What a joyous occasion to spend the evening together celebrating Purim! It was exactly two years ago that we last celebrated purim together in person. Enjoy these photos from Jen Swanson of the evening!
Its a big exciting year for Purim! It feels like a landmark, because Purim 2020 was the last in person event that we held before the COVID-19 pandemic. I am so glad that we are able to host a full slate of hybrid Purim events this year. I hope that you will be able to join us in person or online!
Hybrid Purim Service
Our hybrid service will take place Wednesday, March 16th, 6:00-8:00 pm at the JCC of Ann Arbor. You may participate in person, or via zoom. Our theme this year will be Game Night! Dress up as your favorite board game character, video game character, game show personality, athlete etc. We will have a Megillah reading, followed by a congregation wide game night! We are asking everyone to register for both online and in person events. Sign up for in person services here. Sign up for online services here.
Megillah Readers Needed! Email us if you’d like to read an chapter in English for Purim! We read an abbreviated version so teens and adults are welcome!! Email Rabbi Ora if you are interested.
Hamantaschen Workshop with Laurie and Etta, March 13th, 2:00 pm.
Join Laurie White and Etta Heisler on Zoom to hone your hamantaschen-making skills. Check your mailers for the zoom link!
Laurie’s Hamantaschen Recipe
Rich Pastry Hamantaschen recipe
RICH PASTRY HAMANTASCHEN
2 C. all-purpose flour1/2 C. sugar2 t. baking powder1 C. butter (or margarine)2 eggsGrated rind of 1 orange1/2 C. finely ground walnuts2 T. brandy
1) Sift the flour, sugar and baking powder into a large mixing bowl. Using a pastry blender or fork, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs.2) Add the eggs3) Add the remaining ingredients and work with your hands until the mixture forms a ball, Add more flour if the dough seems to sticky to handle. Wrap and refrigerate over night.4) Roll out to 1/8-inch thickness on a well-floured board or pastry cloth. Cut 3’ or 4’ diameter circles, using a cookie cutter or drinking glass.5) Using filling of your choice*, mix filling well. Drop a teaspoon into the center of each circle, and fold dough to form triangular pockets (You can put a bit of water around the edge to help with sealing. Pinch edges together firmly).
Bake in pre-heated 350 F. oven for 20-30 minutes, until pastries are golden brown.
Makes 2 1/2 – 3 dozen.
* I like prune jam (2. c.) with the grated rind of a lemon, 1 t. orange juice, 1/2 c. finely chopped walnuts, 1 t. cinnamon (1/4 t. nutmeg): apricot jam (and add cinnamon and nuts) or poppyseed filling (I usually add yellow raisins, cinnamon and lemon to the commercially prepared version)
Mohn (rhymes with fun) is both the German and Yiddish word for poppy seeds. Tasch (rhymes with gosh) is the word for purse or pocket.Mohntaschen were a pocket-like pastry filled with poppy seeds and popular with German Jews and non-Jews in the late Middle Ages. A dish eaten by Jews has always been more satisfying if there exists some connection between it and the history of the Jewish people, so it became “Hamantaschen” and designated as a treat at Purim.As an extra justification for adopting mohntaschen for the traditional Purim pastry, it has been suggested that poppy seeds were a symbol of manna, the food G-d gave to the Jews wandering in Egypt, and also one of the few foods Esther would have eaten in the Court of Ahasuerus since she would have been observing the Jewish dietary laws.
Etta’s Hamantaschen Recipe see the original and more on Etta’s website!
This recipe was originally published by my maternal grandmother, or Savta as I called her, in a recipe booklet called “Dinner and Other Winners” that I think must have been a fundraiser for Hadassah or some such organization. It is an objectively perfect and unequivically delicious. Other hamentaschen are great, but you don’t need em if you have these. Sweet enough for dessert, fruity enough to call it breakfast, they go from dusk to dawn and back again, just like the holiday.
If you don’t know what hamentashen are, google it and educate yourself. Or not, and just eat the cookies.
Here’s What You Need
For the filling:
- 2.5 pounds Lekvar Prune Jelly (I have never found this so I just use dried prunes at the same weight with a bit of water as needed)
- 1/2 pound ground walnuts (you can leave these out if you have to do nut free)
- 1/2 pound seedless white raisins
- 1/2 pound strawberry preserves (jam is fine)
- 1/2 pound jar apricot preserves (or jam)
- grated rind of one lemon
- breadcrumbs to make the mixture firm (I never add these)
For the dough:
- 4 cups flour
- 1 cup sugar
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 4 eggs
- 1 cup oil (I use safflower)
- 1/2 cup water
Here’s What To Do
- Combine all the dry dough ingredients in a large bowl.
- Make a well in the center and add the eggs, oil, and water.
- Bring the dry ingredients over the wet ingredients, working the mixture until you have a soft dough.
- Gradually add additional flour as needed to make the dough stiff (but not so dry as to crack).
- Knead on a floured board (or counter) until smooth and pliable.
- Refridgerate for two hours or over night.
- To make the filling, just combine all of the ingredients in a food processor and puree until they are all mixed together and finely ground. Add water if you think it should be looser. Add breadcrumbs if you want it thicker. Store in fridge if not using immediately.
- Once chilled, roll out dough on a floured board (or counter) to 1/4″ thickness.
- Cut circles. (You will need to do at least 3-4″ diameter, 4 is probably better than 3. I use a biscuit cutter, but you could also use a large tomato can that has been emptied and cleaned, or some similar object.)
- Place a spoonful of filling in the center of each circle.
- Using your finger or a small pastry brush, brush a thin coating of water around the outer edge of the circle, as if you were adding a rim to a plate.
- Pick any two, equidistant points and fold to the middle, pinching tightly to close, but not so tight as to break the dough. Continue pinching down the seam til you make a corner.
- Now, fold up the other side and pinch in two directions to make two more corners.
- This should make total sense to you by now and if you are confused, you have failed. PSYCH. Watch the tutorial, or make up your own shape.
- The important thing is to make sure you have a good seal on all the seams, and that you can see some of the filling peeking through without it totally exploding out of the cookie.
- Place folded cookies on a cookie sheet, 1″ apart. Bake 15-17 minutes at 350 degrees or until the bottoms are light brown.
By Gillian Jackson and Carol Lessure
Spending time in the kitchen making food together is one of those particular situations that no matter who you are with, good conversation and connection are surely to come. Some of my fondest memories are of time spent in the kitchen with loved ones. Last weekend’s Hamantaschen workshop did not disappoint! Etta Heisler and Laurie White provided some invaluable tips and techniques to help their fellow bakers perfect their Hamantaschen craft. In addition to their priceless anecdotes, members were given the opportunity to simply spend time together in the kitchen, and what a privilege this seems to be during this time of isolation!
Carol Lessure wrote a lovely reflection on the community that is built around times in the kitchen in ‘normal times.’ Enjoy!
AARC has always enjoyed silly, fun times during Purim. We have had many a Megillah reading, and lots of spiels, tons of costumes and of course yummy food enjoyed together. Last year, we had two face to face celebrations – crazy right?
When Gillian reached out to me about a Hamantaschen-baking workshop online, it reminded me of the many years that the Lessure Engelbert family hosted Hav families and friends to bake cookies in our home.
It all started with a call for homemade Hamantaschen for dessert at a catered luncheon followed by a Purim spiel a decade ago. Then, the Beit Sefer requested some to fill Mishloach Manot. I thought it would be more fun to tackle the big baking task together. What followed was a 7-year tradition of baking cookies at our home. At first, the little ones needed lots of supervision and quickly tired of the task; a few years later and the tweens took over and the adults could visit over coffee and snacks. Then families with younger ones came over and the teenagers showed them how to do it.
We figured out that people just liked hanging out – so we started popping pizzas into the oven after the cookies baked. Each family would bring a side dish to share for dinner. Our boys were happy to host and soon the tweens and teens would gravitate downstairs for Wii games while adults hung out on the main floor.
One year, I woke up with a fever and chills. I kept to our bedroom and the cookie-baking went on without me. It is truly a testament to our community spirit that not only did the cookies get made, but our guests left the main floor and kitchen cleaner and tidier than they found it! Not only that, but no one came down with whatever I had. Obviously, this happened long before we’d heard of COVID-19.
We thought it would be fun to share these memories and some vintage photos – may we be together again next year!
Carol’s “Best Hamantachen” (recipe is from Leva Lessure – aka Carol’s mom). Published in “Nobody Cooks Like Jewish Women” – NCJW National Capitol Area Section, 1992:
1 cup shortening (butter, margarine)
3 eggs (or make flax “eggs” with 1 tablespoon of fresh ground flax with 3 tablespoons of water for each egg you are substituting)
1 cup sugar
Cream sugar and butter together, add eggs one at a time
1 tsp of vanilla
3 tablespoons of honey (or agave for the vegans)
2 tablespoons of orange juice
Add these ingredients and mix well
4 cups flour
3 tsp of baking powder
½ tsp of salt
Sift the dry ingredients together – esp. baking powder so it doesn’t clump
Slowly add in dry ingredients into the blended wet ones
Once all the ingredients are well blended, cover tightly and refrigerate overnight. Take out only a small amount at a time and keep dough refrigerated – it will become very sticky when warm and difficult to roll and cut.
Cut two inch circles with a juice glass or cookie cutter, add a small spoonful of filling in the center and pinch the sides to form a triangle – leave a hole in the middle so that filling can be seen.
Baked on greased cookie sheets at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes until edges begin to brown. Cool for 5-10 minutes because filling stays hot longer than the cookies.
We prefer Solo brand fillings: Poppyseed, Prune and Apricot are traditional in our family. Cherry, chocolate and sweet cream cheese are good too!
Written by: Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner
Purim is a story of revolution and social transformation. The megillah recounts how two Jews worked within an oppressive system to allow victims of persecution to rise up, defend themselves, and claim their rights.
One of these Jews was called Esther; the other was Mordechai. Both of them were inspiring (and not-uncomplicated) ancient radicals.
So who are our modern-day Esthers and Mordechais?
On Monday, March 9 at 7 pm, we’ll celebrate Purim 2020: Make Some Noise. In addition to megillah-reading, noshing, laughing, and noise-making, we’re planning a Moth-style storytelling moment, and asking YOU to tell us a (1-minute) tale of when YOU took a stand, made some noise, got the attention of people in power, or nudged a community one step closer to justice.
Give us a forshbeis (a nibble/appetizer) of your story in the comments below!
Looking forward to celebrating Purim 2020: Make Some Noise with AARC? We’re looking forward to celebrating with YOU! Sign up here to read a chapter of the megillah in English, bring hamantaschen, or contribute to our dessert potluck.
How else can you prepare for Purim 2020: Make Some Noise?
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.Idelle Hammond-Sass, 2019
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.
AARC’s Purim celebration last Friday was a blast! Rabbi Ora, dressed at Mr. Rogers, opened services with an original composition that welcomed us to Purim; it was set to the tune of “It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood.” In addition to our regular Shabbat songs, our abbreviated Shabbat service included many silly lyrical compositions written by Rabbi Ora, who astounds and amazes us every Purim! See her upside-down Megillah reading from last year!
Alan Haber revealed the handmade Megillah ark that he constructed to hold the beautiful Megillah scroll acquired by Barbara Boyk Rust and Idelle Hammond-Sass.
For this year’s costume theme, members dressed up at their personal heroes. Justice Ruth Bader Ginsbergs was a hero in triplicate!
After services, we enjoyed a delicious potluck followed by a performance by Beit Sefer students, a costume parade, and dancing!
This article by Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner, on Vashti in the Purim story (Megillah), appeared in the March 2019 Washtenaw Jewish News.
Support for MI Iraqi Families During Deportation Crisis
During Purim week, AARC Beit Sefer and congregation members will be baking hamentashen for the families of Iraqi detainees. On March 3, the detainees’ legal team, which includes AARC members Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos, is hosting an informational dinner for the families of detainees, and we will be providing dessert. This will be our congregation’s way of fulfilling the Purim mitzvah of mishloach manot, giving gifts of tasty treats to friends and strangers.
Opportunities to Bake
Here is some background on the detainees’ situation from the ACLU of Michigan. In June 2017 hundreds of Iraqis in Michigan and throughout the country were arrested by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), which intended to deport them immediately to Iraq, a country where many have not lived since they were young children. Most have been living in the United States for decades, but were previously ordered removed to Iraq—either for overstaying visas or for previous criminal convictions.
As a matter of policy, the United States has not deported people to Iraq because of dangerous country conditions, and because the Iraqi government has refused to issue travel documents. In March 2017, however, Iraq agreed to accept Iraqis deported by the United States back into the country, in exchange for being removed from President Trump’s travel ban list. Suddenly, any Iraqi with an open removal order was a target.
The ACLU filed a class action lawsuit in federal court to stop the deportations on the grounds that they would likely result in persecution, torture, or even death for those deported, either because they are members of minority religions or because they are Western-affiliated.
“When the clerk calls him forward, Attorney Ed Bajoka explains he has three paths to pursue in seeking release of his client, Mukhlis Murad, who’s been detained for nearly six months. Murad is a 59-year-old suburban grandfather with numerous health problems. His adult children and his sister are in the waiting room. When asked how it’s been at home without her dad there, his 23-year-old daughter, Summer, answers swiftly and directly, ‘He’s our best friend. Murad is one of several hundred Iraqi-born U.S. residents now facing detention and deportation. Many are married to U.S. citizens. Most speak English. At least half are Chaldean and speak Aramaic — not necessarily Arabic. They are parents and grandparents, business owners, and taxpayers. Many are churchgoing Catholics.” (From the ThinkProgress article “Trump’s travel ban puts a religious minority he promised to protect in the cross hairs.”)
In June 2017 Judge Mark Goldsmith ordered a temporary stay of deportation for Iraqis in Michigan. In July 2017 Judge Goldsmith granted an expanded preliminary injunction barring deportation of Iraqis throughout the country while they access the immigration court system, giving them time to file motions to reopen their immigration cases based on the changed country conditions or legal developments in the decades since their cases were decided.
The legal team went to court in December and asked Judge Goldsmith to order the release of these Iraqi Nationals absent a showing that any of them are a flight risk, danger to society, or face an imminent removal to Iraq. Judge Goldsmith then ordered that the government must provide bond hearings for the detained Iraqi nationals and must show by clear and convincing evidence that the detainee is a danger or a flight risk and if no bond hearing is provided, the individual must be released.
Most of the bond hearings have been completed. There have been 182 bond hearings. 119 have been granted, but 63 have been denied. However, there also a good number who were granted bond hearings, but cannot afford the bond amount.
In summary, progress has been made with reuniting many families, but a big chunk of families are still separated from their loved ones. Getting released on bond is not the end of the battle. Release just allows the individuals to work and be with their families while their individual immigration process continues.
The legal team in Hamama v. Adducci is ACLU of Michigan Attorneys Miriam Aukerman, Bonsitu Kitaba-Gaviglio, and Michael J. Steinberg; Legal Fellow Juan Caballero; National ACLU attorneys Lee Gelernt, Judy Rabinowitz, and Anand Balakrishnan; ACLU of Michigan Cooperating Attorneys Margo Schlanger and Sam Bagenstos of U-M Law School; Kimberly Scott and Wendy Richards of Miller Canfield; co-counsel Nadine Yousif and Nora Youkhana of CODE Legal Aid; Susan Reed of the Michigan Immigrant Rights Center; and William Swor.
Celebrate Purim with AARC
Friday evening February 23, beginning with a brief Purim-inspired (aka upside-down and backwards) Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat.
Then we’ll read the Megillah/Scroll of Esther, have a Potluck, enjoy a shpiel and a homegrown Talent Show.
The fun begins at 6:30pm at the JCC.
You can volunteer to read an English language chapter of the megillah and/or entertain us with your talent by clicking here.
We have noise-makers, masks and hats in our box of tricks at the JCC….but feel free to bring your own!
Posts from Purims Past….
Be Happy! It’s Adar! But Why? (2016): Purim is a harbinger of spring. Like spring holidays celebrated in other cultures and religions–the Hindu celebration of Holi, Carnivale in Brazil and the Caribbean and Mardi Gras in New Orleans for examples–the elation over the departure of winter and the rebirth of the Earth is intoxicating. And Purim is clearly a holiday to be observed in the millennium, where identifying the difference between good and evil is at times totally challenging.
A Purim Vocabulary (2015): The whole megillah means “something long, complex, and possibly tedious,” as in when Jews read the Megillah Esther (Scroll of Esther) from beginning to end, all ten chapters, with breaks for hooting and hollering, each Purim. And yes, AARC is going to read the whole megillah this year….well almost. Because of the age-old “tedium” problem, there are many abridged, English language, family-friendlier, megillot to choose from. But you can still expect all ten chapters.
Friendship Scroll (2017) by Barbara Boyk Rust: For my part, this scroll is a remembrance of friendship, of beauty, of sharing in community. It is a way to offer the power of this artist’s rendering into the annual cycle of our congregation’s celebration of this holiday that asks us to marry the opposites: Haman and Mordechai, forces of good and forces of evil. May we each have a chance to dance our beauty and our joy with the rhythm of blessing and celebration for years to come.
Purim Gifts: Welcome Baskets for Refugees (2016): by Sharon Alvandi: There are many reasons to celebrate Purim and sort through a narrative that’s truly unlike any other in Jewish scripture. On Purim- the holiday of “lots”- we celebrate more than simply the idea of chance. When we listen to Esther’s story, we collectively celebrate character, resolve, and integrity. By presenting her true self–her Jewish self–to king Ahasuerus to appeal for the fate of the Jewish people of Shushan (present day Susa, Iran), Esther is a model of advocacy for herself and others. As a developing social worker, this story helps me think about what it takes to act in a way that integrates all parts of who I am. (We will have a similar initiative this year, announced soon.)
The Self Behind the Mask (2017) by Rachel Baron Singer: It’s often said that Purim is about “the hidden” being revealed. Haman revealed his wickedness, just as Queen Esther revealed her identity to save the Jewish people. Some Jewish scholars also say the story of the Megillah is about hidden miracles or the “hidden hand of Hashem.” And when we dress up to celebrate Purim, we must also contemplate who we are when the charade ends, and then move forth with that knowledge firm inside us throughout the rest of the year.
For more the holiday, see Reconstructing Judaism’s Purim Resource Page.