presence as we head towards midterm elections.


Text study led by Michal and Josh Samuel

Jonah, the very odd prophet

What is the book of Jonah trying to tell us?

2:15-3:30pm

 

 


Sing, Chant, Walk led by Deb Kraus

3:45-5pm

For the past two years on Yom Kippur afternoon, I have found myself outside with other members, singing and chanting our way through the afternoon between services. It’s been deeply meaningful to us, and a great way to pass the time. You are welcome to join us for all or part of this time. I’ll provide some song sheets but we will also have machzors nearby to aid us in our efforts.  We’ll meet outside if we can and inside if we can’t.


Workshop led by Deborah Fisch

Reproductive Justice: Who is Offered Up to Molech?

Do not allow any of your offspring to be offered up to Molech … (Leviticus 18:21)

3:45-5pm

 

 

Concern for children ranks high in our sacred texts, particularly around Yom Kippur. The Binding of Isaac (the Akedah) rejects child sacrifice, in contrast to prevailing custom at the time. This rejection is codified by the verse in Leviticus.

Fast forward several thousand years to see what Jewish law and American law have to say about the primacy of children’s welfare … and a figure who is absent in these conversations: the mother. Who knows what is best for the child? Whose welfare matters more? This workshop uses the lens of Reproductive Justice to examine law and custom around pregnancy and childbirth. The mother/birthing person and fetus: whose rights prevail?

Introducing Bec Richman, our High Holiday guest Song Leader

My name is Bec Richman, and I am so excited to come to Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation for the High Holidays as your Song Leader. I am currently living in Philadelphia, PA with my beloved partner, Josh (who is also excited to join AARC for the High Holidays).

We are both graduate students – I’m studying to become a rabbi at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and Josh is getting a PhD in Urban Planning at the University of Pennsylvania. I am heading into my final year of school with an immense amount of gratitude to my teachers and my program for affording me the flexibility to pursue folklore, calligraphy, sofrut (ancient scribal arts), and mashgichut (kashrut supervision) as part of my studies. In tandem with my academic program, I have worked as a rabbinic intern for college students, as a hospital chaplain, and as congregational student rabbi. This year, I am honored to be the recipient of a grant that will allow me to build a beit midrash (house of learning) in Philadelphia.

When I’m not in school, I am often training for a triathlon, throwing pots in the ceramic studio, practicing writing Jewish sacred text on parchment, or reading quietly at a cafe. Thank G!d, my life is full and vibrant.

I am honored and excited to come to AARC for the High Holidays. This season in the Jewish calendar calls on us as individuals and as a community to tune into our relationships, behavior, and intentions. I appreciate the annual reminder of our fragility and encouragement to think with care about how to live, and I love the way the High Holiday nusach (musical theme) reflects this holy work. I have so enjoyed working with your incredible rabbi, Rabbi Ora, to plan High Holiday services, and I can’t wait to come sing with you.

Yom Kippur, 2017

Our Yom Kippur services are open, ticketless, and accessible to all. Services will be led by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner and are musical and participatory. Services are held at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Road, the red brick building on the southeast corner of Ellsworth. More details here.

Fri., Sept. 29, Kol Nidrei, 6:45 gathering and candlelighting, service begins at 7pm

Sat., Sept. 30, Yom Kippur Morning and Torah service, 10 am – 2 pm

 Children’s Service, 10:30 – 11:30 am

Afternoon Workshops, 2:15 – 5:00 pm Workshop Descriptions

Yizkor, 5:15 – 6:30 pm, A non-traditional service offering mourners the opportunity to share some words about the person they lost. (Please plan on spending no more than 5 minutes, so all may participate)

Ne’ilah/Shofar/Havdalah, 6:45 – 7:45 pm

Break-the-fast, 7:45 or when 3 stars appear. Reservations are closed now.

About our Selichot Prayer Service, Sat Sept 16

by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

The practice of Selichot goes back at least 2,000 years, and may be even older: Legend has it that when King David realized the Jerusalem Temple would eventually be destroyed, he begged God to tell him how the Jewish people would be able to connect with God while in exile. God told King David that the people could recite ‘selichot’–penitential prayers–to bring them closer to God, and that they should include a recitation of the “Thirteen Attributes of God,” a passage from Exodus evoking God’s compassionate nature–and one that we now recite throughout Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur: “Adonai! Adonai! A God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, rich in steadfast kindness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression, and sin; yet He does not remit all punishment…”

As Jewish tradition evolved, it became customary to recite Selichot prayers in the days and weeks leading up to Rosh haShana. In Eastern Europe, Selichot were originally recited early in the morning, prior to dawn. There was a custom in Eastern Europe that the person in charge of prayers would make the rounds of the village, knocking three times on each door and saying, “Israel, holy people, awake, arouse yourselves and rise for the service of the Creator!” It later became common practice to hold the first Selichot service–considered the most important–at a time more convenient for the masses. Therefore, the Selichot service was moved to Saturday night.

For our own Selichot service this Saturday night, we’ll end Shabbat together with Havdallah, and then learn a few soulful niggunim – wordless melodies – that will form an aural backdrop to our Rosh haShana and Yom Kippur services. If you’d like to get a head-start on learning these melodies, or if you’re not able to make it to Selichot, here are 2 of the tunes we’ll be learning: Joey Weisenberg’s Shochein Ad and Nishmat Kol Chai.

Selichot Prayer Service
 Saturday, September 16
8pm
each bring a candle (we’ll have extras if you forget)
 Touchstone Common House
(yellow building at the front right behind the Touchstone sign)
 560 Little Lake Drive (off Jackson Rd between Wagner and Zeeb)

please park on the street

 

Tashlich New Time and Place

Tashlich

Friday September 22, 2017

6:30pm

begin at JCC, 2935 Birch Hollow Dr.

walk to Mallets Creek in Mary Beth Doyle Park and Wetlands

A heron at Mary Beth Doyle Park, photo Sept 7 2017 by Evelyn Neuhaus

This year we will be doing Tashlich (the Rosh Hashanah custom of casting into running water the things we want to be free of) on Friday September 22, as part of our Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat service and potluck at the JCC.

Mary Beth Doyle Wetlands in early August 2017

We will gather together at the JCC at 6:30 for brief song and prayer, drop off our potluck, and walk to Mallets Creek, about three blocks due east of the JCC on Birch Hollow. If you are running late, meet us there. Everyone welcome.

Butterflies love the vegetation in Mary Beth Doyle Wetlands

Rabbi Ora asked if there might be a location for tashlich within walking distance of the JCC so that we could combine our Fourth Friday service, Shabbat Shuva (the Shabbat between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur), and tashlich. Well, it turns out, there is!

Mary Beth Doyle Park and Wetlands (formerly Brown Park) was reopened in 2008 with major changes, including planting tens of thousands of plugs of 25 species of grasses and forbs (herbaceous flowering plants). The idea for the new seeding and planting was to attract wildlife to this new wetland area. Ten years later, the project has succeeded!

Learning at Mary Beth Doyle Wetlands

On a recent walk through Doyle, I saw several herons, egrets, ducks, butterflies and more quietly and gracefully enjoying the gently flowing water. The park had a delightful atmosphere, a bridge over the water, and couldn’t have been more lovely.

As always, AARC High Holiday services are open and ticketless and (except Selichot and Tashlich) are held at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Road, the red brick building on the southeast corner of Ellsworth.

Services this year will be led by our new rabbi, Ora Nitkin-Kaner. As in past years, many members of the congregation will participate in the service by doing readings, chanting Torah and haftorah, and leading workshops.

We will have a fish and dairy Break-the-Fast at the end of Yom Kippur, as in past years. You must make a reservation for this. Here is the link.

Like last year, we will have services for young children (toddler through elementary) from 10:30-11:30am on Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, with childcare during adult services and an activities coordinator for the tweens.

You need to let us know if your children will need childcare. Here is the signup for childcare.

Everything you need to know about AARC High Holiday Services is at this link on our website.

 

Yom Kippur Workshops 2017

It’s our Yom Kippur tradition at AARC to have several afternoon sessions for study, meditation, and discussion. This year, there will be three sessions; two from about 2:15 to 3:30 pm, and one from 3:45 to 5 pm.

 

 

Barbara Boyk Rust

Meditation and Sacred Chant for the Quiet of the Day
led by Barbara Boyk Rust
2:15pm

One of the blessings of Yom Kippur’s fast is the cleansing, purifying and opening we experience as we abstain from food and other routines.   Giving ourselves over to a day of prayer and reflection in community affords us a unique opportunity to deepen our spiritual contact.  Through sacred Hebrew chant and meditation this time together will support our entering a state of deep meditative consciousness to quiet our mind that we might hear the still small voice within and receive guidance for the year that is beginning.

 

 

Margo Schlanger

American Immigration
hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stranger)
a discussion led by Margo Schlanger
2:15pm

Margo Schlanger will facilitate a discussion on American immigration enforcement and the mitzvah of hachnasat orchim (welcoming the stranger). Margo is a member of AARC and a law professor whose recent work has focused on challenging the Trump Administration’s ramped-up immigration enforcement; she is counsel in federal cases challenging the administration’s “Muslim ban” executive order and its effort to deport hundreds of Detroit-area Iraqi nationals who have been here for decades.

 

Danny Steinmetz

 Jewish burial and mourning practices
a workshop led by Danny Steinmetz
3:45pm

Over several millenia, Jews have developed distinctive practices for dealing with death.  Traditionally, Jews do not leave the deceased unattended before burial, and use simple shrouds and coffins. After burial the focus shifts to the mourners and their obligations to console and care for mourners. The presentation will cover some of these practices (as well as their origin and rationale) and consider implications for a Reconstructionist community. The presentation will be by Danny Steinmetz is an ex-rabbinical student and a former chair of the AARC board. 

 

How we are still a havurah.

by Margo Schlanger
Margo Schlanger

Margo Schlanger

As co-chair, this was my congregational welcome on Yom Kippur this year:

L’shanah tovah. I am Margo Schlanger; I am nearing the end of my time as board co-chair for the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, which has been a very great privilege. It’s also my privilege to welcome both members and friends to this service, whether you’ve been a part of our community for its full 23 year history, or are new to us today, or something in between.

This is a community that is very dear to me, and I want to tell a little story that captures a small part of why. It’s about our ner tamid, our eternal light. You may notice – we don’t have one. That’s because we don’t have a stationary ark. Our ark travels; it lives in our closet at the JCC, and comes out for our Torah services. So how could we have a ner tamid? Well, it turns out that ours is far from the first travelling ark. And so, many learned rabbis have debated the question: how do you fit a ner tamid to a travelling ark. They’ve come up with the sensible answer that the ner tamid needs to be out, and lit, with the ark – but it need not be out or lit when the ark itself is put away.

So for our ner tamid, we realized we need something that can be out, and lit, for something between an hour or two at minimum, but about a day, at maximum.

AARC started as a havurah – a lay-led fellowship. Volunteer solutions are in our DNA. On this one, it turns out we have a great amateur electronics maven, Dave Nelson. So Dave figured out a way to run a battery-chargable LED light for a day at a time. This took considerable experimentation and adjustments to the electronics, but Dave finished that a few weeks ago. And now comes the fun part: we can, as a community, create a sacred object. Like our Ark, Torah Table, Tapestries, Yad, Torah Cover. All are created by members, inspired by their aspirations for what our community means. The ner tamid will be the next such object, and like the others, will symbolize our Jewish community as well as the objects it depicts. Many people will have a hand in making it. Some will pay for precious materials; some will do work; some will kibbitz about design. We’ll all together enjoy the result.

LED light that Dave has made into the guts of our Ner Tamid

LED light that Dave has made into the guts of our ner tamid

Another synagogue's portable ner tamid.

Another synagogue’s portable ner tamid.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

And as you must have expected, here’s the point; the ner tamid is real. But it’s also a small metaphor for our community as a whole. We need many people to have a hand in making it, and we need everyone to bring both their talents and their resources to bear. This is a transitional year for us, as we hopefully bring our rabbi search to a close. If you’re a member, and have already renewed your membership, thank you. If you’re a member and haven’t done that yet, thanks for doing it very soon. Either way, please think about how you can help enable our community to flourish, so it can give you and others what it is they need. And if you’re not a member, please consider yourself welcome to all our events, and please consider joining us more officially. It’s easy, and we’re very nice people. Or, if you prefer, consider supporting these ticketless open services. There are donation envelopes at the welcome table out front. Please support this community—your community—as generously as you can.

L’shanah tovah!

 

Teshuva: Averting the “harshness of the decree”

Nathan MartinErev Rosh Hashanah dvar Torah by Rabbi Nathan Martin

Shana Tova and Gut Yontif,

I first want to say what an honor and privilege it is for me to be celebrating Rosh Hashannah with you this year. When I started out my job in Ann Arbor in 2006 at the University of Michigan Hillel, I remember the feeling of having left a vibrant Reconstructionist Rabbinical College community and assuming that I would just have to settle for “less” community. And I remember the delight and surprise I felt when I started coming to the AARC.

  • There were God-wrestlers–people who thrived on challenging contemporary notions of Jewish theology trying to find their own unconventional theological path into the tradition
  • There were Jewish learners–people who simply wanted to soak up the various parts of Jewish tradition and find meaning in the voices of our ancestors
  • There were God Seekers–people who sought to integrate traditional and innovative Jewish practice to develop a meaningful Jewish path
  • There were Community Builders–I called these the “doers,” the folks who simply stepped up and made programs and community happen
  • And most of all, there was warmth and welcome. Without fanfare people stepped up and helped me and my family feel at home.

This Jewish diversity within the AARC is what makes you the strong and unique community you are. And my first blessing for the new year is that you continue to draw from these many strands to continue to build a caring and Jewishly diverse community for the future.

Rosh Hashannah is a powerful moment in our Jewish calendar cycle. We are stepping back to assess our past behavior and seeking to re-set our intentions for the coming year. We draw from the metaphor of rebirth–hayom harat ha-o’lam, today the world is born–to see if we too can renew ourselves.

Alongside the process of renewal is the time we take to recognize our own fragility. This is the essence of the “unetane tokef” prayer which we will be reciting tomorrow, a meditation on the fragility of life. The prayer confronts us with images of judgment and the uncertainty of what lies ahead. And then it takes an interesting turn with the words, “uteshuva, utefillah, utzedakah ma’avirin et roa’ hagzerah” –“teshuva, tefillah, and tzedakah avert the harshness of the decree.”

What does it mean to have the harshness of a decree averted?

teshuvah

Let’s focus tonight on the first word of this phrase: teshuva. While translated as “repentance,” the root of the word for teshvua has the meaning of “shuv” to return. I often translate “teshuva” as “returning to our best selves.” Rosh Hashannah and these ten days of repentance are a time when we try to reach for our best selves and imprint this behavior as a guide for the coming year. Often this work is done in the negative–at least liturgically. We recite litanies of mis-steps that we have done personally and as a community. But, the personal reflection moves beyond the liturgy. We each have our own personal spiritual curriculum for improvement. Here’s a personal example for you.

I have a habit of leaving my books on the dining room table–thinking that in the few free minutes I might have between dinner and bedtime I might do some reading. (Usually an overly-optimistic scenario.) When my partner Abby the other day said in a somewhat sarcastic tone “are you planning on leaving your books on the table again,” I could notice a variety of feelings come up that included: defensiveness, “Well I may read something;” guilt, “oy, she caught me;” shame, “I know I should have moved the books and I feel bad and embarrassed that I didn’t.” And, sometimes perhaps even humor, “Oy, there’s Nathan forcing his foibles onto the family.”

The smallest details of our lives can be challenging and worthy of introspection. The more we stop and look, the more we realize that we are constantly falling short of the ideal human being that we would like to be. This may be in the ways in which we take care (or don’t take care) of our bodies, in our lack of attention for those we care about, and the list goes on. But one thing I realized: when I dwell in my guilt, shame, and embarrassment on the ways I come up short of my ideals, I become both the judge and implementer of the “harsh decree” mentioned in the unetane tokef prayer. An important part of the teshuva process is also figuring out to how let go of the strong internal critique we carry that distracts us from refocusing our minds on healthier behavior and choices for the future.

The moment we are able to name and face that we are falling short–that is a moment of lessening the severity of the decree. The moment we are able to name for ourselves and others the person we would like to become–that too is a lessening of the decree. And of course, the moment we are able to translate these personal insights into repairing our important relationships with our friends and loved ones–that too is a lessening of the decree.

As I conclude my remarks tonight and we prepare to move towards the close of the service I want to invite you to think about the notion of bringing someone in close with you as you do your teshuva work this year. What would it look like to invite a teshuva hevruta, a close friend who can help you hold the best picture of yourself, into this important spiritual work? This hevruta could be someone who you could share your “teshuva list” of those who you want to reach out to and apologize to. You could even debrief how it went. This hevruta could be someone you could share your personal spiritual growth curriculum for the coming year–and you could even set up times to check in periodically how the work is going.

As my comments indicate, rather than seeing the world and ourselves being reborn anew in an instant in Rosh Hashannah, we can rather hold onto the metaphor that we are at the beginning of the year’s journey of growth and transformation and an ongoing teshuva practice. Thus, each day when we say the blessing in the daily Amida, “selach lanu avinu ki chattanu” “forgive us our Sovereign for we have strayed” we could actually have our teshuva curriculum in mind as a focusing point for our work.

May we use this time of the next day and during this week to wake ourselves up to new possibilities, define our personal curriculum, and deepen our relationships to support each other in this important work.

Wishing you blessings and sweetness–and growth–in the coming year.