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A Different Way To Do Jewish


We are a full-service, secular humanistic Jewish community welcoming everyone to share in the traditions, history, culture, and values of the Jewish People.

What kind of organization is JCS?

    • JCS was founded in 1965 and is Ann Arbor's second oldest Jewish congregation (click here for more information).
    • Formally, JCS is a tax-exempt 501(C)3 organization under the IRS rules.
    • Informally, it is a quasi-coop. There are several salaried employees (teachers, principal, office manager, Madrikha), but most of the program activities are carried out by volunteers from the membership, and all members are expected to volunteer for some activities. Although the Board of Directors is elected by the membership, in practice any member can volunteer to serve on the Board.
    • JCS is a congregation, and does what most congregations do: sponsoring life-cycle events (baby-naming, weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs, funerals), holiday observances, social actions, sponsorships of Jewish community events, adult education, K-8 Sunday School, social events, etc. But JCS is not religious; we do not have prayer services, worship services, Torah reading and the like.
    • Special features of JCS programs include First Friday Shabbat (a catered dinner for families once/month), Third Friday Havurah (a potluck once-a-month dinner at members’ houses for empty nesters), Rosh Hodesh and adult schmoozes.
    • JCS is an active participant in the larger Jewish community. Its members have served as President and Vice-President of the Jewish Community Center, have served on the Board of the Jewish Federation, and in other leadership positions.

    Who are JCS members?

    • The Jewish Cultural Society's membership is currently about 60 families. It includes physicians, musicians, architects, carpenters, lawyers, nurses, teachers, social workers, artists, small business owners, retailers, physicists, librarians, engineers, software and information technology developers, bar owners, university professors and retirees.
    • Membership is diverse: we come from orthodox, conservative, reform and secular backgrounds. There are mixed-ethnic and mixed religious marriages, inter-racial marriages, families with Asian-American and African-American children. What we have in common is a secular outlook, Jewish identity, a desire for our children to construct their own Jewish identities, and enjoyment of a Jewish community.

    The best bar/bat mitzvahs I’ve ever seen!

    • Students take part in a two year preparation under the guidance of the Madrikha, parallel to 6th and 7th Sunday School grades
    • Requirements include 30 hours of individual community service and a group community service project, 4 projects on topics of the candidate’s choosing in the broad areas of family history, the group community service experience, Jewish identity, and Jewish culture.
    • Ceremonies are individual or group, as the family chooses, and are designed by the participating families with the help of the Madrikha. They usually include a presentation of a project by the student, group singing, remarks by the parents, commemorative candle-lighting, and appreciations of each student by JCS staff members, ending in an oneg for guests and the congregation (click here for more information).

    What is secular Judaism?

    • It is one of the several varieties of Jewish belief and practice, such as reform, orthodox, reconstruction, conservative, that have been developed throughout Jewish history.
    • Secular Judaism grew out of the 18th century European Enlightenment and defines Judaism by its history, culture, and values.
    • It assumes that human fate is in human hands. Divine intervention is neither expected nor asked for.
    • Jewish identity is chosen by the individual. It is not automatically conferred by parentage, place or condition of birth, religious belief, religious ritual or authority, nor is it defined by others, whether Jewish or not.
    • While canonical texts (Torah, Talmud, Mishnah, etc.) and Jewish history and traditions are cultural and historical resources, Secular Judaism is concerned with Tikun Olam - repairing the world as it is now through the use of human knowledge and talents (click here for more information).

    The Sunday School kids love to go to...

    • We have classes for pre-kindergarten through 8th grade and teen programs (click here for more information).
    • We have a carefully planned curriculum covering holiday observances, ancient Jewish history, myths and their implied values, world Jewish experience from the middle ages through the Enlightenment, the Holocaust, Zionism, immigration, the American Jewish world, including political developments, social movements and organizations, Jewish families, communities and life cycles.
    • Learning is through discussion, hands-on arts/crafts, music, dance, cooking, class projects and field trips.
    • Our teen program for high school students inclues a community leadership program, assistance in Sunday School classes and social action projects (click here for more information).

    What is a Madrikha?

    Julie Gales is our Madrikha, which literally means leader in Hebrew. Functionally, a Madrikha is a community leader or guide, cermonial officiant, philosophic Jewish counsler, eduator and spokesperson for a Secular Humanistic community.

    One of the prominent roles assumed by Madrikhim is that of officiants at life cycle events of community members, including baby namings, bar/bat mitzvah ceremonies, weddings, and funerals/memorials.

    Julie became a Madrikha in 1993 and has worked for two Secular Jewish Communities: Jewish Parents Institute (JPI) in Detroit and our own Jewish Cultural Society. She has said that "I feel that my role as Madrikha is one way I can give back to the Secular Jewish communities that have had such a profound impact on my life and personal life philosophy."


    How do I join?

    • Visit us some Sunday morning (click here for the calendar) and sit in on a Sunday School class
    • Call us at 734-975-9872
    • Come to an adult education event (click here for the calendar)
    • Reserve a place at a first Friday Shabbat observance/dinner
    • Attend and participate in one of our holiday or shabbat observances

    It is JCS policy that no one is denied membership or Sunday School because of inability to pay full fees. If such costs are a problem, please contact us.

    Registration information and form is available here.

    Register now for the JCS First Friday Shabbat 

    and register now for the Passover Second Seder!


    FIRST FRIDAY - May 2nd 
    6th/7th B'Nai Mitzvah Presentation
    To register, click here
    Save the Date!
    Sunday, May 18
    Day Away
    Details to follow soon!
    Dear Members of the Jewish Cultural Society,
    The Board of Directors of the Jewish Cultural Society (JCS) is calling for nominations for board positions for 2014-15. There are at least 2 vacancies on the board this year. New board members will be installed at the Annual Day Away on May 18th and term of service begins at the board retreat on June 8th.  Elected board members serve for two years or until their successors have been elected.  
    TIME COMMITMENT:  The JCS board is a "working board" in a true sense; in addition to governing the organization, board members serve on committees, organize programs, bring food to noshes, and in general, working with our excellent staff, make things happen.  While this requires some time commitment, serving on the JCS board is not without its perks:  we enjoy great community events and holidays, we get together monthly for productive board meetings, and we help make sure that this unique secular Jewish organization continues to thrive.  
    How do I submit my nomination?
     Completed nomination materials must be submitted to Renee Bayer, Board President, by mail, e-mail, or in her mailbox in the JCS office during the nomination period.  The completed Nomination Form should be filled out and submitted by the deadline.Click on the link below to retrieve the Nomination Form.  It will also be posted on our website.
    WHAT IS THE DEADLINE FOR NOMINATIONS?  The deadline for nomination is Sunday, April 27th, 2014.
    Who Can I Nominate?  You can nominate ourself or someone else.  Board Members must be JCS members in good standing.  They must be nominated (self-nomination is just fine).  If you are nominating someone beside yourself, please determine that your prospective nominee is willing and able to accept the nomination and commit to the time.  
    For More Information: please contact Renee by phone 734.223.5437 or by email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

    It is an honor and a pleasure to serve on the JCS Board.  I hope you will consider joining us.

    Tzofimers and 6th/7th grade 
    Zap Zone Fun
    APRIL 27
    MAY 4

    Ilene and Norm Tyler have been selected to receive 2014 Lifetime Achievement Awards from the Michigan Historic Preservation Network!  
    The awards reception and awards ceremony will be Friday evening, May 16 in Jackson at the Michigan Theatre of Jackson, from 6:30pm-9:30pm.  
    Cost is $30/person. 
     Please contact Bernie Banet at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if interested in attending.

    Jewish Film Festival 2014





    MAY 4-8, 2014

    The Jewish Film Festival is an annual event celebrating film and the impact and influence which Jewish culture has played on current movies and filmmakers of today.  It also provides a forum for discussion about films from around the world that illuminate Jewish issues and principles.  Our goal is to enhance a sense of community and inclusion for a broad range of audience members.   There is something to see for everyone during the Festival.  
    So grab your popcorn and we'll save a seat for you at the movies!

    The JCS is proud to be a co-sponsor of this event.
    Our schedule for Rosh Hodesh
    is set for women of all ages.  
    We'll be gathering together for potlucks, hot tubs, and Jewish dance and film. 
     To join the email list 
    for this regular event, reply here.
    For more information about 
    Rosh Hodesh, click here.  

    These events are neither sponsored nor endorsed by the Jewish Cultural Society. 


    University of Michigan 

    Frankel Center for Judaic Studies 


    25th Anniversary of the Jean and Samuel Frankel Center for Judaic Studies
    April 28, 2014
    Click here for more information.

    Last Updated on Monday, 24 March 2014 01:23