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frequently asked questions

Services & Programs

Where are your services? How often?

Can non-Jews participate?

What is the role of women? Can women participate in services?

What is the role of music in your services?

How much Hebrew is used at services?

What makes Or Haneshamah unique/distinctive as a Jewish community?

Can I check out Or Haneshamah before joining?

Children & Youth Programming

Do you offer children's Jewish education?

What about Bar/Bat Mitzvah opportunities?

 

Beliefs  & Reconstructionism

Do you have to believe in God?

What is Reconstructing Judaism?

Reconstructionism--what's it all about?

How is a Reconstructionist service different that other services?

 

Celebrations & Life Cycle Events

What festivals are celebrated at Or Haneshamah?

Do you celebrate weddings?

Do you conduct conversions?

Do you provide pastoral counselling?

Do you offer Jewish funeral services?

 

Community  & More

How is the community governed?

How do I join the board?

What are the volunteer opportunities and expectations?

How do I learn more?

 

Services & Programs

Where are your services? How often?

We normally 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.

Currently, due to COVID-19, all of our programs and services are hosted through Zoom. 

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Can non-Jews participate?

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. If you are interested in pursuing a connection to Judaism, we encourage you to come try us out!

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What is the role of women? Can women participate in services?

At Or Haneshamah, we believe strongly in the right for equal participation of all genders. Whether you are male, female, or nonbinary, we encourage you to take part in our services however you are comfortable to do so!

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What’s the role of music in services?

Music is central to our services! We enjoy singing much of the liturgy and often use a variety of tunes which we endeavor 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.

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How much Hebrew is used at services?

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.

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What makes Or Haneshamah unique/distinctive as a Jewish community?

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.

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Can I check out Or Haneshamah before joining?

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.

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Children & Youth Programming

Do you offer children's Jewish education?

Machaneh Shabbat (Shabbat Camp) is our unique experiential learning program for primary school children on Saturday mornings. 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.

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What about Bar/Bat Mitzvah opportunities?

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.

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Beliefs  & Reconstructionism

Do you have to believe in God?

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.

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What is Reconstructing Judaism?

Reconstructing Judaism is our international congregational affiliate organization. All Reconstructionist congregations are members of this movement. The website is a marvelous resource with an abundance of information on Reconstructionism and Judaism. We highly encourage you to check them out!

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Reconstructionism—what’s it all about?

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.

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How is a Reconstructionist service different than other services?

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.

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Celebrations & Life Cycle Events

What festivals are celebrated by Or Haneshamah?

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.

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Do you celebrate weddings?

During our 25 year history as a congregation several weddings have been celebrated. If you are interested in celebrating a wedding with our community, please contact Rabbi Liz directly with questions.

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Do you conduct conversions?

Yes! We would love to guide you into joining the Jewish people. Please contact Rabbi Liz directly if you are interested in this process. We also accept as Jewish members conversions completed through other denominations.

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Do you do pastoral counselling?

Yes. For pastoral needs, we ask that you reach out directly to Rabbi Liz. If you are in need of assistance due to illness or bereavement, we also have a G'milut Hassadim Committee. The Hesed Committee is a network of volunteers that help OrH members in need of social support and transportation. 

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Do you offer Jewish funeral services?

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.

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Community & More

How is the community governed?

Or Haneshamah is governed by a volunteer board of directors. Roles include chair, treasurer, secretary, membership coordinator, communications, learning coordinator, rituals coordinator and members 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. Board meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month.

How do I join the board?

 In order to join the board, you must be a member of Or Haneshamah. We do not require you to be Jewish, with the exception of the roles of president and ritual coordinator. The yearly board slate is elected at the Annual General Meeting at the end of May, however we do accept interim members. If you are a member and are interested in joining the board, please contact our Nominations Committee.

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What are the volunteer opportunities and expectations?

Or Haneshamah has come a long way in the 25+ years we have been around but we are still a primarily volunteer-run organization. As such, we ask that our members donate some amount of their time and effort to help our services and programs run smoothly. We have a variety of teams and tasks for you to choose from. As we all know, Many Hands make light work!

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How do I learn more?

The best way to get to know us is to spend some time with us! Come visit us on a Shabbat morning or celebrate a festival with our community. We love to welcome guests and new faces. If you would like to talk first, feel free to reach out via email; we would be happy to answer any of your questions!

Tue, June 22 2021 12 Tammuz 5781