Ritual Lab & Learn

Brainstorming on the question, “What is ritual?” photo by Mark Schneyer

Introducing Ritual Lab & Learn: An adult education series

What makes something a ritual? Is it the act itself? The intention behind the act? How often it’s performed? Who performs it? On Sunday January 13, 2019, 23 of us gathered to explore these questions as part of the introduction to Ritual Lab & Learn, a new adult education series.

Ritual Lab & Learn will meet twice a month to learn about new Jewish home ritual. We’ll meet at the JCC on Second and Fourth Sundays, 12:30-2:00 pm. The schedule is:

  • January 27:         Daily blessings
  • February 10:       Eating and drinking
  • February 24:       Covering the head/Mezuzah
  • March 10:            Thoughtful speech
  • March 24:            TBD
  • April 14:                TBD

Why is the series called ‘Lab & Learn’? Because there are 2 tracks:

Just Learn: Attend any or all of the sessions. In each class, we’ll learn a new type of Jewish daily home ritual, including where it comes from, how and why it was practiced in the past, and how we might practice it today.

Lab & Learn: Commit to practicing the assigned ritual for a two-week period. During the 2 weeks, you’ll journal on your practice, and meet once with an assigned chevrutah (study partner) to discuss your practice.

Want to sign up for the Lab track, or have questions about which track is right for you? Email Rabbi Ora.

More on the topic of ritual:

Rabbi Ira Stone teaches that ritual practices are a way of ‘interrupting time’ to help us be more human.

Sigal Samuel takes a look at a design lab making rituals for secular people.

Tu BiShvat Seder Jan 20

It will come…..

I came out of a meeting yesterday at about 5:20pm, and the sun had not quite set. It was a glorious moment. But did you know that the sunrise in Ypsi/Arbor won’t be before 8am until next week? And did you know on the evening of January 20th, the 15 of Shvat, or Tu BiShvat, the sun will set at 5:34pm? The sun will have been in the sky just long enough to send a message to the bare-limbed trees that yes, Spring will come.

At Tu BiShvat seders, by appreciating the fruits of trees and arbors, we remind ourselves that, yes, Spring will come. The gardens will come back to life, whether we plan for them on not. Why not start planning?

Michal and Josh Samuel have graciously offered to host our AARC Tu BiShvat seder, Sunday evening January 20th, 4-6pm, as the sun sets and as our tradition suggests to us, the trees’ yearly cycle begins, deep beneath the frozen earth.

There will be fruits and nuts and wine. Some ritual and food to share. Details are still emerging (like the sun), but please RSVP here so the Samuels can set the table and be in touch with you about what to bring. The address and contact info are in the RSVP.

Our blog contains many wonderful pieces about Tu BiShvat, its meanings and how we have celebrated in past years. Click here to see them!

Holidays at Home with Friends

Lighting the candles on the last night of Hanukkah 5779 at the Belman-Wells

Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation started out as a havurah, a smallish friendship group of like-minded Jews who gather for Shabbat and holiday prayer services,  lifecycle events, and Jewish learning.  When we became a congregation and engaged rabbinic leadership, we opened up to growing in numbers and diversity, but we also wanted to retain the warm, low-key feeling of friends gathering.

Playing games at Patti and Clare’s on the third night of Hanukkah, while the sufganiyot dough rises

One way we’ve been able to do this is by organizing home-hosted Jewish holidays: Hanukkah candle lightings and Passover seders where old and new friends can gather to celebrate. Lucky for us, Jewish holidays that last many days create many opportunities for small groups. 

Sixth night of Hanukkah at Mike Ehmann’s, candles burning bright

The upcoming spring holidays offer opportunities for many different types of celebrations. For Tu b’Shvat this year (just a month away on January 20-21), we are looking for a member who’d like to host a seder in their home. We’ll celebrate Purim at the JCC, and we will again organize a Passover seder sign up so that everyone who wants to be at a home Passover seder will be able to. If you can host a wheelchair accessible seder for Tu b’Shvat or Passover, please let us know. We’ll celebrate Mimouna together again at the end of Passover, at the JCC. 

Come Meet Us and Learn about Reconstructionist Judaism

Click on image for full size flyer.

On Sunday afternoon October 21st, AARC Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner, Beit Sefer director Clare Kinberg, membership chair Marcy Epstein, and board chair Debbie Field will  lead an introductory session on Reconstructionist Judaism.
“Come Meet Us” will be an excellent opportunity for individuals and families who want to learn more about our congregation.  At the same time our members can deepen their understanding of Reconstructionist values and conception of creative, participatory Judaism.

Come meet us!

October 21, 2018

2-4pm at the JCC

Please RSVP here to help with planning

 

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.

Selichot 2018, Sept 1

Even the days of ‎Selichot before Rosh HaShanah are not days of judgment – just the opposite, they are days of ‎mercy and desire, the last set of forty days when Moshe Rabbeinu was on the mountain and the ‎Holy One showed him favour. It is only on Rosh HaShanah that the judgment begins… Moreover, ‎the Ten Days of Repentance are not called “days of judgment”. Just the opposite, they are days of ‎mercy, during which Hashem avails Godself to every individual. Only Rosh HaShanah and Yom ‎Kippur are “days of judgment”…Nodah B’Yehuda I Orach Chaim 32:3

The Jewish calendar gives us many opportunities to get ready for the new year. Reciting Psalm 27, a declaration of faith, each day of Elul is one practice. Another practice is reciting special prayers on the Saturday evening before Rosh Hashana, known as Selichot.

If Rosh Hashana feels like it’s fast approaching and you’d like to slow down and begin turning towards the new year, come to AARC’s second annual Selichot Service on Saturday September 1; we’ll celebrate Havdallah together and then learn some new tunes to carry us into the High Holiday season.

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
The full schedule of AARC High Holiday services is here.

AARC Beit Sefer/Religious School 2018: Building Bridges

Rabbi Ora singing with the Beit Sefer

Enrollment is open for the 2018-2019 AARC Beit Sefer/Religious School year! On this page you will find links to both the enrollment form and the tuition form. Teachers Aaron Jackson, Shlomit Cohen and Beit Sefer Director Clare Kinberg are looking forward to a great year of building bridges. In fact, that will be our theme for the year: Livnot Gesher/Building Bridges. Bridges to our better selves, bridges to new friends, to our diverse communities, and to other faith communities.

We hope to see everyone (and any friends you have who may be thinking of joining the congregation or enrolling in Beit Sefer) at our

Annual Congregation Picnic and BBQ
August 26th, 2018
Noon to 3pm
Lillie Park North Shelter (closest to Ellsworth)

Members and Beit Sefer families, you can sign up to help with the picnic here.

The fall offers many opportunities for new families to connect with AARC and our Beit Sefer. In addition to to the picnic, we will again be having children’s services during Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The first day of Beit Sefer will be September 16 at the JCC. That’s right in between Rosh Hashanah (erev RH is Sept 9) and Yom Kippur. The next weekend we’ll be building our sukkah at the Farm on Jennings as we do every year, but this year we are trying something new! We’ll build the sukkah on Saturday afternoon and stay for an optional sleep over! Please contact Clare Kinberg (ckinberg@gmail.com) or Beit Sefer Committee chair Stacy Dieve (stacyweinberg@gmail.com) with any questions, suggestions of potential new students, or with offers to help with the picnic and sukkah building/sleep over.

 

On the ground learning

Jewish/Arab education and organizing in Israel and Palestine

An evening of stories in support of the bilingual storybook and curriculum Sweet Tea with Mint

Thursday, June 14, 7-9pm
Temple Beth Emeth, lower level
2309 Packard, Ann Arbor
Click here to view and save a flyer for the event

Sweet Tea with Mint

Several members of our community have made trips to Israel/Palestine recently, specifically visiting organizations of Israeli and Palestinian educators and activists who, amidst a present of terrible conflict,  are working toward a viable future for the region’s peoples. On June 14th, they will be telling stories from their trips at an event organized to raise money for a bilingual educational project.

Sweet Tea With Mint and Other Stories is the heart of a new educational curriculum that was developed by Hagar: Jewish-Arab Education for Equality in Beer Sheva. The anthology is composed of six stories focusing on Jewish, Muslim, and Christian holidays, written by distinguished children’s writers in Hebrew and Arabic. Hagar is dedicated to creating a shared space for Jewish and Arab residents of the Negev – a space based on the foundations of multiculturalism, bilingualism and equality.

The storytellers at the event include AARC members Rebecca Kanner, Alice Mishkan and Debbie Zivan. Clare Kinberg, AARC Communications Coordinator will MC.

Rebecca traveled to Israel/Palestine in May 2017, her first visit in over 30 years.  She was part of the Center for Jewish Nonviolence (CJNV) delegation of over 100 Jewish activists from around the world.  CJNV was in a coalition with 5 Palestinian, Israeli and diaspora groups that created the Sumud Freedom Camp in the West Bank village of Sarura, in South Hebron.

Alice just returned from her third year leading a study abroad to Israel and Palestine through the University of Michigan. This year, Michigan students partnered with Palestinian students at Sakhnin Teacher’s College. Students learned about the differences in educations systems for Palestinians with Israeli citizenship and Jewish Israelis. Students compared these to education systems in the United States, and learned about how education can be a tool for social change.

Debbie is just back from a family trip to Israel/Palestine for her nephew’s wedding. In addition to visiting with family (half of whom live on settlements), Debbie and family toured Hebron, the Jerusalem Hand in Hand school and stayed overnight in Neve Shalom/Wahat al Salaam. The combination of celebrating with family, seeing examples of how Arab and Jewish Israelis are prioritizing pathways to peace and a dual narrative tour that stressed the wrongs of the “other side” made for an interesting trip – a trip that created a sense of urgency to find ways to make a difference.

Hagar’s director of Director of Partnerships and Resource Development, Karen Abu Adra, will also be present to tell us more about the school and its importance to the Negev region. Karen is originally from Lancaster, Pennsylvania but has been married to a Bedouin dentist from Segev Shalom, Israel and living in Israel since 1993. They have three adult sons.  Karen taught English for 13 years in a Bedouin high school in the Bedouin city of Rahat and has been working for Hagar for a year and half.

There is a very nice connection between Hagar and the Reconstructionist movement. Hagar’s Executive Director, Sam Shube, writes:

My name is Sam Shube and I’m CEO of the Hagar Association. I served as director of Kehillat Mevakshei Derech in Jerusalem, Israel’s first Reconstructionist congregation.  Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, z”l, was a member of Mevakshei when he lived in Israel.  The motive force for its establishment was Rabbi Jack Cohen, z”l, one of Kaplan’s leading students in Israel, a man I knew and loved.  Other Reconstructionist leaders of Mevakshei have included Jewish educator Norman Schainin.  Though I am not an ordained rabbi, my Master’s Thesis was on Kaplan and John Dewey, and I’ve always adhered to Kaplan’s views on Jewish civilization and democracy.  (I’m still a member of Mevakshei, where I occasionally read Torah and give a sermon).

I’ve lived in Israel for over 30 years (I did my undergraduate work at JTS and Columbia) and served in a variety of nonprofits. Of everything I’ve seen in this country, however, Hagar — the bilingual school in Beer Sheba — is the most familiar reflection of Kaplan’s idea of community.  Hagar’s Arab and Jewish families are intensively active on a day-to-day level, organizing field trips and fundraisers, and providing mutual assistance.   Last night at our Iftar celebration (the traditional Ramadan break-fast), Jewish and Arab families helped their children prepare gifts for hospitalized Gazan children – at the very time when Israel and the Hamas were trading rockets and artillery just a few miles to the west.   And I myself used to platform to raise funds from parents for scholarships to help needy families cover tuition fees.   Other recent community events have included discussions on the Moslem and Jewish connection with Jerusalem, and a visit to a Beer Sheba mosque.

Hagar’s community is remarkably diverse.  It includes Arabs from urban centers in northern Israel and Bedouins’ from the Negev, Jews from underserved neighborhoods in town and professors from the university.  Our community welcomes LGBT families, something not to be taken for granted in the more traditional environment of both Jewish and Arab communities in southern Israel.   In fact, the very existence of an Arab Jewish school in Beer Sheba – as opposed to more culturally liberal parts of Israel – is a miracle in and of itself.