Appreciation for OZ

What Members Appreciate About Or Zarua


June, 2021

"I have found peace and comfort at Or Zarua. I have enjoyed the activities, both religious and spiritual. The Or Zarua community is warm and welcoming, and has been a blessing during this pandemic."

Nina B.


Or Zarua is a "place" that is small enough to feel intimate in conversations and prayer while offering a broad range of ways to practice and explore one's spiritual self. It has been just the right mix, allowing my connectivity to grow in its own time and space. I feel so fortunate to be part of this wise, creative, and committed community led by our Rabbi Shelly.

Sharon E.


I'm glad that I found Or Zarua. I've only attended one live meeting before the pandemic lock down. From Shabbat Kabbalat to Poetry sessions to singing with Molly Hicks, each event has been precious. Rabbi Shelly is warm, caring, and inclusive. I'm looking forward to sharing time in-person with the congregants of Or Zarua.

Louise P.


I love the Or Zarua community, getting to know other members through programs and services. I love the warm and welcoming atmosphere where everyone can feel seen and appreciated. I love the creative approach to learning. Rabbi Shelly models using our Jewish framework to dig deep into spiritual and value-based learning. Or Zarua feels like a spiritual home!

Cathy C.


I can't begin to describe the many ways that Or Zarua has had an impact on my life. Rabbi Shelly has an exceptional ability to connect with each member and to support the unique contributions each person can make to the community. I am continually inspired by Rabbi Shelly's teachings. Her generosity and kindness are boundless. Throughout my life I never connected to Judaism through traditional synagogue services. Or Zarua has answered a spiritual need that I've had my entire life. The sense of community is so inclusive and the mission to make the world a better place, to be our best selves are what makes this community so special. I'm continually inspired by Rabbi Shelly and the people I've met through Or Zarua.

Lisa A.


Or Zarua is our shtetl, a reconstructed shtetl, shining a light on the world around us, seeking to reach out to help those in need. We come together to support and uplift one another, to celebrate and commemorate. In mourning and in merriment, we come together. We each have a story. Each of us takes an interest in learning your special story. And we each contribute a piece to the ever-evolving Or Zarua story. As in a little shtetl, we are not too many. We are not strangers. Rather, we share our ideas, music, food, our reflections and remembrances. Even in a time of separation, we are not alone. We are enlightened, smart, talented, fascinating in our range of professions and passions. We are diverse individuals; yet, we share a common bond, our shared vision of Judaism and our desire to, together, heal an aching world. I love our distinctive shtetl, our unique community we call Or Zarua.

Rochelle O-W


Or Zarua provides many opportunities to think and express yourself in a supportive community with a very caring, special leader, Rabbi Shelly Barnathan. For me, despite the disorientation and stress of the last year, services, Torah Study and other gatherings around holidays and other activities may not have helped make sense out of what confronted me, but gave me support to recognize and talk about what I was wrestling with.

Judy H.


We feel fortunate to have Or Zarua as a part of our lives. It is a respectful active community, filled with learning, music, stories, prayers, and friendship. Rabbi Shelly has succeeded in forming and guiding this truly wonderful co-constructed community, offering us connections with our spiritual selves and expanding our horizons.

Sari and Ethan F.


Or Zarua is a community, in the best sense of the word. Each member brings their own interests, talents, abilities, concerns, and needs into this Jewish context, led by knowledgeable and compassionate Reconstructionist Rabbi Shelly Barnathan. Together, we work toward lifting up Jewish values and Jewish practice amid all the complexities of the modern world. Some of us work toward Tikkun Olam (repairing the world) and social justice through our interfaith work and deep learning in the Anti-Racism Discussion and Action group. Artists in our midst, poets and painters, storytellers and bakers, share their talents, processes, and products with us in the spirit of T’rumah, holy contribution. Our Torah Study is lay-led. The insights of each member are valued alongside those from members who have studied deeply. We are together in times of sorrow, and in times of great joy, and throughout we know that we are safe and valued, as members of a loving community.

NancyLee B.


Rabbi Shelly Barnathan has created a spiritual community in which all members are encouraged to bring forth their unique skills to learn, pray and practice active hope. This could not be truer than what we have all endured during this unprecedented year of sheltering in, racial protesting, and the very threat of our democracy being destroyed. No matter whether I was a leader or a learner, the collective vulnerability of the OZ membership served to nourish and sustain me during these challenging times. I am filled with gratitude to everyone at OZ, especially Rabbi Shelly, for being there for me in all ways when I needed it the most.

Carol D.


I have observed that Or Zarua serves different purposes for different individuals and families with different life situations; although needs and interests are met in different ways, something that remains constant is that Or Zarua is a safe home for all.

As a person who yearns to be part of a Jewish community and is not sure what that means at this stage of life, it allows me to come and go with different spurts of energy, presence, interests, and needs. It is a place in which I always feel welcomed, regardless of what degree I can be immersed with total body and heart.

I have been and continue to be in a state of transition, trying to find my voice, for so many years. Although it is probably a common feeling, it sometimes feels unusual when I see so many community members grasp this wonderful opportunity with both hands and heart. This opportunity can be a gift and can also be scary.

During this unusual year of COVID -19, racism, and other “isms” blatantly in action before our eyes, and an election with a hopeful outcome, Rabbi Shelly, her husband Elliot, and a team of engaged committed supporters have made available an assortment of programming in which there is something for everyone.

What I love most is that Rabbi Shelly continually notices, acknowledges, honors, and connects with her flock and inspires others to do the same. Its members are an inspiration to me. This is a community that I want to be a part of and know that it is a process for me. It can be an anchor. A source of joy. A source of sharing, learning, growing and acceptance. And again, it is a process to fully embrace.

I appreciate Rabbi Shelly’s commitment to incorporating different people’s learning styles. She is a natural. The multi-sensory nature of the programming is awesome……. especially challenging during this period of being together through Zoom. I appreciate that she encourages all to share their talents and passions with the community.

Margie S.

June, 2020

Lani S.

I love the inclusiveness, the social justice efforts, and the education provided that not only leads to a better world but broadens my understanding and appreciation.


Barbara C-K.

What I appreciate most about Or Zarua is being part of a sacred community that is just the right size so that each one of us knows everyone in the community and every person counts, every voice is heard. I especially appreciate Rabbi Shelly, who has a unique ability to recognize the special contribution each person can make and to nurture that talent. Thanks to Rabbi Shelly’s efforts, we are truly a co-created community in which each member contributes and is celebrated for what they bring.


Beth B.

There are so many things I treasure about Or Zarua as a spiritual and religious community. Rabbi Shelly is the most authentic, personally connected and grounded Rabbi I have ever had the pleasure to know and worship with. Her capacity to relate to each and every member of her community in an intimate manner is unique and a blessing. Her sermons, Torah portion learnings and the like always leave me exploring deeper concepts both from the perspective of Judaism, and existential and practical questions of life. And her concept of a co-constructed community brings us all together in a manner which honors everyone's unique talents and skills and this imbues each service or event with a singular quality. Poetic, spiritual, sacred, musical, connected, caring, inspired, expansive, intellectually and aesthetically stimulating, Tikkun Olam - these are just a few of the words/phrases that also describe the qualities of Or Zarua. Come join our family!


Tammy F.

The many thoughtful offerings. The sense of community. Couldn’t ask for a better Rabbi! 


Barbara E.

Or Zarua is a warm, spiritual home led by Rabbi Shelly and her wisdom, as well as with thoughtful, caring members. It combines Reconstructionist services with a variety of creative activities led by our members.


Debby S-S.

I appreciate the "holding in the light" of each member and who they are, and encouraging their participation in the community in ways that reflect their spiritual and personal passions....

I appreciate the co-constructionist model of community and leadership that Rabbi Shelly has embodied - her authenticity, compassion, and humanity which sets the stage for all of us to receive and give in kind.


Esther and Bern S.

Clearly, our belonging to Or Zarua has enriched our lives. Through Rabbi Shelly Barnathan’s warm presence, compassion and guidance in reaching for our “better selves,” we are inspired.

In the community that has emerged we find comfort, shared values and deep appreciation for many talents and welcoming spirits.

We’ve found a peacefulness in joining together for musical Kabbalat Shabbat. Ever evolving are new offerings for learning, for growing , for pleasure. Or Zarua possesses a vibrancy, as our community responds to needs of our larger environs and our world.

Arnie F.

At Or Zarua, the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The feeling of community working together is prime. I appreciate our:

1. Shabbat Services- A time for prayer, discussion, and socialization. A time when individual members contribute to the service, which Reb Shel leads with prayer, song and reflections.

2. Our Tikkun Olam efforts - Establishing funds to purchase food from local establishments which we distribute to ICU workers at Lankenau to show our appreciation for their work.

3. Our community celebrations - Opportunities for members to cook, create, and enjoy together. e.g. Purim - The food, the spiel, and eating together. A most lively time.

Steve S.

I appreciate the relatively informal atmosphere of the congregation. I especially appreciate the way we support each other... No one is more important than the other at Or Zarua.