Never a Bystander: Free Screening Followed by Q&A

Filmmaker Evelyn Neuhaus and film subject Irene Butter at the premiere in May, 2014.

Filmmaker Evelyn Neuhaus and film subject Irene Butter at the premiere in May, 2014.

AARC Member Evelyn Neuhaus has created a documentary about Irene Butter, who has spent nearly 30 years visiting schools and inspiring countless children to find the courage to take compassionate action and transcend obstacles.  The film is about making courageous choices in the face of injustice.  It’s 30 minutes long and will be screened this Sunday at the JCC, followed by Q&A with Evelyn and Irene Butter.

Sunday, January 11, 4pm at the JCC (2935 Birch Hollow Drive).  Admission is Free

More information about the film is available at its website.  A flyer for the screening is here.

Hanukkah – Six more nights to go! (by Carol Lessure)


Hanukkah! Whether you spell it with an H or Ch, this little festival always provides my family with much fun and delight. What better way to illuminate our path into those long winter nights than with a communal candle lighting? We have three upcoming opportunities at AARC to celebrate together.  We return to the JCC this year for a latke dinner and musical Hanukkah party; plus two hosts are offering home based celebrations for all to enjoy. Click on this google document to register and for more information on locations: just scroll down and add your name to the event you plan to attend.

Erev Shabbat Dinner (12/19)
Host: Mike Ehmann,
Please let Mike know that you are coming and what you plan to bring to share.

The AARC Hanukkah Party and Latke Feast (12/20)
We will start with Havdalah around 5:45 (a great way to practice what we learned at Shabbat Seder). Then we’ll have a  communal lighting of our chanukkiahs. There will be latkes and a light meal, live music by band members Paul, Laurie and Jesse, dreidel  (of course) plus other games from the Lessure Engelbert family.

Please RSVP so we can have enough latkes, salad, fruit and chocolate gelt!  (Pst: there will be some wine for grownups too.) All you need to bring is your appetite, chanukkiah with 6 candles, and helping hands.  Dinner is $10 for adults/ $5 for children under 12.

The Last Night of Hanukkah (12/23)
Hosts: Rav Michal, Jon and Sima
Your hosts will prepare donuts, and you can bring a dish to share. Contact Rav Michal for more details and be sure to sign up so they know who is coming.

Hanukkah 2013 at Michal's House

More on Shmita: December 7 Event

Bus Tour Picture

From the last Shmita event, the Food, Land, & Justice Bus Tour (Sept. 14, 2014)

By AARC Member Carole Caplan, for the Washtenaw Jewish News

On December 7, 2014, the community is invited to gather at St. Joe’s Hospital to explore how the Jewish teachings of Shmita are coming to life through the impact of regional institutions and their commitments to local, healthy food.

Meet at St. Joe’s Women’s Health Center, 5320 Elliot Dr, Ypsilanti.
For information, contact Carole Caplan at, or Idelle Hammond- Sass at

For the year’s Shmita activities, see this page.

The event is a continuation of an exciting year-long exploration of the teachings of Shmita, funded by a grant from the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor late last winter. “For me, the commandments of shmita can be seen as a built-in seventh year wake-up call,” said AARC member Carole Caplan, who is co-chairing the event with fellow congregant Idelle Hammond-Sass. Caplan explains that “Shmita, which means ‘release’, is the opportunity to become conscious of our relationships with each other, with the environment, and with our understanding of true health, nourishment, and ‘enough-ness’. Just as Shabbat is an opportunity to re-set our ideas about production and consumption on a personal level, Shmita provides us with a unique and important opportunity to re-imagine and reset our practices regarding food production and consumption in and beyond our own homes out into our communities.”

AARC member and owner of Locavorious, Rena Basch, agrees. “Modern philosophy on how to celebrate and honor the Shmita years recommends we take the time to re-imagine society, re-lease the land and re-think farming”. Basch, who began working in the local sustainable food movement in 2006, founded Locavorious, a locally grown frozen fruit and vegetable CSA here in Ann Arbor. “Do you wonder how we, and our community, our congregations, our schools, and our institutions can support the values and intentions of this Shmita tradition?” Basch questioned. “This event will introduce us [Read more…]

Why another book club?

By Judith Jacobs

When I first heard that the AARC was forming a book club, I thought it was a good idea. After thinking about it, I asked myself “Why join another book club, when you already belong to two?” I decided to give it a try and here is what I learned:

The book selection can be described as eclectic. We read about China’s reaction to protests and the tragedies at Tiananmen Square and how they have ben wiped from people’s memories and are not considered a significant part of China’s history. We enjoyed visiting The Worlds of Sholom Aleichem. I found that a particular delight because his world in Russia was my family’s world and he left Russia around the time my great uncle left. “The Seven Beggars was a disaster for me. I did not understand anything that Rebbe Nachman of Breslov was telling us. Our last book, The Dalai Lama’s Cat, was an absolute delight. What could be bad? Here was a book about a prescient cat and Buddhism.

The real treat of the book club has been getting to know members of the congregation in a whole new way. People’s stories always are interesting and such a diverse group of people brings many different perspectives to the discussion.

Try the book club. It will be a different take on the AARC.

Books read so far:

  • November: The Dalai Lama’s Cat, by David Michie.
  • October:  “The Seven Beggars,” a short story by Rebbe Nachman of Breslov.
  • September: The Worlds of Sholom Aleichem: The Remarkable Life and Afterlife of the Man Who Created Tevye, by Jeremy Dauber
  • August: The People’s Republic of Amnesia: Tiananmen Revisited, by Louisa Lim.

[Book club meetings are on the Calendar, and are included in the Monday Mailer–subscribe at the right on this page.]

This Sunday – Community Learning

Join us for our kick off of AARC Sunday Community Learning. As our beit sefer students begin a unit exploring Shabbat traditions, we invite teens, parents, and adult community members to a parallel learning opportunity:

AARC Community Learning:  Shabbat
Sunday, November 9, 9:30 am
JCC of Ann Arbor, 2935 Birch Hollow Drive

This morning of adult learning will consist of two parts. We begin with a review of shabbat traditions from the Torah to modern halachah to progressive, contemporary approaches. After a coffee break and nosh we will explore possibilities for bringing shabbat consciousness into our lives. Positive RSVPs always appreciated for space and nosh planning to




On Volunteering at the Community Kitchen

By Debbie Field

I’ve been cooking since childhood, and I feel pretty confident in the kitchen.  But the first time I volunteered at Food Gatherers’ Community Kitchen at the Delonis Center, I learned a lot about how the professionals do it: health department rules require meticulous attention to cleanliness, the knives are extremely sharp, and if you forget to bring your own hat, you really do have to wear one of those hairnets. If you come a few times, you graduate from mixing powdered lemonade or slicing leftover cake to making stew for 70 on the big range. If, like me, you enjoy feeding people, you will find that a fun and satisfying experience.

From Mike Ehmann: Our congregation provides volunteers for a scheduled shift the first Saturday of every month from noon to 2:30. The Community Kitchen is inside the Delonis Center, 312 W. Huron St, Ann Arbor. This is a great opportunity for adults and for youth over 12 years old to participate in this wonderful team meal prep experience. Keep in mind that only 2 of the 5 volunteers may be between 12-18 years of age. Food Gatherers and Community Kitchen staff are very grateful for our participation.

Klezmer Music is coming to Ann Arbor

Maxwell Street Band pic 2The Maxwell Street Band

Come enjoy a rich, multi-dimensional performance that combines dance music, folk songs, theater medleys, and jazzy Yiddish pop music from the 1930’s to the 1950’s.

Concert & Dance Party

Saturday, November 1

Location: Eastern Michigan University Student Center, Main Ballroom

  • Doors open at 6:45 pm; music starts at 7:30 pm
  • Opening act: Detroit’s Kidz Klez, followed by Maxwell Street Concert and Dance Party
  • Cost: $18 per adult, $5 per student.  Kids are free.

Visit to purchase tickets.

Musician’s Workshop

Sunday, November 2

Location: JCC of Ann Arbor (2935 Birch Hollow Dr, Ann Arbor, MI 48108) Newman Lounge

10:00 – 11:30 am.  Learn and play klezmer music.

Register below.  After you register, you’ll get a link to download mp3’s for the workshop.  

Free to all musicians (recommended age 12 and up).  Maxwell Street’s clarinetist, violinist, and pianist will lead a master class to teach musicians of all levels how to play in the klezmer style. The musicians will receive band arrangements and coaching. By the end of the workshop, the musicians will play together as an orchestra!  Participants should be able to sightread music (or should come having already learned the assigned pieces by listening to MP3s provided in advance).

The Klezmer Concert & Workshop are organized in part by the Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation with support from the Eastern Michigan University Jewish Studies, the JCC of Greater Ann Arbor, and an Impact Grant of the Jewish Federation of Greater Ann Arbor, as part of the Ann Arbor Yiddish Festival.


Register for the Musician’s Workshop here:

Land Conservation – Through a Jewish Lens

In conjunction with Pardes Hannah and our Shmitah observance we are offering another great learning and touring opportunity to explore our relationship to and responsibility for our land:

Legacy Land Conservancy’s
Annual Fall Bus Tour
  Oct. 19th 11-4PM

Do you wonder about the Greenbelt and care about local ecology issues and how to best conserve our valuable farmland and wild places? Join us at 11am for a short discussion at REI’s community room about Jewish values related to resting the land, stewardship and more. We’ll board the bus at 11:30 for a day of learning with others about local efforts to protect lands that make our community a great place to live, work and play.

Cost is $20, includes lunch of your choice (veg/non veg)
For Tickets call 734-302-5263 (Credit cards accepted)
Call and reserve as part of the Food/Land/Justice group (AARC/PH)
Checks can be mailed to: Legacy Land Conservancy, 1100 N. Main St. #203, Ann Arbor, 48104

This annual tour sells out fast!

Read more about our Food, Land and Justice program

The Sukkot Retreat is Coming! (Sign up here)

Sukkot Retreat, 2014

Fri, Oct 10 to Sun, Oct 12

What:  Relax and enjoy a weekend full of learning, community, celebration, rest, and fun:


• Build and decorate the sukkah
• Celebrate Sukkot
• Friday night songs and games
• Yoga
• Workshops
• Beit Sefer Sunday morning
• Bonfire with s’mores
• Havdalah
• Music and folk dancing
• Children’s activities and child care on Saturday

All with wonderful meals and beautiful walks!

Where: Emrich Retreat Center, 7380 Teahen Rd, Brighton, MI 48116

Directions and Map for Emrich Center:

New this year:  Eight more rooms of extra space, to allow more privacy, ability for kids to be near each other, etc.

Questions?  Contact Mike Ehmann,

[Read more…]

Rosh Hashanah with the AARC

By Carol Lessure

The Ann Arbor Reconstructionist Congregation invites anyone who is looking for a home for the High Holidays to join us at the First Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Ann Arbor, 4001 Ann Arbor-Saline Road at the corner of Ellsworth Road. Whether you are a newcomer or long-time resident, curious about Reconstructionist Judaism or looking for a community, you are welcome to join AARC for the holidays. No tickets are needed to attend our musical, participatory High Holiday services, although donations from non-members are appreciated.

For Rosh Hashanah, there will be opportunities to gather informally as well with an oneg following Erev Rosh Hashanah services on Wednesday evening, September 24 and lunches hosted by congregants following services on Thursday, September 25. We will also gather for Tashlich at a home on the Huron River in the early evening where we will use pebbles for our ceremonial casting away of our past deeds. All the details at the links below: