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Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions

Rabbi Vivian Schirn's Story

Rabbi Vivian Schirn’s story

Rabbi Emerita of Or Hadash

“What? You can’t be serious! Four student rabbis for six families? That amounts to 1 ½ families per rabbi.” So began my “love affair” with Or Hadash, known then as the CRRC.

From one surprise/crazy idea/experiment to another, I found the openness and willingness to take risks perfectly suited to my rather unconventional ways. These 6 families, with their strong belief in Reconstructionst ideas and with their deeply held dream of creating a new type of congregation, energized the four of us, and the surrounding community. It was not long before the chapel of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College began to fill up with the curious, the observant, the assimilated, the disenchanted, the believer, the atheist, and the questioner. I became eager to learn enough so that I could supply the congregants with what they were seeking.

This was exhilarating for me, as was my realization that what I was learning at the RRC was being put into practice! Perhaps most important was the gratitude I felt at having found a form of Judaism and a congregation that dovetailed with my beliefs. Here was a group of Jews that wanted to question and explore, and that were passionate about reconstructing Jewish behaviors, thought, and traditions to make them more relevant and meaningful to their lives.

It is all this that continues to attract me to Or Hadash, to its Reconstructionist roots, and to the congregants who challenge and inspire me.

I would like to share three of my favorite Kaplan quotes:

“God is the power within us that makes for salvation.”

“Judaism is an evolving religious civilization.”

“It is not that the Jews have kept the Sabbath; rather the Sabbath has kept the Jews.”