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Meet Bryna Rifkind

I came to Or Shalom in 1993, while searching for a better place to practice my religious beliefs, when a colleague recommended Or Shalom. I met with Rabbi Pam and was impressed with her ideas of Or Shalom’s philosophy and after attending services I knew I found a match.  There was a good blend of traditional and contemporary ideas. Right from the start, I appreciated the sense of community; the diversity and encouragement—not just tolerance but encouragement—of different beliefs and practices.  And as an educator, Or Shalom’s approach to not only teach but empower young people was right on target.
Through Or Shalom I found a community, really a family, dedicated to the best of both Jewish and Humanistic ideals.  I participated in the first all-women seder when Or Shalom met at Saint John’s and in 2002 was part of the 8 Mitzvah Chicks who became Bat Mitzvah together.  The music ensemble was another opportunity to become part of the family. It took me a long time to get up on the bimah with the rest of them because the music often moves me to tears and I was afraid that everybody would see me cry—I’m a big crier!—especially during Avinu Malkenu. For the first few years I used to sit in the pews and harmonize from there until I had the courage to join the ensemble. 

My parents were always very active in the temple in New Jersey and Florida and my dad followed the belief that “Life is like a tennis game - you can’t begin to play until you serve”.  So to continue that belief, I volunteer in the office and Bet Sefer school weekly, remembering how both my parents worked passionately for their temples. Rabbi Katie’s wisdom, encouragement, and leadership have forever tied me to Or Shalom; from the incredible High Holy Day services to her thoughtful planning of the congregation’s first-ever trip to Israel and Palestine, of which I was the first to sign up!  I feel proud and honored to tell people I’m a member of Or Shalom.

I Give To Or Shalom because it brings me so much happiness and joy to see young people raised with a Judaism that includes them and inspires them to be better people. Through volunteering at the school, teaching art at the retreat, and just getting to know the families, I am fortunate to see these kids grow up and become really something, right before my eyes. I hope you join me in making a gift to Or Shalom's Annual Fund because together we can be the community that allows all of us to thrive.

Wed, July 6 2022 7 Tammuz 5782