Or Shalom began with a group of San Franciscans who wanted a Judaism for their children that would teach peace, welcome interfaith families and allow diverse, questioning voices to be heard. From our founders’ aspirations came the name Or Shalom, Light of Peace.
In the beginning, our founding rabbi, Pam Frydman, taught classes for children in members’ living rooms. The shul’s principle, revolutionary at the time, was that attendance should be a child’s free choice. Religious school could not be required by the parents.
Over the next few years, a more formal organization for the community developed, and Or Shalom incorporated in 1991. At the outset, much of our liturgy was inspired by the Jewish Renewal movement. We met for services in members’ homes, a practice we maintain with our monthly Friday night service, the Traveling Shabbat. Over the years, we rented space from Synergy School, Noe Valley Ministry, St. John’s United Church of Christ and Congregation Ner Tamid.
Rabbi Katie Mizrahi joined us in 2007, leading our services with prayer, drash, drumming, chanting and singing. Our members voted to affiliate with the Reconstructionist denomination in 2008. In February 2014, we moved to our current home on Brotherhood Way. We carried our Torah scrolls beneath the ceremonial chuppah built by our children, singing our way across the Sunset District for the 2-mile hike to the building we now share with Congregation Beth Israel Judea.
Or Shalom continues to evolve, but our founding principles are very much with us. In our religious school, children from toddlers to high school age still affirm their choice to attend. Our services are still filled with music, and we continue to seek a Judaism that makes our lives richer and our world more peaceful.