Or Shalom began as a havurah (small group of friends) in 1982 which, led by Rabbi Daniel Siegel and Hanna-Tiferet Siegel, met in members living rooms to daven on Shabbat mornings. Daniel was the first person to receive smicha (rabbinic ordination) by Rabbi Zalman Schachter-Shalomi, founder of the Jewish Renewal Movement. Daniel now works with Aleph Alliance for Jewish Renewal, the co-ordinating body for this movement.
Or Shalom has grown from a Shabbat morning minyan (prayer group) into a community of approaching 200 households. In the late 1980s Rabbi Itzhak Marmorstein became Or Shalom’s spiritual leader and was part of our community for five years. In 1993, after squeezing into rented houses for years, we bought our present building at 710 East 10th Avenue (at Fraser) in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Our bayit (home) is a former Scots Presbyterian Church which we acquired in 1993. The original building has been thoroughly remodeled and is partially wheelchair accessible. The main floor which is the davenning area and the basement which is where we eat are both accessible by ramp. All washrooms are accessible and equipped with bars. The Broadway bus #9 and Fraser/Granville bus #8 both serve us. Or Shalom is along the 10th Avenue Bike Route, and we have bike racks under the front stairs. There are hotels and bed-and-breakfast accommodations within easy walking distance.
Or Shalom’s story is partially told by the many gifts that adorn our bayit. Read about these Holy Gifts. The original Or Shalom website created by Webbe Rebbe Avi Dolgin is preserved in this moment frozen in time in 2014.
Or Shalom long-time member Harley Rothstein composed this retrospective Or Shalom: The Early Years, and a retrospective on the development of Jewish Renewal in Washington, Oregon, and BC in Jewish Renewal in the Pacific Northwest.
Over the years, Or Shalom has wrestled with the questions about Jewish identity. We were an early congregation to give permission to the rabbi to marry same-sex Jewish couples, and spent many months considering the question Who Is a Jew? As part of Jewish Renewal we continue to dialog about these questions.
Our Or Shalom YouTube channel has various gala events of our past.
Over the years we have gained from the rabbinic leadership of R’ Daniel Siegel, R’ Hillel Goelman, R’ Yitchak Marmorstein and R’ David Mivasair. Rabbi Laura Duhan Kaplan was the Or Shalom Rabbi from 2005-2014, and is currently the Interim Director of the Iona Pacific Inter-religious Centre. Reb Laura has a website of her writings and lectures, where you can also reach her email. Or Shalom was graced to have Rabbi Louis Sutker of Victoria serve as our interim Rabbi while we undertook a search for a permanent Rabbi in 2015.
In 2015 Rabbi Hannah Dresner accepted the position of Or Shalom’s full time Rabbi.