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Congregation Or Shalom
835 Darby Paoli Road
Berwyn, PA 19312
Tel: 610-644-9086


Kami Knapp Schechter

Andrew Levin

Education Director:

Office Manager:
Lauren Porter

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Last One to Repair the World…

2-4-6-8- Who Do We Appreciate!

On Saturday February 1, the Or Shalom Sisterhood and Social Action Committee teamed up to host a screening of the movie Crime After Crime. More than 20 people braved the cold to watch this powerful story about the legal battle to free Debbie Peagler, an incarcerated survivor of domestic violence.

Together, we raised more than $741 for organizations that support domestic violence survivors! Kudos to everyone who made this program a success:

  • Sponsors Julie and Harris Miller, Gina and Mike Arlen, Houston Jewish Community, and Ellen Gross
  • Sharon LiebhaberRabbi Jacob, and Ellen Austin for their enlightening panel discussion
  • Larry and Matt Bilker for the audio-visual (and popcorn) set up
  • Paula Blaustein for preparing the snacks and drinks
  • Beth Burak and BettyAnn Monash for their ticket-taking help

Domestic Violence Resources

JWI Needs Assessment: A Portrait of Domestic Abuse in the Jewish Community 

FAQs About Domestic Violence

Emerge Counseling and Education to Stop Domestic Violence 

Pennsylvania Coalition Against Domestic Violence 

Women Against Abuse 

Domestic Violence In Philadelphia


A Helping Hand 

Rough economic times shouldn’t prevent any family from holding their Passover Seder. If anyone in the Congregation needs help obtaining Seder staples, please contact Rabbi Jacob in confidence.



Sisterhood News March 201

Thanks so much to Eileen and Jeff Kosterich for being such gracious hosts for our first Sisterhood Happy Hour in February.  We enjoyed good food, conversation and Cosmos.  I will organize another Happy Hour for late April or early May.  Please let me know if you would like to host.

Purim is around the corner.  Join us on March 13 at 10 AM to help pack the Shalach Manot boxes.  Bring the kids and grandkids to the annual Purim carnival on March 16.  Thank you, Julie Miller, for organizing the sale of the Shalach Manot.

Thanks again to Dan Bernick for organizing a wonderful Men’s Club/Sisterhood brunch on February 23rd.

Sisterhood President



What is a Leap Year?

This year is a leap year in the Jewish calendar. As educators, an extra month before Purim is a great breather.  It gives us some more space to teach in between the holidays that come rapidly at this time of year. Having two Adars brings much joy to our lives, since it stated in the Talmud: “When Adar comes, be happy”(Mishenichnas Adar marbin b’simcha!). So, we are commended to be happy this year for two months instead of one. Why not? It definitely can’t hurt.


Here is some information regarding the leap year:


The people of Israel were given two different commandments that contradict each other: To use the lunar calendar and to celebrate Passover in the spring. If we use only the lunar calendar, the holiday of Pesach won’t always fall in the spring and that will cause us a problem with the second commandment. In order to fulfill both of these commandments, the Rabbis added a 13th month to a year every few years. On a leap year we have two Adars (Adar 1 and Adar 2), to make sure that when Nisan comes (the month of Pesach) it will be springtime.


The Jewish “leap year”, which occurs seven times in a 19-year cycle, has 13 months instead of the regular year’s 12. This is so that the lunar-based Jewish year should remain aligned with the solar seasons (12 lunar months make up a total of 354 days — slightly more than 11 days short of the 365.25 day solar cycle).


An interesting fact to know is that the Muslims use only the lunar calendar and this is the reason for the change of the seasons of which their holidays fall on. Their holidays don’t connect to the seasons like the Jewish calendar. For example, when they have the month of the Ramadan in the summer, it is much harder to fast for a month rather than when it is fall in the winter. As Jews, our calendar is strongly connected to the agriculture and the seasons. Can you picture sitting in the Sukkah in the middle of winter, or gathering the harvest in the spring, before the crops are ripe and ready to be picked? It just won’t work!


To determine whether a Jewish year is a leap year, one must find its position in the 19-year Metonic cycle. This position is calculated by dividing the Jewish year number by 19 and finding the remainder. For example, Jewish year 5771 divided by 19 results in a remainder of 14, indicating that it is year 14 of the Metonic cycle. Since there is no year 0, a remainder of 0 indicates that the year is year 19 of the cycle. (See also Golden number (time).) Years 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17, and 19 the Metonic cycle are leap years.


Now, that you know all about the leap year, you understand that this year you have more time to prepare your costume for Purim. So, get to work! We would love to see some fun costumes on 3/15.



Modern Day Slavery

A few weeks ago, shortly after reading the story of the exodus from Egypt, we read about the laws pertaining to the Hebrew slave. It is jarring to read these two Torah passages almost side by side. How can the torah ignore our history and speak about slavery?

There are many partial answers to this question. The Torah is a document written for its time. While the Torah accepts the institution of slavery, it begins to ameliorate the life of the individual. While in the ancient world, a slave belonged to his master in perpetuity, the Hebrew slave was freed after six years. A slave’s worth was such that if he was killed, the master was given the death sentence (later effectively abolished by the rabbis). Later, sages issued further decrees easing their lot, yet even so, discussion of slavery is deeply disturbing, especially in light of what we know about human trafficking.

I was shocked to read about the women and girls being forced to ‘pleasure’ some of the men attending the recent super bowl, and that is just the tip of the iceberg of modern slavery.

Today there are men, women, and children everywhere who find themselves enslaved. Smugglers promise these people good jobs and a better life in a new land and then charge exorbitant fees for room and board.

This is how modern slavery begins. There need not be any physical restraints. Yet men, women and children are shackled by psychological and emotional coercion and threatened with actual violence.

To a lesser extent, another form of servitude is suffered by our working poor. As our nation debates a modest increase in the minimum wage, we must recognize that in our nation of abundance no one should work and be unable to feed his/her family

The Torah describes an ancient form of slavery. It then commands humane (for its time) treatment of the slave. It is a historic fact that the much of the leadership of the movement for abolition in our country and the underground railroad came from the very churches and synagogues that read about biblical slavery.

Even as we begin to plan for Passover, we must recognize the reality of modern slavery. Who are these oppressed men and women? They are the people who pick and produce the food you eat. They are the workers locked in factories making your clothing. They are the domestic workers taking care of the children next door. They are the women and girls being forced to sell their bodies.

Who will free them?


Commencement, Transition, Challenges and Triumph

Commencement: the beginning of one thing, and the end of another thing; a change in a position, status, or a season; a transition from one place to another. Sometimes we’re prepared for a change, and sometimes not. Some of life’s most valuable learning experiences comes from not being prepared when we’re facing a different position, status, or season.

This does not come without its challenges. It is said that challenges give us the opportunity to discover and exhibit our own strengths. We are placed in a position where we face success or failure, and we have to choose the course of action which we hope will give us the best possible result.

We are forced to make decisions that impact our lives, our livelihoods, our well being–as well as the lives of others.

As human beings, we can all relate to these statements.

One thing that the Jewish community as a whole can say is that it is a community which is driven by the spirit of love, family, and filled with a People who have the ability to repeatedly triumph over challenges–from opposing nations, situations, and circumstances; challenges with members of our own communities, in and out of our private circles.

We have triumphed over population challenges, housekeeping challenges, financial challenges; we have endured through seasons of oppression, suppression, and depression–and emerged standing.

Or Shalom has seen its share of challenges, and we have demontrated time and time again that we are a resilient community, filled with members who are committed to family, to our culture, and to working together to create an atmosphere where everyone can flourish and grow.

Purim is a time to celebrate yet another significant triumph in
Jewish history, and another opportunity to come together to nurture and cultivate a flourishing community.

At the commencement of a new season, this time is a reminder that our community thrives in the face challenges, transitions, and in the end, we do triumph.

Our Purim celebration begins on Saturday, March 15. The festivities will include a birthday celebration, ice cream and the Megillah reading. We look forward to having you with us for this
joyous occasion.


Movie Night at Or Shalom: “Crime After Crime”

Crime After Crime is a documentary film directed by Yoav Potash about Deborah Peagler, an incarcerated victim of domestic violence whose case was taken up by pro bono attorneys through The California Habeas Project.

Cost: $20 General Admission; $5 Teens (includes light refreshments)
Panel discussion to follow with Ellen Brotman Austin, Sharon Leibhaber, and Rabbi Jacob
Open to all Or Shalom members and the public age 13 and over.
RSVP to synagogue office.
Snow date: February 8
Sponsors needed at the $100, $200, and $300 level. Profits will be donated to charities that prevent domestic violence and aid victims

Black and White Clothing and Accessories Drive

Donations of new OR gently used women’s business wear are now being accepted through September 30!  We are collecting white tops/blouses; black bottoms (pants and skirts) and black and white accessories (jewelry, handbags, gently worn shoes and new pantyhose).  You may schedule a time to bring donations to the Or Shalom office by calling us at (610) 644-9086

All items collected will go to the Career Wardrobe, to benefit women who are transitioning into the workforce. 

As the nation’s largest independent non-profit of its kind, Career Wardrobe has been empowering women in transition by providing programs that inspire the confidence necessary to achieve self-sufficiency and pursue a productive career since 1995.   They do this by providing professional work attire, educational programs, and networking tools and opportunities. To date, Career Wardrobe has served more than 75,000 women in the Philadelphia area.

Gift Shop News

Shop Early, Shop Often, Shop First at the Or Shalom Gift Shop.  Need a new tallis? New a new shofar? Need a new honey dish? Need yahrzeit candles? Need wine?  The Or Shalom Gift Shop has it ALL for your High Holy Day observance needs.  L’Shana Tova!  For information, contact Binnie Donald.

Erev Rosh Hashanah Dessert Buffet

The Or Shalom Sisterhood will be sponsoring the annual Dessert Buffet on Rosh Hashanah eve, September 4th.  All are welcome after services to join the Rabbi and congregation for a delightful New Year get together.  Time to celebrate and catch up after the summer.