High Holidays 2019

Shofar

Please join the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation this year for the High Holidays. All the information you need is on our High Holidays website.

High Holidays Schedule

  • Saturday, September 21st, 7:30-8:30pm. Selichot gathering at Amy Rosenberg’s House (1501 Avondale Avenue).
  • Sunday, September 29th, 7:00-8:30pm. Erev Rosh Hashanah services.
  • Monday, September 30th, 9:30am-1:00pm. Rosh Hashanah First Day services.
    • Children’s service from 10:30-11:30am.
  • Monday, September 30th, 5:00pm. Tashlich. Gather at the JCC to walk to Mallets Creek.
  • Tuesday, October 8th, 6:45pm. Kol Nidrei gathering and candle lighting. Kol Nidrei begins at 7:00pm sharp.
  • Wednesday, October 9th, 10am-2:00pm. Yom Kippur morning and Torah service.

Please remember to sign up to volunteer! We need lots of help to ensure that High Holidays services run smoothly.

If you are planning to make use of our childcare services, please sign up here. We need accurate numbers in order to staff the childcare center correctly!

Finally, Rabbi Ora encourages members to participate in services by reading and sharing reflections. If you would like to participate, please sign up here.

I look forward to seeing everyone in the coming weeks as we welcome the New Year!

Meet Our Guest Cantor for the High Holidays: Gabrielle Pescador

I am a rabbinic student in the Aleph Ordination Program for Jewish Renewal and plan to join its cantorial track next year. The part of Jewish tradition that I connect to most deeply is davening. I am transported by its potential to crack the heart open and invite healing and personal transformation. I feel the interplay of prayer and music in every cell of my body and want to share this experience in a prayer community to lift all of our prayers together. 

Before entering rabbinic studies, I spent several years working on community projects that integrate art, education and social justice, including making documentary films on incarcerated youth and LGBTQ concerns and creating public art events focused on victims of harsh U.S. immigration policies. I am excited to have the opportunity to serve the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation, a spiritual community that values diversity, inclusiveness, tolerance, respect, social consciousness, and artistic expression. 

Upcoming Dates To Put On Your Calendar: Annual BBQ Picnic, Fourth Friday Shabbat, The First Day of Beit Sefer, and a New Blog Series

Annual BBQ Picnic

Sunday August 18th, Noon-2ish. Olson Park.

From the Annual Picnic 2015
Olson Park https://www.a2gov.org/departments/Parks-Recreation/parks-places/pages/Olson.aspx
1515 Dhu Varren Rd, Ann Arbor, MI 48105
AARC will provide drinks, charcoal and paper products. You bring something to grill, a side dish to share, and your summer stories! The BBQ will be at a new location this year, Olson Park.
Our annual BBQ picnic is a very nice time for all ages to relax together, introduce new people to the congregation, reconnect after summer travels.
Thinking of joining? New member? Want to meet Rabbi Ora? Everyone welcome!

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Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat

August 23rd 6:30pm, JCC of Ann Arbor

Come connect with community, rest, recharge, rejuvenate. Everyone welcome. Please volunteer to buy or bake challah, help set up, greet people, and do dishes after the meal.
  • Tot Shabbat, 5:45-6:15. With Rabbi Ora and Clare, singing and a story. RSVP requested but not required, by emailing Clare, ckinberg@gmail.com Opens in new tab Opens in new tab. Pizza for tots and other children at 6:15pm.
  • Kabbalat Shabbat/Welcoming Shabbat musical service with Rabbi Ora begins at 6:30. Elementary age children are encouraged to join the adult service during first half hour.
  • Potluck dinner for all, 8pm. Please bring a delicious, generously portioned, vegetarian dish to share after the service. **Nothing with nuts! The JCC is a nut-free building.**

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First day of Beit Sefer/ Religious School

Sunday September 15, 9:30am-11:30am

There will be a parent meeting during the first session of Beit Sefer beginning at 10:00 in the Gelman Lounge. Clare Kinberg will be in touch with families prior to the start of Beit Sefer to discuss class assignments.

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Blog Series on what it means to truly be a ‘Welcoming Congregation’

AARC will be hosting a new blog series that explores how we might truly engage in the process of making everyone feel welcome in our congregation. Some topics we will be exploring will include gender inclusion, accessibility, and appropriate touch.

Lots to look forward to ahead, and all of this is leading up to the High Holidays! I look forward to seeing everyone soon at these fun and engaging events!

Meet the Yahrzeit Committee

The Yahrzeit Committee is a benevolent band of volunteers that dedicates their mitzvah work to honor the memories of our loved ones. The committee maintains a database of Yahrzeits submitted to them, which then appear in the Tuesday Telegraph in the relevant week. As time allows, congregants may receive a handwritten letter acknowledging the Yahrzeit.

What is a Yahrzeit? A Yahrzeit is the anniversary of the death of a loved one. Jews celebrate their loved one’s Yahrzeit every year to honor the person’s memory and legacy. When we light the Yahrzeit candle, we are honoring the person as well as the greater cycle of life and death.

Jewish adults honor their loved ones by reciting the Mourner’s Kaddish during services. Because there is an opportunity immediately before the prayer to pronounce the name of the departed, Kaddish facilitates both a personal remembrance of the person as well as their recognition by the community. To learn more about Yahrzeit and Jewish rituals regarding death and dying, see this comprehensive article from RitualWell.

If you would like to add your loved ones to the Yahrzeit database, please email a note about them as well as the name and date of their death to rnmik@yahoo.com or aarcgillian@gmail.com.

What is Tikkun Leil Shavuot?

By Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner

The evening of Shavuot finds Jews around the world gathering in synagogues and learning through the night, often fueled by coffee and cheesecake.

This practice of all-night Torah study is known as ‘tikkun leil Shavuot.’ The tradition dates back to 16th century Tzfat; it’s said that the famous kabbalist Rabbi Isaac Luria (more commonly known as the Ari) instituted the practice as a ‘tikkun’ – correction or repair – for an ancient error.

‘Tikkun’ is a familiar first half of the modern phrase ‘tikkun olam’ – that is, healing or repairing the world through acts of social, political, and climate justice. But what breach are we repairing on the night (‘leil’) of Shavuot?

Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah to the Israelites following 49 days of rigorous spiritual preparation (the Omer). According to one midrash, the night before the giving of the Torah, the Israelites did what anyone tries to do before an important event – they turned in early for a good night’s sleep. This seemingly innocent decision, however, led to embarrassing consequences. The next morning, when it came time for the Torah to be given, the base of Mount Sinai was empty. The entire Jewish people had slept in. The midrash even recounts that Moses had to wake the Israelites with a shofar, causing G-d to lament, “Why have I come and no one is here to receive me?” (Shir HaShirim Rabbah 1:12b)

In order to rectify this ancient mistake, the Ari instituted a custom of all-night learning: we remain awake to show that, unlike our heavy-lidded ancestors at Sinai, we are ready to receive Torah and God.

This midrash may not sit comfortably with all of us. Maybe we don’t like the idea of being burdened by our ancestor’s errors, or maybe we simply want to be motivated to learn by something other than correction.

It’s customary to learn from the Oral Torah (Mishnah and Talmud) on Shavuot, rather than from the Torah itself. I think there’s a lesson here: in coming together to learn on Shavuot, we’re doing more than simply correcting an ancient mistake; we are adding our voices to a millenia-old tradition of oral learning, interpretation, and argumentation. On Shavuot, we add to our tradition by offering each other new pathways to accessing wisdom. In this sense, every Shavuot we who learn are contributing to ‘tikkun olam’ – to repairing the frayed threads of our world.

What is AARC up to for Shavuot?

Tikkun Leil Shavuot Special: Kehillat Israel Comes to Ann Arbor!

Saturday, June 8

This year we will enjoy a special celebration for Shavuot in collaboration with members of Kehillat Israel, the Reconstructionist congregation in Lansing.

Kehillat Israel members will spend the afternoon exploring Ann Arbor, and have invited us to join them! If you’d like to participate in an ecological study walk in the Arb led by Rabbi Michael Zimmerman (4-5 pm) and an early dinner at Zingermans (5:15-6:15 pm), sign up here.

Tikkun Leil Shavuot (6:30-9:30 pm at the JCC) will have multiple learning opportunities for adults and teens-and-tweens (Grade 5 and up).

The schedule for adults is:     

 6:15 pm – Gather at the JCC

6:30-7:30 pm – Choose 1 of 2 study sessions    

7:30-8:00 pm – Cheesecake and schmoozing    

8:00-9:00 pm – Choose 1 of 2 study sessions    

9:00-9:30 pm – Jewish summer camp-style Havdalah (led by our teens)

Tentative list of adult ed sessions:    

Ken Harrow – The Events at Sinai    

Rabbi Michael Zimmerman – The Torah of the Green New Deal    

Rabbi Ora Nitkin-Kaner – Abortion and Judaism   

Clare Kinberg – Jewish Time

The schedule for teens:

Games, food, fun and a play! Concurrent to the adult study session on Shavuot, we will have two sessions for young people, ages ~ 9- 16. Our Beit Sefer G’dolim class created two pin ball games that are ready to roll! There is a puzzle board game special for Shavuot, a skit and planning for an end of the evening Havdalah. Beit Sefer G’dolim teacher Aaron Jackson will be leading the youth along with teachers from KI in Lansing. Bring the kids for a fun evening, with some learning, too!

If you plan on attending the Shavuot program, please sign up here. If your tween/teen plans on attending, please sign them up here.

Planning to Plant Trees

AARC Plans to Plant Trees to Celebrate Tu B’Shvat

It may be hard to imagine a bright sunny day in spring where AARC’s Beit Sefer students will frolic in a green meadow, picking out spots to plant new trees. But worry not! Under the guidance of Beit Sefer director, Clare Kinberg, students and their parents are making plans to do just that!

Entrance to our planting site, County Farm Park

Plans are in the works to plant fruit trees in County Farm Park’s Permaculture garden. Stay tuned for more info about our very exciting planting day!

Tu B’Shvat, or the New Year of the Trees, reminds us that in these dark days of winter, our trees are resting a slumber necessary to foster new growth. Tu B’Shvat is often celebrated as an ecological conservation day in which Jews around the world plant trees in honor of the holiday. We will remember this moment with gratitude in the spring when we are reveling in our advanced planning to enjoy this special tree planting activity.

An example of a Sugar Maple tree available through the Washtenaw Conservation District

Beit Sefer will be planting some fruit trees. If you are inspired by this and would like to order your own native trees or shrubs visit Washtenaw Conservation Districtto order for your home.

The story behind Haggadah Regatta

by Carol Levin

Haggadah Regatta, my new Passover picture book haggadah, launched this month. You’re all invited to a launch party at the JCC on March 10th, from 3 to 4:30 pm. The February issue of the Washtenaw Jewish News reviews the book about a seder on a little matzah raft. My website  shows a sampling of the art and publication details. For the backstory…

Summer 2016

A three-week visit to help my daughter’s family settle into their new Michigan home assures me that Ann Arbor is the place to be. This East Coast Grams has no doubts about her decision to move. My grandkids, Aaron and Julia, are then at delicious ages (one and three). Naomi and Ben, U-M geology professors, both have Michigander roots. In 1850, my Mom’s family, the Silbermans, founded Detroit’s Temple Beth El. Five generations later, their descendants enjoy the Apples & Honey fall festival for a first look at Jewish Ann Arbor.

Spring 2017

Naomi and I begin to plan for a seder at my house. We agree to make it kid friendly. We need a haggadah that works for us all. My Amazon search yields a riot of fun picture books for toddlers. I find family haggadot geared to older children. What’s missing from the book list?  A beginner’s haggadah for Aaron and Julia. I’m a writer, and an artist and a do-it-yourselfer. Decades ago, I wrote A Rosh Hashanah Walk, (Kar-Ben Publishers, 1987) . An idea for a new holiday tale sprouts. While kayaking on the Huron, I spy a matzah raft with some old friends on board. When I was little, I discovered talking shoes at my Daddy’s shoe store. These shoes are my crew.

In two-weeks time, I feverishly sketch, and write and weave seder essentials into the haggadah. Staples at Westgate produces the beta version. Aaron’s pal Jack and his folks, Brenna and Ben, join us for seder. The read-aloud gathers steam as we go around the seder table asking, “Who is?” and telling, “how” and “why” and having a foot-stomping good time.  When the seder is over, a year of revisions begins.

Fall 2017

Indie authors at the Kerrytown Bookfest point me to the Thomson-Shore table. The book printers &  publishers are having a fall open house. Touring the Dexter plant, I muse about self-publishing. I’m not there yet. The revisions continue.

Spring 2018

I upload files to Apple to print a full color book. The new  8”x 8” format is easier for little hands. Pastel crayon illustrations replace rough sketches. The original protagonist, a weathered captain, bows out. Two kids, a boy and a goat, now lead the seder crew. Digital goat tracks urge viewers on from page-to-page. Text is color-coded to cue readers.

Post-Seder brings more revisions: I focus on pacing and page-turns; I paint watercolor illustrations; I think the book is ready.  My Ann Arbor SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) group say, “It’s ready.” Query letters to agents and publishers are mailed. And I wait. I attend writer’s conferences. And I wait…

Summer – Fall 2018

I return to Thomson-Shore and meet with their Creative Director, Tamra Tuller. Tamra’s clear observations and feedback convince me to do it. Under her mentoring, I produce new illustrations, change layouts and select fonts. She guides me through the design process and skills needed to convert finished art into files. Wordsmith friends, Elaine Sims and Marion Short, help with final edits. Rabbi Ora refines phrases to suit a young audience. Clare Kinberg addresses sensitive issues as a librarian-educator-communicator. Phonetics maven Terri Ginsburg helps verify family-friendly Hebrew transliteration. Peretz Hirshbein (JCC Early Childhood Center Director) and Jessica Gillespie (PJ Library Director) facilitate the book launch and family Passover event. Thank you Ann Arbor.

Winter 2019

Shehechiyanu !!!

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 (updated as of April 19, 2019 to reflect a few changes):

  • January 27:         Daily blessings
  • February 10:       Eating and drinking
  • February 24:       (Cancelled due to weather)
  • March 10:            Covering the head
  • March 24:            Mezuzah
  • April 14:              Shmirat HaLashon (speech ethics)
  • April 28:              Creating our own rituals

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.