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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



    The 2014-2015 Membership Registration is live. You can register your family, sign up children for Sunday School, and pay membership dues--all online! Fill out the form here. A downloadable form is also available. Due Aug. 30.


    The High Holidays are coming up in the end of September and into October. Please let us know if you can help with the JCS High Holiday celebrations. Take a look at the list of volunteer opportunities and click here to sign up! For more info, e-mail JCS High Holidays.


    We are looking for members with talent in music, dance, art, cooking, song leading, film making, photography, computers, farming and other media to have in our Jewish Sunday school this fall. If you are interested, or know someone who has these talents please contact Wendy Sadler. 


    The Jewish Cultural Society of Ann Arbor will celebrate the B'nai Mitzvah of three of our students this year. We invite our membership to attend the following event and support our students: 

    Sophie Straka will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah onSeptember 6, 2014 at 10am at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Ann Arbor.
    Please RSVP here.

    Congratulations Marika and Noah, who celebrated their B'nai Mitzvah with JCS this year!
    JCS High Holiday celebrations are coming up.
    Register online for the High Holidays. 
    Rosh HashanahWednesday, Sept. 24, 7pm at the JCC
    TashlichThursday, Sept. 25, 4pm, Island Park
    Kol NidreFriday, Oct. 3, 7pm, JCC
    Yom KippurSaturday, Oct. 4, 2pm, JCC
    Break-the-fastSaturday, Oct. 4, 6pm, JCC
    View the calendar here
    Friday, Sept. 5, 2014 at 6:30pmRegister online.
    Sophie Straka will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah 
    on September 6, 2014 at 10am at the JCC.
    Please RSVP here



     These events are neither sponsored nor endorsed 

    by the Jewish Cultural Society.

    Donate school items to the Corner Health Center Back-to-School Drive 

    Donate school goods during July & August on weekdays between 9am-5pm at Corner Health Center, 47 N. Huron St, Ypsilanti, MI (Ask for Jenise). Check out this flier or for more information.

    MACCABI GAMES & ARTFEST August 17-22, Detroit

    The JCC Maccabi Games/ArtsFest is the largest Jewish youth event in the world. From August 17-22, 2014, Metro Detroit will welcome more than 1,500 visiting Jewish teens from across the globe and involve thousands of members from our own community, including 800 host families, 1,000 volunteers and 350 teen athletes and artists.