November Events with AARC

There is SO much going on this month! It is heartening that our Jewish community – both local and national – is coming together for mutual support during this season. Please see the events listed below to learn more!

Sunday, November 1st. Limmud Michigan eFestival. Limmud MI will host a day of workshops with something for everyone. Some examples: “How to Be A Spiritual Badass through the Power of the Feminine Divine,” with Rabbi Tamara Kolton, “When Bigots Cite Scripture,” with Saeed Kahn and David Polsky, and “Beauty and Brutality: Art of the Holocaust,” with Jacob Kraus – and MANY more. Sign up here.

Songs for the Revolution! Tuesday, November 3rd, 8pm until we’re done! We could spend all evening on November 3rd anxiously watching the news … and/or we could sing together! Join Rabbi Ora and members as we keep one another company, schmooze, and sing our favorite (secular and Jewish) songs of hope, resistance, and revolution. If you have a song you’d like to sing or lead, please email the lyrics to Rabbi Ora by November 1, or download the lyrics in advance and be prepared to screen share.

Friday, November 6th, 5-5:30pm. Post Election/Pre-Shabbat Pause with Bend the Arc Ann Arbor (Rabbi Ora will be a speaker at this event). Regardless of the outcome (if we have one), this is a chance to gather with others to breathe, to gain strength for the work ahead, and to sing, yell, cry, and laugh. RSVP to Bend the Arc for a Zoom Link.

Sunday, November 8th, Global Day of Jewish Learning with Reconstructing Judaism. The Global Day of Jewish Learning is a project to unite Jewish communities through study of our shared texts, with a 24-hour period of live-streamed events around the world. This year’s theme is about Judaism’s vision of human dignity, the ethics of inclusivity, and the imperative to decrease marginalization. It will take place on Sunday, Nov. 8, 2020More information can be found here.

Second Saturday Shabbat Morning Service. November 14th. Ta’Shma: Come and Learn begins at 10am; Shabbat service begins at 10:30. Meditation, prayer, discussion, community. Everyone is welcome! Zoom link will be sent out the week before the event. 

Annual Membership Meeting. Sunday, November 15th, 1-2:30pm. We’ll discuss what kind of COVID-safe programming we’d like to see in Fall-Winter 2020/2021. If you have ideas for new programs or ways to innovate old ones, and how you can help, please come prepared to present your idea at the Annual Meeting.

AARC Book Club. Sunday, November 22nd, 1-2:30pm. We will discuss Michal Lemberger’s book of short stories, After Abel, and Other StoriesThis book updates the midrash tradition by telling the stories of Eve and eight other women mentioned briefly in the Hebrew Bible. If you would like to join this online discussion, please email Greg Saltzman.

Friday, November 27th, 6:30pm. Fourth Friday Kabbalat Shabbat. Come connect with community, rest, recharge, rejuvenate. Everyone welcome. 

October Events at AARC

Second Saturday Shabbat Morning Service. October 10th, 10-11:30am. We will celebrate a special ‘Simchat Shabbat’ (Simchat Torah/Shabbat mashup) with Congregation Agudas Achim from Attleboro, MA. We’ll begin with a Ta Shma on the value of simcha (joy) taught by Agudas Achim’s Rabbi Alex Weissman, then sing and pray together, and listen to members from both communities share their personal Torah on simcha. I hope you’ll join us for this special opportunity to expand our sense of community and open our metaphorical sukkah to these special ushpizin (guests). Email us for the Zoom link.

Siddur/Machzor Book Exchange! Sunday October 18th, 2-4pm at the JCC of Ann Arbor. We received lots of feedback that holding the High Holidays Machzorim in your hands was an important part of attending services together this year. In this spirit we have set up a time to bring back your Machzor and exchange it for a Shabbat Siddur. We will also use the occasion to collect canned goods to donate to Food Gatherers. Volunteers will be stationed in the parking lot of the JCC to receive your Machzor and sign you out a Siddur. Masks and social distancing will be in place. We look forward to seeing all of your smiling faces again! If you have any questions or will be unable to make it, please email us.

Tuesday October 27, 7-8:15 pm: Transforming Fear into Courage (Ometz Lev) with Rabbi Marc Margolius. In a time of widespread fear and anxiety for ourselves and our world, how can we cultivate an inner life which enables us to respond courageously and wisely to the needs of this moment, instead of reacting out of fear? Rabbi Marc Margolius of the Institute for Jewish Spirituality will lead a session on Jewish mindfulness practice as a practical tool to help us identify, develop, and strengthen our innate abilities to bear difficult thoughts and feelings, cultivate and access inner calm, and speak and act courageously. Zoom link will be sent out the week before the event. 

Yizkor at Home: Sharing The Memories of Our Loved Ones Virtually in 2020

As we gradually shift from Rosh Hashanah celebrations to the reflective period leading up to Yom Kippur, our attention turns inward as we contemplate the year behind us. Part of this reflection includes the practice of remembering our loved ones.

Over time, AARC has cultivated a meaningful community Yizkor ritual to honor and share memories of our loved ones. Prior to this year, we gathered on Yom Kippur afternoon in a small chapel that allowed us to gather close. We lit a yahrzeit candles and held stones that evoked memories while sharing the stories of those we loved. For a detailed account of this ceremony and how it came to be, please see member Leora Druckman’s recent Washtenaw Jewish News article below.

Although we cannot be together in physical space this year, a meaningful ceremony has been crafted for us to share. We’ll be gathering for Community Yizkor over Zoom at 4:30 pm on Yom Kippur. In order to prepare for this event, the organizers have made some suggestions:

  • Please take time before the event to gather a yahrzeit candle, matches, and a stone that you can hold during the ceremony. (Members will have received stones and candles in their Tishrei bags).
  • You may want to spend some time thinking ahead of what you might like to share during the service. If you’d like to share a photo, please have it ready.
  • Members will receive zoom links for this event in their email. If you are not a member and would like to attend, please register here.
AARC member Leora Druckman’s article “AARC Makes Yizkor Comes Alive” in the September 2020 Washtenaw Jewish News. See page 13 here:

Special High Holidays Delivery!

AARC Members Will Receive Tishrei Bags in Support of the High Holidays At Home

The High Holidays cannot help but be different this year, but thanks to the hard work of our Tishrei Bag Committee, all of our members will be able to celebrate with a set of thoughtfully curated items. Engaging with ritual objects is an important part of the chagim; the Tishrei Bag project supports us in uniting with our fellow members from our own homes through the vehicle of these shared objects.

The Tishrei Bags will include:

  • Apples and honey
  • 2 pairs of holiday candles for Erev Rosh Hashana and Erev Yom Kippur
  • A yahrzeit candle for Yizkor
  • Bird seed for Tashlich
  • Recipes
  • Special gifts from Beit Sefer families
  • High Holidays schedule and handouts
  • High Holidays prayer book (machzor)

Members can receive their Tishrei Bags in either of two ways: You can pick your bag at 2815 Pebble Creek on September 13th from 1:30-4 pm, or a member can deliver the bag to your house. If you do not pick up your bag on the 13th, a volunteer will bring it to your home.

A special thank you to the Tishrei Bag Committee: Laurie White, Carol Levin, Clare Kinberg, Jen Hall, and Evelyn Neuhaus. Thank you also to our volunteer delivery crew and to the Meadows family for assembling the bags! It takes a village! Please email us if you have any questions about the Tishrei Bags.

AARC To Host A Robust Month of Elul Programming

Throughout history we as Jews have leaned on our traditions to lead us back to ourselves in times of trouble or uncertainty. The month of Elul is one of those traditions: a time of cheshbon hanefesh or an accounting of the soul.

Elul has come at a perfect time this year; many of us are carrying a heavy emotional load due to the current state of affairs. Elul encourages us to take time to look inward and prepare for what’s to come. In this spirit, we are offering a multi-modal Elul experience:

LEARN: Elul Psalms Series, or, What Does a Jew Do With All These Worries, Hopes, and Feelings?

Sunday August 23, 30, and September 6, 2-3:15 pm on Zoom

“All our days slip away.” “Help me stay safe.” “Shield me from the counsel of evil men.” “Look how good and pleasant it was to be together.”

All these phrases are from the Book of Psalms, but they could easily describe our feelings in this moment, too. As we enter into Elul and this unusual season of teshuvah, we’ll use the ancient psalms as an entry point to gentle awareness, creativity, and reflection. Each class will offer a mix of learning, discussion, and writing.

August 23: Introduction and Psalms of Noticing and Gratitude

We’ll talk briefly about what makes a psalm, explore some psalms of gratitude (from the Book of Psalms and contemporary poets), and talk about what it means to be a Jew talking to/about the Holy. Our first writing exercise will serve to ‘prime the pump’ and get words flowing; our second exercise will invite reflection on our values, our voices, and our relationship to the Source. Expect rich discussion and sharing.

August 30: Psalms of Fear and Loss

Today’s focus is psalms of anxiety, fear, and loss. We’ll explore some of these psalms (both classical and contemporary) and then shift into writing together. Our writing exercises will help us give name to our experiences of living through this time of disorientation and grief, and those who wish will be invited to share their reflections in small groups. This session requires particular care because these psalms can evoke or activate difficult emotions. We’ll close this session with a meditative, musical practice designed to help us release our emotions and return to a sense of spiritual safety.

September 6: Psalms of Comfort and Connection

In this session we’ll explore psalms of connection to the Holy and the holiness within ourselves and community. We’ll do a deep dive into a single psalm, exploring how different translations and nuances of language can impact a psalm’s message. We’ll explore psalms both classical and contemporary, and then engage with our final two writing exercises.

LISTEN: Songs of Return, A High Holiday Community Playlist

We’ve started a community playlist on Spotify that already includes some gorgeous niggunim, new melodies, and High Holiday favorites to get us in the teshuvah mood. We want you to listen and enjoy, of course, but also invite you to add your favorites tunes so we can all hear them. To listen, all you need is a free Spotify account. To add music, you’ll need to open the Spotify app on your phone, tablet, or desktop.

BREATHE: Elul Meditation Offerings

A series of pre-recorded meditations from Rabbi Ora and members are now available to stream, below. These themed meditations vary in length and style, and can be listened to on your schedule as many times as you like.

Blessing This Moment (16 min)

Hineini: A Meditation & Chant for Presence (18 min)

Sitting in Divine Light (10+ min)

A Mind-Body-Spirit Integration (6 min)

Gam Zeh Kadosh/This, Too, Is Holy (9+ min)

WRITE: Daily Reflection Prompt

Sign up to receive daily reflection and journalling prompts for the entire month of Elul (August 21-September 18). Created by Rabbi Jordan Braunig, these prompts are “meant to give us time to cozy up to ourselves, to spend a few moments a day with our souls and to maybe learn a thing or two about ourselves.”

SING: Selichot 5780: Creating Holy Space Within

Saturday September 12, 8 pm on Zoom

Our Selichot services will ease us into the High Holy Days with beautiful melodies led by members and Rabbi Ora. In addition to singing and havdalah, we’ll take time to imagine how to create holy space in our hearts and our homes in anticipation of online Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur services.

If you have any questions about any of these Elul offerings, please email Gillian.

Rabbi Ora hosts Nachamu (Comfort Us): A Havdalah and Healing Service for the End of Av

Saturday, August 15, 8-9:15pm via Zoom

Karov, by Batya Levine

On Saturday, August 15th, at 8:00pm, we will come together as a community to hold one another in our grief, sadness, and hope. Nachamu (Comfort Us): A Havdalah and Healing Service for the End of Av is an opportunity to put down all we’ve been carrying the last few months and give voice to our experiences.

The healing service will be a mix of meditation, singing, and opportunities to share one-on-one. We’ll conclude with a havdalah that will move us from the emptiness and loss that the Hebrew month of Av commemorates into the powerful call to introspection of the month of Elul.

A zoom link will be sent out the week of August 10th. If you are not on our mailing list and would like to attend, email us for the link.

A prayer for healing:

God of consolation,
Surely you count in heaven,
Just as we count here on earth,
In shock and in sorrow,
The souls sent back to You,
The dead from the COVID pandemic,
As the ones become tens,
The tens become hundreds,
The hundreds become thousands,
The thousands become ten-thousands
And then hundred-thousands,
Each soul, a heartbreak,
Each soul, a life denied.

God of wisdom,
Surely in the halls of divine justice
You are assembling the courts,
Calling witnesses to testify,
To proclaim
The compassion of some
And the callousness of others
As we’ve struggled to cope.
The souls taken too soon,
Whose funerals were lonely,
Who didn’t need to die,
Who died alone,
Will tell their stories
When You judge
Our triumphs
And our failures
In these hours of need.

God of healing,
Put an end to this pandemic,
And all illness and disease.
Bless those who stand in service to humanity.
Bless those who grieve.
Bless the dead,
So that their souls are bound up in the bond of life eternal.
And grant those still afflicted
With disease or trauma
A completed and lasting healing,
Until suffering ceases,
And we can stop counting the dead,
In heaven

And on earth.

The prayer above, entitled “One-by-One: A Prayer as the COVID Death Toll Mounts,” is by Alden Solovy, liturgist, poet, and teacher. He is the author of Jewish Prayers of Hope and Healing. © 2020 Alden Solovy and Reproduced with permission.

Visit Another Congregation Online for this Saturday Morning’s Shabbat Services

As is customary, AARC will not host Saturday morning Shabbat services this weekend while Rabbi Ora on break. However, since we are not limited by physical location during this pandemic, we can visit other congregations to honor Shabbat. Please enjoy this list of possibilities and let us know afterward how it went!

The following congregations (all in our time zone!) will hold services this Saturday morning:

We hope these opportunities pique your interest! AARC Saturday services will return on August 8th. In the mean time, we look forward to seeing you on July 24th at Friday evening Shabbat services with guest host Etta Heisler.

AARC to Join Virtual Shavuot with Reconstructing Judaism’s Recon Connect

Thursday, May 28th, and Friday, May 29th. AARC will join Celebrating Shavuot @ Sinai, a virtual Shavuot celebration for the Reconstructionist movement. 

Rabbi Elyse Wechterman, Reconstructing Judaism, and the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association will host a Shavuot evening program, beginning with Kabbalat Hag Song Fest and Candlelighting.

The celebration begins on Thursday, May 28, 7:30 pm Eastern Time, and continues with a Tikkun Leyl (translation: “nighttime study session”) Shavuot of teaching, learning, movement, and musical offerings through Friday morning, May 29, 7:30 am Pacific Time.

Reconstructionist communities and individuals are welcome to join the Zoom webinar or view the Facebook live stream for as much or as little as they wish. You can register here or watch on Facebook here

Want to get a jump on the learning? Take a look at Shavuot offerings from Reconstructing Judaism in previous years at the bottom of this page. You will find articles and, in some cases, audio presentations. Go ahead – revel in edification!

AARC To Co-Host Rabbi Arik Ascherman Lecture on “The Challenges For Torat Tzedek”

Co-written by Gillian Jackson and Martha Kransdorf.

On Thursday, May 14th at 1pm, Rabbi Arik Ascherman will give an online lecture about the work of the Israeli human rights organization Torah Tzedek and social justice in Israel in the context of the Coronavirus pandemic. AARC will co-host the event, along with the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor, Beth Israel Congregation’s Social Action Committee, the Jewish Cultural Society, Pardes Hanna, and Temple Beth Emeth’s Social Action Committee.

AARC’s Martha Kransdorf has been instrumental in the organization of this event. Martha urges AARC members to sign up on the JCC’s website to reserve a spot for the lecture.

Rabbi Ascherman was scheduled to visit us in late March but like so many, had to cancel his trip. We hope to reschedule his in-person appearance at some point in the not-too-distant future. In the meantime, we are lucky to be able to hear his perspective on the current complex developments in Israel. Perhaps you have had a chance to hear and learn from Rabbi Ascherman during previous visits; perhaps this will be your first time. Whatever the case, we are certain you will find him to be an inspirational speaker, particularly in his insistence that peace and human rights are achievable.

We look forward to seeing you there!

Your Virtual Seder Resource!

Passover is quickly approaching; the first night falls on Wednesday, April 8th. And this year, the holiday comes during an extraordinary time.

The central commandment of Passover—retelling the story of the Exodus–asks that we consider ourselves as if we, too, had journeyed from narrowness to openness and from oppression to liberation.

This year, more than any in recent memory, that narrative rings true. We are currently in a narrow place; and, for that very reason, we must take the opportunity to make this year’s holiday one of engagement, connection, and celebration.

In accordance with recent guidelines from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, we urge our community to restrict in-person seders to household members AND open up our seders to connect virtually with loved ones near and far.


Below, you’ll find articles, classes, videos, and links to help you prepare for Passover 2020:

I want to host a seder. How do I plan for that?

Wonderful! If you’d like to try online hosting a seder this year, there are resources available to help you plan (see below).

While you’re planning your seder, please consider the holy mitzvah of welcoming others to your virtual table: Sign up here if you’re able to open your seder to members of our community.

I want to be hosted. How do I find a virtual seder to attend?

  1. Be on the lookout for an email later this week that will allow you to sign up to attend AARC members’ online seders.
  2. Sign up in advance to join Jewish Women International’s Virtual Seder on Thursday, April 9 at 8 pm EDT.
  3. Havaya (Reconstructing Judaism’s summer camp) is hosting a one-hour Virtual Family Seder on Thursday, April 9 at 7 pm EDT; sign up here to register.
  4. Join the team, journalist Esther Kustanowitz, and other special guests for an everyone-welcome, fifth ‘night’ Virtual Seder on Sunday, April 12 at 2 pm EDT (join via Zoom or Facebook livestream).

How do I plan my own virtual seder?

  • has a fantastically comprehensive guide for putting together a collaborative, meaningful seder — even when the guests are physically far away.
  • Watch the video ‘The Art of Virtually Gathering: Passover 2020.’
  • Attend a free online class this Thursday April 2 on ‘Practical Pesach Seder Ideas and Suggestions in Response to Corona’ (you’ll need to register in advance).
  • From OneTable, myriad resources for Passover 2020, including a Solo Seder Guide, Passover Recipe Guide, Passover Playlist, and links to a curated selection of haggadot.

Which haggadot should I use?

….And consider these of-the-moment additions:

How do I plan a kid-friendly seder?

  • AARC member Carol Levin has generously made her delightful Haggadah Regatta into a PDF for anyone to use.
  • Check out Reform Judaism’s many family-friendly Passover resources, including crafts, coloring pages, fun quizzes, 8 great haggadot for young people, a chocolate seder (!), and model seders for kids of all ages.

How do I prepare my home for Passover?

How do I spiritually prepare for Passover?

  • Attend a free online class next Monday April 6, ‘Soulful Passover Preparation’ (you’ll need to register in advance).
  • Explore some of the articles in this Passover 2020 reader from Uri Le’Tzedek.

Blessings for healthy, joyful, and connected zman cheruteinu (season of our liberation),

Rabbi Ora