With great pomp, Or Shalom marches to new home

Singing, walking spiritedly and taking turns carrying a 400-year-old Torah, 130 people helped Or Shalom Jewish Community move to its new home by participating in a 3-mile procession across the southwestern neighborhoods of San Francisco last weekend.

Rabbi Katie Mizrahi carries the Torah at the start of its journey. photo/gilberto ramirez

The Feb. 23 ceremonial march began with a morning ceremony of “gratitude and farewell” at Or Shalom’s home for nine years, Congregation Ner Tamid on Quintara Street in the Sunset District.

It concluded about two hours later at 625 Brotherhood Way at Congregation Beth Israel Judea — Or Shalom’s new home for at least the next six years. The marchers were met by dozens of BIJ members with handmade signs of welcome.

“It was an amazing event, chock full of rousing spirit,” said Or Shalom member Danny Brook. “A special and spiritual once-in-a-lifetime ritual … And we felt so warmly welcomed by the kindhearted people of Beth Israel Judea.”

Mike Travers holds the Torah between Judy Olasov (left) and Betsy Strausberg. photo/shae hancock

This is no merger, however, as the two synagogues will remain independent. Or Shalom, a Reconstructionist congregation, is sharing space with Reform Beth Israel Judea in a lease agreement.

The move was necessitated by Or Shalom’s growth in recent years to 175 families. The liberal congregation was founded in 1991.

The new arrangement is being billed as a “village of Jewish communities,” as the location also is the home of Brandeis Hillel Day School and a JCC of San Francisco preschool.

Participants in the march, led by temple president Corey Weinstein, called the procession and the Hanukkat HaBayit (dedicating a new home) a “magical event.” The chuppah that shielded the Torah from the sun during the walk was created by the kids in Or Shalom’s religious school.

“We laughed, cried and celebrated together as a community,” said Shae Hancock, the temple’s administrative assistant. “That is what Or Shalom is all about.”