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The Jewish-Living Art of Dying

04/11/2024 11:11:10 AM


Our visiting scholar, Rabbi David Teutsch helped us to begin the difficult conversation about what is important, Jewishly speaking, in how we die. My story at our “We Are All Storytellers” event April 6 was how my mother taught our family to die.

Many of you were not able to attend the most recent, wonderful Story-Telling event; but lucky for you, my friend Kenny Yun made a video of my contribution. If it moves you,...Read more...

For everything there is a Season...

04/04/2024 09:24:24 AM


Rabbi Me'irah Iliinsky

For everything there is a Season, and a time & purpose for everything under Heaven. Kohelet/Ecclesiastes 3:1

In response to the recent death in our community of Reisel Berger, I have been rereading some texts on comforting mourners. This teaching stood out for me: “Do not comfort a mourner when their dead lay before them.” (Pirke Avot 4:18)

What could this possibly mean?

In our tradition, the period from...

Emergency food program for immigrant families

03/28/2024 09:49:48 AM


In response to the increasing demands for food on the part of immigrant families in our Sanctuary City, we now have a collection box for food items at our Cortland site. These will be taken to the Faith in Action center in the Mission.

Non-perishable foods in high demand include:
1.  protein bars
2.  fruit or applesauce cups
3.  juice boxes and aseptic milk boxes
4.  trail mix packets. (nuts + dried...

SJLA Update March 21, 2024

03/19/2024 03:31:28 PM


Rabbi Me'irah Iliinsky

There was so much enthusiasm after Rabbi David Teutsch’s presentation, that we want to carry that forward. Think about it. EVERYONE dies! All of us will have fatally ill family members, and all of us, eventually, will need to face our own deaths. Rabbi Faryn and I are discussing the SJLA forming an on-going group to discuss these issues.  Please write to and let me know what topics you want to learn about if...Read more...

A Jewish-Living Art: Welcoming

03/12/2024 03:21:31 PM


Rabbi Me'irah Iliinsky

One of my very favorite verses in the Torah is Exodus 23:9

A stranger you will not oppress, for you know the heart of the stranger, as you were strangers in the land of Egypt. 

We have this value of not oppressing the stranger repeated several times throughout the Torah, but in this instance, we are offered such beautiful reasoning and articulation, really, of the essence of compassion and empathy: You know the heart of...Read more...

Parshat Miketz Drash

12/21/2023 11:31:41 AM


Rabbi Faryn Borella

December 15, 2023

This week, I had a dream. I found myself in a parallel universe, where every few hours, a giant tidal wave would rise up, and wash over the entirety of this human society. I found this tidal wave terrifying, destructive, a force for total annihilation. But I was surprised to discover that this society I found myself in had adapted to the tidal wave. They had somehow built a world where the tidal wave would wash over...Read more...

Summons by Aurora Levins Morales

11/06/2023 01:31:58 PM


Last night I dreamed
ten thousand grandmothers
from the twelve hundred corners of the earth
walked out into the gap
one breath deep
between the bullet and the flesh
between the bomb and the family.

They told me we cannot wait for governments.
There are no peacekeepers boarding planes.
There are no leaders who dare to say
every life is precious, so it will have to be us.


Vayera Drash 5784

11/05/2023 01:14:16 PM


Rabbi Faryn

Rabbi Faryn's Drash from Shabbat services on November 3, 2023.

Trigger Warning: This drash, given the moment we find ourselves in in both contemporary time and Torah time, necessarily discusses the ongoing violence in Israel and Palestine, including specific losses I have experienced. Please take care of yourself as you need during this drash. The first half will...Read more...

A Message from Board President Matt Rudoff

10/19/2023 01:28:53 PM


Matt Rudoff

The Or Shalom Jewish Community Board of Directors has voted to have Or Shalom sign on to the Synagogues Rising letter to President Biden and Congress, calling for a diplomatic resolution to the situation in Gaza. This letter reads:

“We are grieving the horrific, violent and terrifying attacks by Hamas on Israeli civilians. A grief of this magnitude can unleash a powerful drive for revenge. Our Jewish values ask...Read more...

Calling All Wise Hearted Men and Women

10/17/2023 03:05:35 PM


Rabbi Me'irah Iliinsky

I spoke with Rabbi Faryn and we want to establish a Crafters Guild to glorify our services and our new home with beautiful ritual objects. We could paint kiddush cups, mezuzahs, seder plates, candle sticks, sew and quilt and embroider cloths for under the shabbat candles, for challah covers, for covering the Torah when it is out of the ark, (but not being read) etc. This is called Hiddur Mitzvah, the beautification of the mitzvah,...Read more...

Shabbat Services Will Now Begin At 6:00 pm

10/17/2023 11:08:28 AM


Rabbi Faryn Borella

Dear Community,

Many of us find ourselves in a time of isolation and pain. In the midst of it all, what is most important is that we come together. In community. In ritual. In food. In joy.

One of the many things that is so beautiful about Jewish tradition is the way it honors time. Jewish time is not standardized in the way our modern systems of time are. Jewish time is tied to the times of sunrise and sunset, and a Jewish...Read more...

A Response to the Community

10/13/2023 12:05:17 PM


Thank you to each and every one of you who has reached out to me, to Amy, to Matt over the last few days, sharing of what you need from Or Shalom. I am incredibly humbled to be serving as your rabbi at a time of such deep grief, heartbreak, and fear, and I know that I – that we – are falling short. How could we not be? We are only human, staring into the face of the inhumane.

What I have been both surprised and unsurprised to...

An important message from Rabbi Faryn

10/08/2023 10:31:39 AM


Rabbi Faryn

Ana Hashem Hoshia Na.
Please, Redeemer, save us.  

Ana Hashem Hatzlicha Na. 
Please, Resource, let us be well.

Ana Hashem Anaynu B’yom Koreinu.
Please, Steadfast One, Answer us on the day we call.

These are the words we cry out on Simchat Torah: a day we think of as one simply of joy, revelry, music, dance. Which it is. But it is also a day we cry out min hameitzar—from the narrow place—with...Read more...

A Letter to Rabbi Chaya from Rabbi Me'Irah

08/18/2023 10:17:22 AM


Rabbi Me'irah

This letter was originally read at our Rabbi Chaya Farewell Shabbat Service on 8/18/23

Dear Chaya,

You know that I know how difficult it is to enter a position as congregational rabbi. You are expected to live up to all the fantasies each congregant has of their ideal rabbi. You must be intelligent, a good...Read more...

Parsha Eikev

08/08/2023 01:19:07 PM


Rabbi Faryn Borella

Rabbi Faryn's Shabbat Service drash from August 4, 2023.

Close your eyes for a moment. And call to mind something you would consider miraculous. A miracle. 

What is it that you imagine?

This week’s parshah, and the book of Deuteronomy at large, tells of many miracles that the Israelites experienced during their time wandering in the desert– referred to repeatedly as ha’otot v’hamoftim– signs...Read more...

When the world is burning, lament is necessary

07/27/2023 01:19:17 PM


Rabbi Faryn Borella

From the Southside Jewish Collaborative Tisha B'Av Service Wednesday, July 26, 2023

When the world is burning, lament is necessary.
And boy is our world burning.
So we must lament.

But oftentimes, we don’t make time to lament. We, instead, focus on what feels more urgent. We focus on the fire. What is necessary to put it out. But this leaves us always in response mode, without time to look for what caused the fire in...Read more...

The history of the Broken Vav

07/13/2023 11:52:24 AM


Rabbi Faryn Borella

Last week, while studying Parshat Pinchas with many of you at our Saturday morning Torah Study, we talked about a scribal phenomenon that is unique to Parshat Pinchas. After the Torah tells the story of Pinchas hearing the word of G-d and taking matters into his own hands and killing an Israelite man and a Midianite woman for engaging in sexual–and perhaps marital–relations, we learn that he and his descendants are designated priests...Read more...

Deepening our spiritual lives with or without a belief or connection with God

06/20/2023 01:25:02 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

When I am not with Or Shalom, I am working with individuals and groups who want to deepen their connection with their inner lives, their spirituality. This process is called Spiritual Direction, but it isn’t me that does the directing. I recently came across this beautiful blessing by Joel Kushner that guides our work.

Blessed are you, Source of Direction, who offers to whisper in our ears and hearts, guidance for our way. Allow us...Read more...

Want to Lead Welcome Shabbat Gathering on Zoom?

06/13/2023 10:52:23 AM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Going forward, we will be offering two live services a month led by Rabbi Faryn, one traveling shabbat in people’s homes, and one Welcome Shabbat on Zoom led by congregants.

A Welcome Shabbat is a short gathering composed of some songs like Shalom Aleichem and Lecha Dodi, candlelighting, healing blessings, the Mourners’ Kaddish and Shabbat poetry. It gives attendees a chance to see one another and offer each other a Shabbat Shalom...Read more...

The Lineage of Torah

06/05/2023 03:21:56 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

This last weekend was the fabulous service where Aidan Sommerfield became a bar mitzvah. At the end of the passing of the Torah from his mishpachah (family), and while he was holding the Torah, I said the following:

"Our traditional Jewish story tells us that Moses received Torah at Sinai. He transmitted her to Joshua, Joshua passed her to the Elders, the Elders to the Prophets, the Prophets to the members of the Great...Read more...

Ritual Immersion in Water MIKVEH): Personal, Jewish, and Powerful

04/25/2023 02:04:52 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Have you ever wondered if there was a ritual from Jewish practice to ease a transition or mark time? Have you ever been to the mikveh? Jewish tradition offers us the mikveh, the sacred waters, for full ritual immersion with. Traditionally we use it for conversion, prior to marriage, to prepare for Shabbat or holy days, and for women at the end of their monthly cycle. We can also create our own rituals for times of transition and change. To...Read more...

Prayer as Freedom, Prayer as Medicine 

04/03/2023 03:25:04 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Chag Sameach!

It’s Pesach, a time to focus on freedom. Where we feel free, how we got there, and what we can do to create more freedom for others. As I join with family, I am reflecting on a few things that have felt liberating in my life.

I have found teaching "Prayer as Medicine through Writing" liberating and witnessed the freedom others have felt as they enter prayers in deep ways through four simple steps: 1....Read more...

Music, Pesach, and Chassidism

03/23/2023 03:29:25 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Judaism has many genres of spiritual and liturgical music. One of my favorite genre is Chassidic melodies, sometimes put to words and sometimes just melodies. Written by Chassidic teachers from the last 200–300 years, these melodies were passed down from teacher to student. One of the reasons I am so drawn to Chassidic melodies is because they tell a story. But we don’t always know what the origin story was. We only know...Read more...

Kabbalat Shabbat vs. Ma'ariv

03/13/2023 03:31:04 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield


For those who had the pleasure of being with Faryn Borella Friday night, she taught about the difference between Kabbalat Shabbat and Ma’ariv. Kabbalat Shabbat is the welcoming of Shabbat, and Ma’ariv is the evening service which begins with the prayer the Barchu as we call to each other to go deeper into prayer.

When we are on zoom, I find it...

Jewish Prayer as Medicine

02/20/2023 03:34:46 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

A 3 session class beginning Wednesday, March 8, 7:00 pm on Zoom

I grew up quite secular and didn’t learn about the gems in Jewish prayer until my 20s or 30s, and even more deeply in my 50s. Whether this is your story or whether you know many prayers, discovering what the prayer has to offer you specifically can be precious. We don’t have to be “religious” or “believe in God” in order to find Jewish prayer meaningful....Read more...

Torah: Who are Bilhah and Zilpah and Why We Should Care

02/16/2023 03:32:51 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Online study opportunity March 5 (see below)

Bilhah and Zilpah were both "given" to Jacob by Rachel and Leah as “handmaidens or concubines” to procreate on behalf of the sisters. The resulting four sons were heads of the tribes of Israel. (Dan, Naphtali, Gad and Asher) Bilhah and Zilpah as handmaidens were essentially slaves – and treated as property to be managed, rather than women with a right to consent. Additionally,...Read more...

Or Shalom Jewish Community | Logo/Brand Development

02/12/2023 03:40:03 PM


Amy Mallor

Bold. Relevant. Barrier-Free.

Founded 33 years ago, Or Shalom Jewish Community has embodied the values of courageousness, connection, and accessibility undeterred by our transitional periods. Our work to heal the world has brought comfort and support to countless community members and friends, both the familiar and the stranger. Or Shalom Jewish Community continues to thrive as the sole source for Reconstructionist observance in the...Read more...

Passover is Coming!

01/24/2023 03:43:21 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

This week’s Torah portion, Bo, reflects the Passover story, too.

I am offering an Or Shalom Zoom Seder on Saturday night, April 8 (the fourth night of Pesach). It would be oriented to young and old and be about 30-45 minutes. Are you in? We won’t go forward with the planning if we don’t get enough family units. We need at least 8.

If you are interested, please email me by February 8, so we can start planning....Read more...

Notes from Rabbi Chaya

01/17/2023 03:44:54 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

Or Shalom has experienced the deaths of two members recently.

Al Sion, zichrono livracha (may his memory be for a blessing) and

Beth Abrams, zichrona livracha (may her memory be for a blessing).

It is a Jewish tradition to say Baruch Dayan HaEmet upon hearing the news of a death.  This means Blessed is the True Judge. One can interpret this to mean that only God really...Read more...

Or Shalom and Grace Tabernacle Come Together to Celebrate Dr. King with Music, Sharing and More

01/06/2023 03:47:17 PM


Rabbi Chaya Gusfield

This week begins with the Torah portion Shmot, the beginning of the Exodus story, the central story of the Jewish people. In this portion, there are two sentences where we express our suffering to God because of the oppressive conditions of our bondage to Pharoah. In these two sentences, there isn’t just ONE verb for expressing our pain, but FOUR verbs in Hebrew. We moaned, groaned, and cried out in several ways. God heard...Read more...

Wed, April 17 2024 9 Nisan 5784