Theme for Emanu-El’s Spring Festival offers diverse takes on Tikkun Olam.
“Repairing the World” — from respecting nature to honoring justice and sexual equality to celebrating the joy of music — is the theme of Spring Festival 2018, a month-long series of events presented in April by Temple Emanu-El in Oak Park.
Sponsored by the synagogue’s Adult Education Committee, the festival features an eclectic lineup of speakers and events.
“This is a difficult time for a lot of people; politics are so divisive. We decided to talk about people repairing the world,” said festival co-chair Elizabeth Zerwekh. “We invited individuals who have their own slant on what that means.”
Ron Kagan, executive director of the Detroit Zoological Society, kicks things off at 7 p.m. Thursday, April 19, with “Nature — Will It Save Us Before We Destroy It?” Kagan has been lauded for reinvigorating the zoo with cutting-edge habitats for polar bears and penguins, and is known for advocating for conservation and animal welfare. His controversial decision in 2005 to retire longtime resident elephants Wanda and Winky delighted many animal lovers but angered some traditionalists — and the American Zoo and Aquarium Association.
“We asked him what he wanted to speak about, and he came up with the content and title,” said co-chair Doug Kellerman.
An afterglow with wine and food is co-sponsored by the Bea Sacks Social Action Committee.
On Sunday, April 22, Barbara McQuade, former U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Michigan, speaks at 10 a.m. on “Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue.” Currently a professor at the University of Michigan Law School and a contributor on MSNBC, McQuade has handled high-profile cases, including corruption charges against former Detroit Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick and fraudulent practices by cancer doctor Farid Fata. Zerwekh called her “a very powerful woman but low-key in what she does and what she has done in this world.”
A breakfast buffet co-sponsored by Temple Brotherhood follows McQuade’s lecture.
Dana Nessel, another news-making attorney, takes the stage at 7 p.m. on Thursday, April 26, to discuss “Winning the Fight for Full Equality.” Nessel is best known as the lead attorney in the landmark case argued before the U.S. Supreme Court that resulted in the legalization of same-sex marriage in 2015.
“She’s a very determined woman who has her own slant on what repairing the world is for her — about discrimination and full rights,” Zerwekh said.
The evening’s afterglow is co-sponsored by Temple Sisterhood.
“These afterglows are not just punch and cookies, but really nice food,” Kellerman said. “The food enough is worth the price of the ticket.”
Film And Klezmer
Movie theater fare will be featured at 7 p.m. on Saturday, April 28, during a talk and screening of a 1933 classic movie. Elliott Wilhelm, curator of film at the Detroit Institute of Arts and adjunct professor at Wayne State University’s Department of Fine, Performing and Communication Arts, gives a talk titled “Duck Soup: How the Marx Brothers Brought Issues of Social Justice to the Big Screen and Made Us Laugh.” Sponsored by the Beatrice and Louis Weinstein Adult Education Fund, this is a special event only for festival sponsors ($100) and patrons ($250).
Wilhelm spoke about blacklisted Jews in film at last year’s festival. “We liked him, and he liked us, so we brought him back,” Kellerman said.
The festival wraps up in a big way on Sunday, April 29, with a performance by Klezmephonic, called Ann Arbor’s premier klezmer band. “They are unbelievable musicians and music historians who talk about different composers in Europe and America,” Zerwekh said. “They are repairing the world in a different sense, with bright and very lively music.” The performance begins at 11 a.m. and includes brunch co-sponsored by Temple’s Music Committee.
Each event costs $15 for adults, $10 for high school and college students.
“This is not a fundraiser; this is our contribution to the community,” Zerwekh said of the low ticket prices. “For $15, how could you not go?”
Kellerman noted, “If you went to all the events, it would cost $85, and a sponsorship is only $100. We are hoping to eclipse last year, when we had 70 sponsors and patrons.
“It’s gratifying because we are not a large congregation. We are looking forward to our new, young rabbi [Matthew Zerwekh, Elizabeth’s son] coming in July, and we want to spread the word that good things are going on at Temple Emanu-El. We are excited to offer this and to invite the whole community.”
Zerwekh said, “We felt this was the time to do this program. It’s a hard time and people are struggling with a lot of issues. Is not talking about them the way to do it? The event is political, but not partisan.”
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For individual tickets or to become a sponsor or patron, call the temple at (248) 967-4020 or email TempleFamily@emanuel-mich.org.