Honouring Our Rabbi

Before Rabbi Hannah came to Or Shalom, she was ordained by ALEPH, Jewish Renewal’s umbrella organization that continues in the teachings of Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l.

On Sunday, January 15, at the the 19th annual conference of OHALAH: The Association of Rabbis, Cantors and Rabbinic Pastors for Renewal, ALEPH also honored three rabbinic colleagues who furthered their learning to earn a second smicha (ordination) as dayanim – adjudicators and mediators in the field of Jewish law. One of the new dayanim to receive this second smicha is our own Rabbi Hannah.

You can read more about this honour from the ALEPH web site.

This week, Rabbi Hannah’s writing about Dayenu, the song of appreciation we sing at the Pesach seder was published in Sh’ma Now.

Or Shalom is celebrating Hannah and Ross, in appreciation of their move to Vancouver, and the many teachings, niggunim, mitzvot, and humour they have brought us, on April 22 in the lovely Van Dusen Gardens Visitor Centre.  With special guests, and long-time friends of Hannah, Chazan Shulamit Wise Fairman, and our own Rabbis Emeriti Daniel and Hanna Tiferet Siegel, with music provided by Joe Markovitch and The Usual Suspects.

You can buy your tickets online from Or Shalom. Tickets are limited and we expect to sell out.



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Joyous Moments

March has been a busy month for Or Shalom, but one full of moments to celebrate.

OSSRI Update – Family of five arrives safely in Vancouver

After a long journey from a refugee camp in northern Iraq, a Syrian Kurdish couple and their three children arrived safely at Vancouver International Airport Thursday afternoon. It was a moment of pure joy and profound relief not just for the family, but also for the OSSRI volunteers who greeted them with hugs, warmth, big Canadian smiles, a welcome poster, balloons and small welcome gifts.

Sue Comay, who was one of the many volunteers at the airport to greet the family, said there wasn’t a dry eye in the group as Andra had an emotional reunion with her cousin Zouzan and other family members.

“Adnan was clearly overwhelmed and wiping away his tears, too. The three boys were all smiles and were thrilled with their welcome bags and balloons,” says Sue. “It was a deep moment and so moving to be there after the long anticipation. I kept wondering about all of their first impressions and emotions as they stepped into this new life or was it too overwhelming at the time for them to feel anything at all? The cousin’s ability to speak English is a huge asset and will no doubt be a great help both in their settling and to all of us to be able to communicate with the family through her.”

Volunteer Maurice Bloch shared these thoughts about being at the airport to welcome the family.

“The mutual embracing of the family members was one of those moments when time stands still. It’s the opposite of a traumatic experience but similar in that time stands still for a moment and the memory remains etched in the psyche forever,” says Maurice. “I felt privileged to be part of a team which has made this arrival possible for this family. We have given these five members of our human family a new opportunity for a good life while they have surely and unknowingly enriched ours immeasurably.”

After collecting their luggage, mum, dad and the kids were taken to their new Canadian home for what we hope was a good night’s sleep.

Two more families are scheduled to arrive by April 1. Stay tuned for more details.
Thank you to everyone who has helped make this happen.

United in Compassion – Multifaith Devotional Service

On March 7th, over 20 faith leaders and upwards of 130 participants joined together in a moving evening of sacred chant, song, and sentiment. With representatives of Judaism,  Sunni and Shia Islam, Universal Sufism, Christianity, Baha’i, Universal Hinduism, Zoroastrianism, Zen Buddhism, and more, we built a space of unity and connection. After the devotional service, participants continued their collaboration and exploration of each other through round-table conversations and desserts. It was an evening to be remembered and cherished by all those who attended, bringing precious hope and light into our world.

We thank all that came to lend their presence to this evening of connection, with special thanks to the organizing committee, and the EMU of the Anglican Diocese of New Westminster for co-hosting this event.

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From the Rabbi – Parashat Ki Tisa (Shabbat Para)

Full with Emptiness

Over the past few weeks, our Torah readings have amplified the problem of human longing. Just as we are wont to do, the People of Israel looked to the tangible to fill their emptiness, re-forming their personal treasures into a single golden mass. They danced around it, setting it as a solid center occupying their communal heart.

Some say the Golden Calf was an idol. Let’s just say it was too concrete, and in its tangible clunky-ness it fell flat as an embodiment of our prismatic imaginings of all that we need and all we desire to feel complete. Some say the Golden Calf was not an idol, rather, a throne, not dissimilar from other animal-form thrones for other Near Eastern deities of the time, and as such it was an invitation to YHWH to reside among the People. But even so, the gesture was coarse, as if we can capture what is ineffable and circumscribe the fluidity and fluctuation of our spiritual needs.

God said No: I can’t be held fast. I am, in fact, best described by longing. If you fill yourselves solid, you will leave no space for me. If you could know me, I would not be a mystery and we would not be engaged in this dynamic relationship of beloveds, me knocking on the door of your heart, and you cracking my heart open with your poignant human-ness.

So, our sacred myth offers a different embodiment of a home for God in our midst, a counter-offer to the idol/throne that was the Golden Calf, an embodiment of absence rather than presence, an empty space in which to engage in relationship rather than the fullness of space occupied by a golden form. God says: Build me a tabernacle, a shell of great beauty, with an emptiness at its center, and I will visit you there.

We have long since internalized the Tabernacle, knowing that our temples reside within. The message for us becomes: don’t fill up to feel ok. In great measure, the fulfillment of our spiritual lives is the yearning itself, the attenuated reach of our emptiness toward a greatness we intermittently see, or hear, or touch.

May we have the courage to create and embellish internal sanctuaries that frame absence, holding space for our imaginations to complete our unions with whatever it is we call God.

– Rabbi Hannah

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