Shedding New Light on Jewish Traditions


President of Or Hadash…Three Times Around

Shelley Kapnek Rosenberg


It’s hard to believe that it’s been 30 years since we helped five other intrepid couples start a synagogue. It’s harder to believe that we started a synagogue that, for 30 years, has served the Jewish community and the Reconstructionist community so well. After all, starting a synagogue is something you imagine your parents do.


The first time I was president, the congregation’s third president (which encompassed two terms, 1988 – 1992), the major focus was the decision to move out of the RRC, our home for the first years of our existence. This was a difficult decision – many folks hoped to remain within the RRC’s familiar walls – and we even began discussions with the College about a possible expansion of the building. We eventually recognized that this was impossible for the long term, and began a voluntary campaign to raise funds that would enable us to deal with any eventuality. It was called “The Fund for the ‘90s,” and affectionately known as “Fun in the ‘90s.” I believed strongly that we needed to move and worked hard to push that forward. The main thing I remember, however, was the sincere and good-natured discussions, typical of all our decision-making, which took place.


By my second term, it was clear to all that we needed a home of our own and the Board asked me to undertake a search. I looked at a lot of buildings that weren’t appropriate and one or two that were worth more intensive discussion. Again, in typical Or Hadash fashion, we agreed on a voting procedure for an issue of such importance. The first building was voted down and a few months later another building was found that we voted to buy, with the caveat that it not cost more than a certain amount to renovate. Unfortunately, it would have exceeded the agreed upon figure and we decided not to make an offer. Thus, it was back to the search. Again, however, my most significant memories of that time remain the dedication, hard work, and good will among congregants all working for the ultimate good of the community.


My third term as president (2004-2006) was, more or less, an accident. I had stepped away from serving on the Board for a number of years, the person who was supposed to become President moved away, and I was drafted. It was, absolutely, an honor. And, it coincided with the start of Rabbi Josh’s tenure as our rabbi. Thus, I had the privilege of getting to know our new, young (only a few years older than my son) leader in a very personal way, as we worked together on issues that arose at the start of a new rabbinic term.


Much of my adult life (30 years so far) has revolved around Or Hadash. (It’s the reason we have not, in our retirement, moved into Center City.) I have made friends, learned a great deal about Judaism and about myself, and raised my children in this amazing community. And, in one of the most wonderful happenstances of all, my daughter Jessica decided to become a Reconstructionist rabbi and now attends school at the “mother ship,” the RRC. What goes around comes around. It’s beshert.