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past eventS

Visit to a mosque in bernal heights

On December 30, 2015, members of Or Shalom and other groups visited a mosque in Bernal Heights. We went around the commercial center of the neighborhood offering signs that read Stop Profiling Muslims. We then returned to the mosque, where we were warmly greeted with hot tea (it was probably the coldest day of the year in SF) and sweets. We arrived just before the 5 o'clock prayer service and were invited to sit in the back to observe while we drank our tea.

After the brief service the Imam explained to the congregation that we were there as Jews and other community members concerned about the rise of Islamophobia. I read aloud to the assembled a moving letter put out by Groundswell that we had all signed (along with almost 30,000 other Americans) pledging to defend against Islamophobia.

Our plan was to go out and knock on doors along the street where the mosque is located and ask neighbors to put up signs. Many members of the congregation wanted to join with us. However, there were many of our group who ended up staying behind at the mosque, as they were deeply involved in discussions with congregants there.

The canvassing went extremely well, with nearly everyone appreciating what we were doing and hardly anyone refusing a sign. All in all, I think it was an effective and truly enriching experience for all of us. I have never been more proud to be a part of Or Shalom. OS members who showed up were Allan Pleanor, Margo Freistadt, Laura Bresler, Jody Reiss, and a few others whose names I didn't know.  Please let me know if you were there.

We are considering doing more of this type of outreach to other mosques (there are a total of 5 in SF).  If this is something that interests you, please contact me via email at:

Thank you,

Elliot Helman

Evening of Healing and Learning

Our evening of Healing and Learning in December was attended by 22 people. Many contributed profoundly honest and heartfelt accounts of their relationship to depression and suicidality. Rabbi Me'irah Iliinksy shares her reflections below:

Our Evening of Healing and Learning was a profound and unique experience. We began with the chant Ozi, v’zimrat Yah—“My strength, and the song of the Great Mystery will be for me salvation.” We read a portion of Psalm 22, a lament, “My God My God, why have you forsaken me?” in order to put poetry to an often indescribable state of despair. We used a shofar for a talking stick, symbolizing the intent that depression in our community shall have a voice, in order that we may support each other. Many people shared either their own experience, or their experiences with family and friends with depression. We paused and lit Hanukkah candles to remember that light can only shine in the midst of darkness. We sang the healing prayer, and Ozi again. Then we listened to what is helpful and what is not.

We learned that simply (and it’s not so simple) BEING with someone is most helpful. Asking “How are you?” and really listening to the answer is helpful. Suggesting treatments, saying “This will pass…” (in the many ways that can be said) is NOT helpful. We learned that different people have different experiences with depression and suicidal thinking, that what is helpful to some may not be so for all, that there are many side effects to medication, and that sometimes medication simply doesn’t work. 

The depth of trust and openness in the group was very moving, and attests to the strength of our community. It also shows how much potential support we might offer as we integrate the concept into our culture at Or Shalom.

We thought of some options to help weave this new awareness into our community:

1. Watch Andrew Solomon's TED Talk (30 min.) Depression, the secret we share and discuss it together.

2. Read Solomon's book The Noonday Demon and discuss together.

3. Attend a performance of Brian Copeland’s The Waiting Period, about a man who planned suicide by gun, but in the 30 day waiting period between purchase and possession, changed his mind. He is raising money to perform this for free for a year and, if you are so moved, you can contribute to this effort by searching for Brian Copeland at

4. Study the psalms of lament, and then write our own. 

With so much blessing,

Rabbi Me’irah

Community Retreat

Here’s what one Or Shalom family wrote about Or Shalom's annual community retreat:

We and our kids loved it. Rabbi Katie set a wonderful tone for the gathering. There were plenty of excellent activities planned, but nothing was required. If you wanted to observe Shabbat by doing your own thing, that was perfectly in the spirit of the retreat.

Our girls loved learning songs, doing crafts, playing outside. And because our children liked the activities so much, we had plenty of time on our own.

It was delightful to get out of the city. It was springtime, the flowers were in bloom, and we slept in a tent under the stars.

Delicious meals were prepared for us. There were opportunities to sing and study Torah outdoors in the shade of giant oak trees, time to take a quiet walk, time to make new friends and time to rest.

The retreat hit the spot for us and our kids. Were all looking forward to returning this year. 


Popcorn included! Past movies we’ve enjoyed include The Return of Sarah's Daughters, Children of Chabon and Havana Curveball.

Havdalah Jams

A musical jam and informal community party at which we light Havdalah candles, chant the prayers, smell the spices and bid farewell to Shabbat.


A community gathering in Golden Gate Park to say goodbye to summer and celebrate new beginnings.

Sun, November 18 2018 10 Kislev 5779