We hold services at the First Unitarian Congregation near Richmond and Woodroffe on the first and third Saturdays of every month and on the Friday of the second weekend of the month. We share in a vegetarian pot-luck meal after services. Please look at our calendar to find out about all of our upcoming events.
Yes, non-Jews are invited to attend our services and to participate in all service activities except for the Torah portion. In addition, we consider a child Jewish if either parent is a Jew. Non-Jewish partners in member households are full voting members of our community.
Machaneh Shabbat (Shabbat Camp) is our unique experiential learning program for primary school children on Saturday mornings (see the "Shabbat Camp" menu above). We also have BaMaGaal, an active Bar/Bat Mitzvah group (parent and child) that meets once a month with our Rabbi Liz for families who are preparing for a Bar or Bat Mitzvah event.
The stories of our members’ relationship to, and history with, their own Judaism is diverse! We have members who grew up in Orthodox homes and others who have converted, some stumbled upon their hidden Jewish heritage, some explored other spiritual practices and traditions before returning to Judaism, and some simply found Reconstructionist Judaism speaking to them directly. Or Haneshamah offers a rich intellectual and spiritual path for deepening one’s relationship to Judaism in the context of an open-minded and caring community.
Whether you are a parent of a child who will be 13 in a few years or an adult who never had their Bar/Bat Mitzvah, we have an active program focused on creating a meaningful journey toward the day of the Bar/Bat Mitzvah. The young people and at least one parent preparing for their Bar/Bat Mitzvah meet one Friday evening a month with our Rabbi Liz for a Shabbat meal and education session at members’ houses. Several members of the community are available to guide and support families throughout the two-year process.
Music is central to our services. We enjoy singing much of the liturgy and often use a variety of tunes which we endeavour to teach to the community. Members of the community who volunteer to be members of the Or Haneshamah Band often enrich our services and are always part of our holiday celebrations.
Yes! Many of us “shopped around” to find a Jewish community that was right for us. We welcome, and even encourage, you to do the same. We look forward to spending some time with you as you explore options within the larger Ottawa Jewish community.
At Or Haneshamah, men and women participate equally in all parts of our services, as in many other Reconstructionist communities. Another way to say this is to say that our congregation is EGALITARIAN. For example, a girl preparing for her Bat Mitzvah will learn how to chant from the Torah and will be able to wear a prayer shawl (tallit) just as a boy will when he becomes Bar Mitzvah.
At Or Haneshamah, our services are led in English, but we also enjoy singing and chanting in Hebrew. The service leader, either a member of Or Haneshamah or Rabbi Liz, will use English to explain the parts of the service, give page numbers, and facilitate a discussion about the week’s parsha (D’Var Torah). Most of the praying is done in Hebrew, but the prayer book (siddur) that we use is “bilingual.” It includes transliterations of almost all the prayers, and it also includes interesting accompanying commentaries so that you can also have a full and meaningful service by reading in English only.
Or Haneshamah's festival celebrations include a community Passover Seder, a candle-lighting party for Hannukah, a Sukkot celebration, Simchat Torah, Tu B'Shevat, Purim, Shavuot and, of course, a full series of events for the High Holidays (Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur). We continue to encourage our members to take initiative and organize events and celebrations for the festival. In each and every case, though, no matter the form or structure, each festival celebration with Or Haneshamah is sure to have music, a convivial spirit, and, of course, great food.
Whether members believe in God or not is a personal choice. Our members come from many different backgrounds and can be found in various places along the continuum of belief. We come together as community of like-minded people in our embrace of a Reconstructionist engagement with Judaism.
The central idea of Reconstructionism is that Judaism is more than a religion in the narrow sense but is a complete religious civilization, with its own art, music, literature, culture, and folk-ways - as well as religious rituals, ethics, and philosophical and theological discourse. Like all civilizations, Judaism is, and has always been, an evolving set of beliefs and practices.
Reconstructionism was founded by Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan (1881-1983), with a view to revitalizing Judaism in the modern world. Each generation of Jews is charged with the responsibility for envisioning the Judaism of its own time, and fashioning it anew out of inherited traditions and the record of its own experience. Reconstructionist Judaism strongly emphasizes the humanistic and naturalistic values in historical Judaism, and it places them in a context that reflects contemporary social conscience, philosophy, science, and the quest for spirituality.
Our services are three times monthly: first and third Saturdays and second Friday. Our members join our Rabbi in leading services, including chanting the Torah. During regular services we usually have only 3 'aliyot' and except for the HHDs we do not chant Haftorah. Our dvar Torah is usually a short 'sermon' with a lengthy discussion among congregants.
In our congregation we encourage themed group aliyot (chanting of the Torah blessings.) Our Torah blessing has been adapted to eliminate the concept of chosenness of the Jewish people. As we are a welcoming and diverse community all Jewish members may participate equally in our services. Members who are not conversant with traditions may ask for coaching. Non-Jewish family members are welcome to join us for services but participation in the Torah service is limited to Jewish members. However they may wish to participate in the service with readings before or after the Torah service, and of course, they may join in our parsha discussion.
The Jewish Reconstructionist Communities is our international congregational affliate organization. All Recon congregations are members of this movement. The website is a marvelous resource with an abundance of information on Reconstructionism and Judaism.
During our 25 year history as a congregation several weddings have been celebrated. With our new Rabbi, we are evolving in our ability to hold weddings. Please contact Rabbi Liz directly with questions, email@example.com.
Yes, we do. Please contact Rabbi Liz directly with questions, firstname.lastname@example.org. We also accept as Jewish members conversions completed through other denominations.
Yes, please contact Rabbi Liz directly with pastoral care needs, email@example.com. We also have a G'milut Hassadim Committee of Or Haneshamah members who contact members needing assistance whether because of illness or bereavement, etc.
Or Haneshamah provides access to the Jewish Community Cemetery in Osgoode through an agreement with Temple Israel. Upon request Shiva services for members may be arranged.
Or Haneshamah is governed by a volunteer board as described in our Constitution. Portfolios include president, treasurer, secretary, membership, communications, learning and member at large. Members are elected for two-year terms and may sit on the board for a maximum of six years and be president for no more than four years. Meetings are usually held monthly or more often if needed. Elections are held at our AGM in May. Any member may be on the board but only Jewish members may be president or ritual coordinator.
Since we are a volunteer led organization there are many opportunities to volunteer within the community. You can volunteer for just one hour or on a committee that meets often but volunteering is absolutely the lifeblood of Or Haneshamah.
The best way to get to know us is to spend some time with us. Come to a service and/or our holiday celebrations to see if there’s a fit. Or look around this website or feel free to email us at firstname.lastname@example.org