Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions

Rabbi Steven Nathan Story

Rabbi Steven Nathan Remembers

I have many fond memories of my three years serving as rabbi of Or Hadash. As I started to serve the congregation in August 2001, the start of that year was difficult for everyone. In spite of the fear and sadness we were all feeling, the Or Hadash community came together not long after September 11 to celebrate the High Holy Days and came together as a community.

During the three years that followed, there were many ways in which we grew together as a community. I am proud to say that I even played a small role in the growth of the community during those years. Some of the highlights I can remember include: a year long adult learning course on readings in Jewish Spirituality, sponsoring "Jewish, Alive and American" (a year-long Reconstructionist curriculum on Judaism), the start of some renovations to the building, and the celebration of many joyous B'nai Mitzvah celebrations, baby namings and weddings. We also started the "Shabbat in Three-Part Harmony" services (Tot Shabbat, potluck dinner and Family Service) and began to incorporate chant, meditation and drumming into services on a monthly basis. Our "shul band," Sheer Energy, began working together with me to lead Friday night services once a month as well, as did our amazing Or Hadash choir! And who could forget our celebrations of Purim together (I loved playing the organ and hamming it up for a congregation that could really appreciate it) and the hilarious Purimshpiels created by our own congregants. Remember "Jest Side Story?"

Another highlight was the incredible Joan Dickstein being the first female hagbaah (lifter of the Torah) at Shabbat morning services, even though she was past 80 at the time. We also had Rabbi Nancy Fuchs-Kreimer as one of our Scholars-in-Residence, and Rabbi Geela Rayzel Raphael as the first Artist-in-Residence. That event included a concert by her musical group Miraj.

But as I look back on my three years at Or Hadash, some of my fondest memories are around the development of the Healing Services. Once a month, we came together as a community to support and offer blessings to all those in need of healing or who were asking for healing for other loved ones. With chant, drumming, meditation, harp music, prayer, and community we supported those in need. The healing community also gave birth to the congregational CD "Healing Harmonies," featuring musicians from the Or Hadash community. To this day, I still listen to the CD (now on iTunes, of course) and it gives me a feeling of peace and joy. Though much of the healing community, and the Healing Garden, which was created after my time at OH, was a way to support Melanie Gansler (may her memory be a blessing) and her family through her illness, it was also indicative of the caring, supportive community that was (and I'm sure still is) Or Hadash.

I wish Or Hadash a joyous 30th anniversary celebration. I'm glad to have been a part of its history if only for three short years, and for all the memories and relationships created during those years.