Or Shalom at 40 – Part 2: Community

Camp Hope Retreat 2017

Or Shalom started as an intentional community of spiritual seekers and proudly remains that to this day. You can see the connections being made at the potluck kiddush lunch that happens after every Shabbat service in the social hall.

Part 2: Community

As a Jewish Renewal community, Or Shalom’s umbrella is large and welcomes and embraces people from various backgrounds. The Keren Or newsletter documents accounts from members over the years and their stories of how they came to Or Shalom – and what’s kept them here.

Read Part 1: Origins

Generations have grown up in the community and are now raising their own children here.  With an intergenerational spiritual intention, Rabbi Hannah Dresner and staff introduced a Shabbat morning program, Shabbat Sheli, in 2016. As part of the program, young children participate in the Torah procession for the whole community. Many adult members now say they make a point of attending service on Shabbat Sheli days to witness the children dancing with their individual plush Torah scrolls. The program has also helped introduce new families and members.

For more than 20 years, Or Shalom has been going to Camp Hope in Hope, B.C. for a weekend retreat that brings up special guests for learning enrichment and endless activities like making mezuzot and a community baseball game. Scholarships have been offered to families who would otherwise be unable to enjoy this fun getaway.

There is the internal community, but outreach to the greater community, Jewish and non-Jewish, has been equally important in the history of Or Shalom. From supporting and participating in Pride festivities, to joining with other synagogues to walk in the international Women’s March of 2017, Or Shalom members have embraced activism. In 2015, Or Shalom members began the process of sponsoring Syrian families to start new lives in Canada. The Or Shalom Syrian Refugee Initiative has supported four families, three from Syria and one from Iraq, who recently celebrated one year in their new home country.

Have a look at some of the memories from over the years and let us know some of your favourite times in the Or Shalom community.

Up next, Part 3: Celebrations

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Selichot Story Slam

Or Shalom will commune with Selichot on Sept. 1 with the launch of our new literary series, Koreh: Writers in the Sanctuary, featuring readings from Or Shalom writers and beyond.

The Selichot launch begins with a teshuvah-themed story slam and is an opportunity for Or Shalom members to sign up to read original writing on the following themes: wayward wandering and return. Writings can incorporate one or both themes. Prose, poetry, fiction, non-fiction – it’s open to you.

The story slam will be mc’d by poet Alex Leslie who was a finalist for Arc Poetry Magazine’s 2018 Poem of the Year. Feature performer is storyteller Cecil Hershler, who performed at Or Shalom’s Selichot 5777 to glowing reviews. He’ll perform his most recent work.

The evening will close with a musical improvisation of Kol Nidre by David Kauffman and Martin Gotfrit.

Be a part of the creative flow. Sign up below for a five-minute spot to share your story. Only six spots are available.

Never been to Or Shalom? Come see what our warm community is all about. Email our program coordinator if you’d like to connect with someone at our synagogue.

  • Sign Up to Participate in the Story Slam

    Stories are limited to five minutes each. Only six spots available. You'll receive a confirmation for whether you have a spot reserved. Sets will begin at 8:15 p.m. Mic and music stand will be set up.

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Or Shalom at 40 – A Four-Part Retrospective

In 2018, Or Shalom Spiritual Community turned 40 years young. It took many hands for us to arrive where we are now – over 200 members strong, each one a vital reason the Or Shalom flame has burned so brightly in the Vancouver and area Jewish community.

The decades have been filled with many proud and invigorating moments, sweet and bittersweet gatherings. We’re celebrating all of that and more with a four-part series as we look back at the people and the memories of this community. We’ll start with the origins of Vancouver’s Spiritual Playground, explore our connections to the greater community, have a look at some of the celebrations over the years, and of course, the ways in which Or Shalom expresses spirituality.

Be sure to look through the photos unearthed from the archives. Have memories or photos to share? Leave a comment or post on our Facebook page.

Part 1: Origins

When Rabbis Emeriti Daniel and Hanna Tiferet Siegel left the fledging Or Shalom to build community in New Hampshire, the chavura wove a spiritual umbilical cord to join us together across time and space. This multicolored cord still adorns our Aron Kodesh.

The first gatherings took place in their home on 22nd Street in Vancouver, but soon began to outgrow those walls. The chavura continued to grow and continued to hop from place to place. In 2000, long-time Or Shalom member Harley Rothstein wrote about the early years of Or Shalom, where he documented the many efforts and stories of that period.


Up next: Part 2 of our series – Community

Wear your pride with one of our 40th anniversary hats.

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