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Tzarot and Smachot/Sorrows and Celebrations: Our Rabbis

07/25/2019 07:37:25 PM


Our community doesn’t necessarily think of itself as having had multiple rabbis, as in the plural. In fact, ORH has played host to a deep roster of graduates of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, mostly during their student years.

Founded as a havurah, or friendship circle, ORH in its early years welcomed ritual leadership support from members of an established Reconstructionist congregation in Montreal, Dorshei Emet. Like the other havurot (pl.) that had begun to form in the 1960s, it fostered an ethos that readily lent itself, culturally and theologically, to the Reconstructionist movement. The prominent Jewish historian Jonathan Sarna readily links the two emerging strands of Jewish life:

“The Reconstructionist movement had appropriated this term in the early 1960s in an effort to promote the creation of small fellowship circles consist­ing of Jews who were partial to the ideas of Mordecai Kaplan [the founder of Reconstructionist Judaism] and gathered on a regular basis for study, discussion, and prayer.”

In its early years, ORH played host to the occasional visiting student from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. It was a treat for this rabbi to get to know some members of the Havurah early in my studies - as far back as November 1991. And when the community reconfigured its leadership model to incorporate ongoing administrative and ritual support, members forged relationships with a roster of rabbis, either graduates who served for the High Holy Days, or senior students on the verge of launching their rabbinates.

Some of you know none of those rabbis, yet others forged tight relationships with those who served, especially during some tough, and some joyous, life cycle events. I thought of all those relationships in light of two contrasting life cycle moments in the lives of two ORH rabbis.

The last in a series of eight rabbinical students who served ORH between 2004 and 2013, Rabbi Alanna Sklover followed her senior year of monthly visits to Ottawa with a full-time position as Director of Lifelong Learning at the Germantown Jewish Centre, a Conservative synagogue that houses two others prayer communities, including a Reconstructionist-affiliated minyan.

This summer, Rabbi Alanna begins her leadership as rabbi of Or Hadash, a Reconstructionist congregation in the Philadelphia suburb of Fort Washington (read more here). We send a collective and hearty mazal tov to our “senior” senior student rabbi, with great fondness and certainty that Or Hadash is one lucky community.


ORH’s first sustained rabbinic relationship was with Rabbi Bob Gluck, who led High Holiday services from 1998 to 2004. Earlier this month, he, his wife Pamela Lerman, their daughter Allison Lerman-Gluck, and their extended families lost their mother and grandmother, Aileen Gluck. Our member Sarah Waisvisz and I were able to make a shiva call to them at their home in Albany, New York, carrying with us messages of condolence from this community. May they be comforted in their sorrow. Read a meaningful tribute to the life and legacy of his parents here.


We may structure the visible and ongoing activities of our community around the cycles of the year. On festivals, on Shabbat, we meet and eat, sing and pray, learn and connect. Yet it is surely through sharing the cycles of our lives – the new beginnings, the sad endings, the challenges and the changes – that we forge and sustain bonds of connection that know no bounds.

Thu, June 4 2020 12 Sivan 5780