Tributes to OZ

From our members, what are the Top Three Things 

that you appreciate most about Or Zarua?

Seven plus years ago through your vision and tenacious day to day energy, Rabbi Shelly, you launched what has become a most treasured part of our lives. Through your example we are guided, each encouraged to be our most authentic self. I often reflect upon this gift of our belonging…of being nourished by all in our midst and I recognize our good fortune. Thank you Rabbi Shelly and Rebbitzman Elliot and all who help to sustain our Or Zarua.


The co-constructed nature of OZ; members are encouraged and supported to engage in and lead in ways that reflect their interests and growing edges, resulting in invaluable contributions to the ongoing life and offerings of OZ.

The freedom to have a voice and belong and participate on my own terms.

R. Shelly's authenticity as a leader, i.e. the genuinely sacred spirit and values she brings to each OZ member and to the community as a whole.

Debby S-S 

1. Or Zarua is that which cannot be described. It's a holy spirit.

2. Being part of a community that does meaningful work.

3. Learning, growing, sharing in the experience of life (the joy, the sorrow), continuing Jewish traditions from our ancestors, the rituals (births, mitzvah's, mourning, prayers for healing, holiday traditions), music, stories, Torah Study, helping others in need. 

                                                                                                                                                                                                               Mendel G. 

Rabbi Shelly--She genuinely sees the shining light in everyone.  Her knowledge of each and  every member and the respect, support, validation and more with which she treats them and recognizes individual differences is nothing less than remarkable and truly holy. 

Congregants--The congregation of “heimish” people in the same life cycle stage, specifically “boomers”, creates a warm and welcoming community.

Classes--The classes are interesting, relevant and thought provoking, taught by experts in the field.  They provide an excellent way of meeting and interacting on a meaningful and personal level with other congregants.  In that way you are learning and thinking about  subject matter while at the same time creating community.

Margie B 

I appreciate that I can study Torah with remarkable Or Zarua members.

Florence M 

Friendship, Caring, Community

Jaci T 

Compassion, Congregant Participation, Intimacy

Marc L 

As a co-constructed congregation, everyone has an opportunity to participate in and design programming that is rich and meaningful. 

The environment of the congregation is open and welcoming, not cliquey, with many people willing to reach out and befriend newcomers. 

Rabbi Shelly provides wise and caring leadership that is supportive and compassionate in times of need and is exuberant and enthusiastic in times of celebration. 

Lawrence S 

Or Zarua is a welcoming community that makes everyone feel valued and appreciated. Rabbi Shelly models caring and respect for all.

The programming at Or Zarua has something for everyone and Rabbi Shelly is so supportive and encouraging of all members to lead and participate. 

Or Zarua is a safe space for everyone to explore their spirituality. There are so many opportunities to learn and participate in making the world a better place. Rabbi Shelly has forged relationships with spiritual community leaders from all faiths allowing Or Zarua members to participate in interfaith efforts for social justice and peace. 

Lisa A 

Our caring, energetic, values driven Rabbi.

Our community that stands for and stands with. 

The truly meaningful Jewish space to reflect and learn.

Cyd W 

It’s a “co-constructed” congregation where each member shares their “light” or special interest or gift to share. 

Or Zarua has no hierarchy; there is no board or officers -everyone pitches in and helps out as needed.

Through Or Zarua, we have made new friends which you don’t often do when you’re older.

Rabbi Shelly is our wise, and above all, caring leader. 

Carol C

I appreciate Rabbi Shelly's commitment to co-construction. She leads the Or Zarua community with clear spiritual eyes and an open heart, while also welcoming the leadership and gifts of others!

I appreciate the great depth of caring of Or Zarua members, and the genuine interest people have in one another's lives. Or Zarua creates a space where warmth, sensitivity, and gratitude are freely expressed from the anchoring of a spiritual foundation. We need more of this in the world!

I appreciate the range of social justice causes and charitable organizations with which Or Zarua is involved, and to which Rabbi Shelly and OZ members bring awareness.

Molly H 

Or Zarua is a synagogue community which helps create meaning from traditional Jewish teachings and weave Judaism into daily life. In services, Rabbi Shelly retains tradition while also incorporating contemporary readings and current events into what I refer to as “applicable Judaism”.   She is masterful at engaging people in the congregation at whatever level they are comfortable or able to participate. Through the pandemic and years of online services she kept up that ability to engage and now is able to navigate hybrid services in a way that involves the remote participants as successfully as the in-person ones. Additionally, I just love Molly Hicks’ singing!

Laurie L 

I appreciate being included in the High Holiday services, rolling the Torah and chanting from the Torah. The warmth and caring nature of Rabbi Shelly and her readiness to listen with all of her being

Sylvan H 

We are part of a good-hearted community that we love and respect.

We see in the Torah connections to our lives and ways of being in the world with other people.  We are not boxed in, but opened up.

We reconstruct Judaism with wide open arms, encouraged by Rabbi Shelly.

Abby and Tom B 

What I love about Or Zarua: Rabbi Shelly who embodies and facilitates authenticity, sensitivity and equity in the life of the congregation. And Grace.

Marjorie B

I appreciate the attention R. Shelly brings to social justice issues.

I appreciate the diversity and commitment congregants bring to social justice issues.

I appreciate how Jewish values are ever present in the community.

Judy G 

The things that I most appreciate about OZ- 

Rabbi Shelly

Torah Study with Reb Arnie and the people that contribute to the discussion.

The opportunity to make new friends at this point in my life.

Molly’s beautiful voice in our services.

Elliot C 

The sense of community and connectedness members share with each other 

The way that Rabbi Shelly encourages the unique gifts and talents of each member so that we are all enriched by what each member brings to the congregation 

The fact that a real effort is made to embody the spiritual values we talk about on Shabbat and holidays in activism aimed at the world around us 

Barbara C-K, z"l

We appreciate the sense of community that everyone is trying to create and the acceptance of each member’s different levels of needs for such community.  

I appreciate that no one tries to dominate the political and social conscience discussions and tries to listen and learn from others who may have had different experiences with Judaism and organized (and dis-organized) religion.   

I appreciate the use of music to add spirituality to our services and the many talented members of the communIty who share their talent with all of us. 

Most of all we appreciate the leadership of Rabbi Shelly who reaches out to members of the community who are going through difficult times to provide support and friendship.

Cheryl and Richard G 

Rabbi Shelly, Rabbi Shelly, Rabbi Shelly!

Karyn S 

R. Shelly allows each person to feel welcome and appreciated, no matter their level of participation.

Our community reflects our love of learning and expanding relationships with our members but also with other faith communities with whom you’ve developed close ties so that we have understandings of our neighbors.

Being a part of Or Zarua has enabled us to know and deeply appreciate so many people of quality with shared values and who set examples of “Menschlichkeit.”

Molly Hicks and Marvin Weinberger and our community of other musicians, poets and artists help to set the mood for peaceful Shabbatot. 

I love the way in which R. Shelly finds ways to include into our Services the creativity of so many in our midst.

Esther and Bern S

I am extremely grateful for the kindness and compassion of OZ members, not only to and for each other, but also toward important causes in the local community needing care and attention. 

I’m also grateful for the breadth and depth of talents this community has, their willingness to share them and our good fortune to then learn from each other. 

Gratitude for Rabbi Shelly’s leadership, love and personal connection to each and every person, her wisdom, vision and spiritual and religious knowledge and her concept of co-creating. 

Appreciate deeply Rabbi Shelly’s willingness to challenge and/or examine traditional held beliefs within Judaism and help us all stretch beyond fixed beliefs to a more current perspective. And she approaches it all and models deep listening and respect. 

Beth B

Rabbi Shelley has a special way about her that makes you feel welcomed, wanted and valued.  

There is a place and appreciation for you no matter what your level of participation is or where your religious and spiritual practices lie. 


The congregation cares.  We educate ourselves about social justice issues, support organizations and individuals in need, nurture one another through challenging times and celebrate each others’ milestones. 


Thank you Rabbi Shelly for creating Or Zarua.

Sharon E

Rabbi Shelly sets the warm welcoming tone for the congregation and her commitment to the humanist values inspires me both in good times and difficult times

The synagogue offers a wide variety of opportunities to engage in ways that are meaningful to each person

Members of the congregation share values, are warm and welcoming 

Services, especially on the High Holidays, are very meaningful- I value the combination of Jewish traditions and modern interpretations led by Rabbi Shelly and enriched by the participation of congregants.

Eleanor B

 Or Zarua is literally and figuratively a reflection of Rabbi Shelly's light. She shines on everyone, illuminating (and exaggerating?!) the best in each of us so that we naturally strive to become her better vision of ourselves.  In order to elevate us, Rabbi Shelly has to know us. And she does. Rabbi Shelly prioritizes making personal, meaningful and ongoing connections with all of her congregants and their families. 

Rabbi Shelly's relationship with Judaism is similarly based on intimate knowledge and a loving interpretation. Because it's so personal, Rabbi Shelly shares Jewish teachings and rituals in a way that complements and resonates with our sense of humanity.  "Services" are rich, lively, interactive and accessible in a way that more traditional observance never was for me.  

Practice is a "want to," not a "should." And that practice extends, most importantly and profoundly, way beyond the "walls" of a synagogue.  

People who are drawn to Or Zarua want an authentic relationship with Judaism. We all come from different religious pasts, and we all want something different. We are an energetic group with wide interests, talents, and backgrounds. We are open-minded and open-hearted. We are fun and serious and we love to sing (even if we can't). We share projects and holidays with other religious groups to deepen our understanding of humanity and to maximize our social impact.   We probably value learning and activism equally.

Sandi S and Michael S

Amazing opportunities to explore new experiences/learning

Opportunity to go deeper into already acquired interests

A real sensitivity to helping members handle medical emergencies/chronic illness.

An innovative rabbi

Audrey F

Our wise, kind and brilliant rabbi, who prioritizes relationships and connections and continues to build a flexible community of caring.

Our programs, especially the monthly poetry workshops and wise aging.

Our members, who are such fine and caring folks.

Cathy C

My top two are the community and the rabbi.

Kathy H-P

Reb Shelly -- Who helps ground us in the rhythm of Jewish life -- holidays, life cycle, with engagement in the issues of the day.  She is always there with compassion, care, joy and wisdom.

An intentional community -- values-centered and welcoming.

The variety of ways to connect to our Jewish selves and the wider community. 

Abby S-H

I appreciate Rabbi Shelly’s kind, caring, compassionate leadership. I appreciate the community outreach and inclusive perspective of the congregation. I appreciate the willingness of the community to embrace each congregant at whatever level they are able to be involved. 

Linda H

Discussion at Or Zarua is fruitful and fair, people listen to each other respectfully and when making decisions, value consensus.

Rabbi Shelly supports an environment where people are encouraged to participate at whatever level is comfortable for them.  

Before Covid, services were held in different people’s homes and at the Haverford Quaker Meetinghouse. While Covid changed our modus operandi to zoom, Rabbi Shelly worked hard to keep our gatherings welcoming, instead of losing their intimacy.   Rabbi Shelly even attracted people from outside our local congregation to join us.  They are still with us as we balance meetings in person and maintaining zoom for people who cannot attend. 

Judy H, z"l

Rabbi Shelly's availability to offer support in a most caring way.

Congregation support of families dealing with illness, loss, etc. e.g. Mendel G.'s preparing awesome meals delivered to homes.

Opportunities for congregants to lead/participate in a wide variety of activities; eg. Maggidah Barbara telling relevant stories as part of services.

My opportunity to lead Torah Study. 

Arnie F 

Rabbi Shelly is the driving force of Or Zarua and she should be so proud of her accomplishments!

I appreciate the Or Zarua community, and the variety of offerings that I enjoy like Shabbat services, yoga, qigong and the social justice group.   

I like that Or Zarua is involved in the local community, and even though I live far away I can find similar volunteer opportunities in my community.

I appreciate Or Zarua’s focus on human kindness and diversity.

Nina B 

It is impossible to think about OZ without being filled with gratitude to Rabbi Shelly.

Her remarkable skill at connecting and creating this vibrant community are unparalleled.

OZ allows each person to be true to who they are, to teach others and to learn from each other.

Oz is a place where emphasis is on your spiritual growth. Even in the political arena.

Carol D 

1) being part of a community of interesting, kind, and enjoyable people who share our values and traditions

2) the presence of Rabbi Shelly...who provides thoughtful and wise leadership

3) the personal touch that each member of Or Zarua receives....from the other members, the rabbi, the staff,.. from everyone........ there is a culture of caring that is a core part of the Or Zarua community.

Fern and Barry S.

1. Warm and inclusive community 

2. Engaging conversations

3. Support for each other and others

Donna and Neil S.

We appreciate the opportunity to learn and share new skills with the OZ community.

We love the wisdom and honesty that Rabbi Shelly brings to us through our Jewish practices.  

We love our Interfaith Sing and all the music that Molly and Rabbi Shelly lead us through with so much spirit.

We appreciate meeting so many caring and dedicated people through OZ.