Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions

History

Or Hadash was founded in 1983 by six families, four of whom had been meeting as a havurah loosely affiliated with the Reconstructionist Movement. The initial concept was to serve as a laboratory congregation for students at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (RRC); hence, the congregation's original name: The Congregation of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College (CRRC). An initial open house drew over 100 people, and 65 households joined by the High Holidays.

The next few years saw steady growth in membership and experimentation with the position of student rabbi. In 1987, the congregation determined that it needed a graduate Rabbi and hired Vivian Schirn as pulpit Rabbi. The educational directorship was still held as a student position.

In 1989, the congregation decided to consolidate both rabbinic positions and offer them to Rabbi Schirn. The congregation also officially became independent of the College, and changed its name to Reconstructionist Congregation Or Hadash. The name was chosen from the verse in the Psalms, "Or Hadash al Zion Ta-ir" ("Cause a New Light to Shine upon Zion").

Membership continued to increase and by the early 1990s the congregation was beginning to outgrow its home. Although emotionally tied to the RRC, the members of Or Hadash decided to seek a new facility. After searching for several years, the community's home on Camp Hill Road in Fort Washington was found just in time for its Bat Mitzvah year. A Hanukat ha Bayit (dedication of a new home) was held on September 17, 1995.

In 1996, the congregation hired its first non-rabbinical student educational director. An office administrator position was added in 1996. With the decision of Rabbi Schirn to retire in 2001, Rabbi Steven Pik-Nathan became rabbi of Or Hadash.

Today a congregation of over 200 families, Or Hadash is one of the most vibrant congregations in the Reconstructionist Movement, and an emerging leader among synagogues in Bucks and Montgomery counties. Rabbi Joshua Waxman, who became the congregation's leader in 2004, has helped Or Hadash retain its warmth, intimacy, and commitment to family, Jewish continuity, and creative Judaism that have characterized the congregation from its start.