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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:
Larisa Averbakh

Office Manager:
Lauren Porter

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Our Religious School

Mission Statement

  • Promote pride in Jewish identity, Jewish values and the Jewish people
  • Develop a knowledge of the Bible, Jewish holidays, and Jewish history
  • Create a love for God, home, and community
  • Foster an interest in and connection with Israel
  • Connect daily living and the cycle of Jewish life
  • Instill a commitment to synagogue, study, prayer and mitzvot

Education Director:

Larisa Averbakh is thrilled and honored to become a part of the Or Tamid family! Larisa grew up in Leningrad during the time when everything Jewish was silently and almost completely forbidden. Her family encouraged her initial curiosity in Judaism and Jewish culture. Among her family’s treasured possessions were vinyl recordings of the great cantors of old, preserved by her grandparents, the records of courageous Yiddish singers and actors of the Soviet era, bought by her parents during more liberal times, as well as books by great Yiddish authors like Sholom Aleichem and I.-L. Peretz in Russian translation.  They helped to preserve her “pintele yid”, the spark of Jewishness, and provided a sense of inner freedom and spirituality in the closed and oppressive society.


Luckily her student years coincided with perestroika and great changes in the Soviet system that ultimately led to the downfall of the USSR. With the new taste of democracy, she embraced the opportunity to openly practice Judaism, study Hebrew and Yiddish, Jewish history and culture. She enrolled into St. Petersburg Jewish University to pursue a degree in Jewish Education, and eventually became a faculty member there. She was selected to participate in a prestigious “Mechanchim B’chirim” coursework at the Melton Center for Jewish Education in Diaspora at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. Since 1992, Larisa has been teaching Jewish music, history, and Hebrew in various Day and Sunday schools, as well as leading numerous seminars for teachers, organized by St. Petersburg Jewish University, Sochnut, and Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz’s Yeshiva M’kor Chayim in Moscow.   She was privileged to sing and conduct the children’s choir for the late Prime Minister, Yitzchak Rabin, during his historic visit to Russia in 1994. She also extensively performed recitals of Jewish folk and art music.


In 1997 Larisa immigrated to the United States to study at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, which she graduated in 2002 with a Master’s Degree in Sacred Music, and a Cantorial ordination.

Since then, she has been serving Beth Israel in Northfield, New Jersey. The highlights of her work over the years have included teaching music, t’filah and chanting of the Torah in Beth Israel Religious school, creating the children’s choir, writing and directing school Purim spiels, co-producing and directing the Holocaust era children’s opera, Brundibar, with all children’s cast, in collaboration with the Katz JCC and Stockton University of New Jersey, establishing interfaith relationship with the New Hope Baptist Church of Atlantic City, and adult education classes.


Cantor Larisa and her husband, Dmitri Leiderman, have two children, Michael and Pauline, who also speak fluent Russian and share their parents’ love of music.


Education Chair:  Ben Shender

Education Director:  Larisa Averbakh

School Hours

Gan (Kindergarten)* Sundays 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
Alef (1st grade) Sundays 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
Bet (2nd grade) Sundays 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
Gimmel to Zayin (3rd to 7th grades) Sundays 9:00 a.m.-12:00 noon
Tuesdays 4:15 p.m.-6:15 p.m.

*Age 5 by September 1st

We now have a joint program with Congregation Beth El Ner Tamid called Or Tamid.  Classes meet at Or Shalom for the fall semester and at Congregation Beth El Ner Tamid for the spring semester.  Check the Or Shalom Calendar for special events and exceptions.  Classes meet at individual synagogues on week days.


Our curriculum has four primary components: Hebrew through prayer, Torah, Israel and Jewish Life. The curriculum is designed to give students a broad overview of Jewish traditions and beliefs. Learning in each grade builds upon what was learned the previous year.

Hebrew The Hebrew component emphasizes the study of Hebrew through prayer. It combines Hebrew reading skills with a study of selections from the siddur. Upon completion of the course of study the student will be able to: (1) read prayers in the siddur in Hebrew; (2) demonstrate an understanding of key prayer words and concepts; (3) understand the order of prayers in the siddur; (4) participate in and lead prayer services; and (5) participate actively in home ritual observances.

Torah    Students will learn Torah on a regular basis.  In the younger grades they will learn Torah stories and in the older grades, they will study the weekly Parsha including Commentaries

Israel  Although the students don’t study this as a regular subject; it is woven throughout all of the other subjects.  The students will develop a connection to Israel as the homeland for all Jews.  The land of our ancestors and a place to visit, support, and care for.

The Jewish Life component allows for focused study of selected topics in each grade. Upon completion of the course of study, the student will be able, on a basic level, to (1) identify the Jewish holidays and the history, customs and rituals associated with each holiday; (2) articulate a personal theology; (3) identify customs and rituals of significant life-cycle events; (4) understand the historical continuity of the Jewish people; and (5) be prepared to become active participants in the Jewish community.

Youth Group

Our youth group is affiliated with BBYO.

High schoolers are encouraged to come to our events and register for membership at Both teens and their parents will be prompted to set up b-linked accounts. I have attached a link for our Liberty Region conventions. Upcoming events will be posted

We hope that WCBBYO (visit can be a place for your teens to feel included in a diverse group of Jewish teens who obserance and customs differ, along with their  extra-curricular activities. We come together with acceptance and appreciation for individual differences. The goal is for everyone to have fun while leadering these chapter through programming of events that incorporate our “folds” Judaism/ Jewish heritage, creativity, brotherhood/sisterhood, recreation/athletism, community service/social action, and education. BBYO prides itself on being teen-led; most planning and decisions are made by the teens

Post B’nai Mitzvah

Our students are enrolled in a joint program with Congregation Beth-El Ner Tamid (CBENT) in Broomall.  The program meets on Sunday morning with occasional sessions on Wednesday afternoon.  Most sessions are held  at CBENT with trips to museums etc.  Some activities are also held at Or Shalom

Weather Related Closing Information

An email will be sent to all parents informing them if school is cancelled.  Please make sure that the synagogue has up to date email addresses for all contacts.

Registration Form: OTRS 2020-21 REGISTRATION & PERMISSION