In the Beginning 1995-1996
In the summer of 1995 twelve families approached Rabbi Louchheim to be the rabbi of a new congregation.
“More than 150 people attended the Or Chadash, New Light, first Friday Shabbat service on August 18” at the Zenith Center, 330 East 7th Street. Part of the congregation’s vision, according to Rabbi Louchheim, was to reshape the Shabbat ritual experience and to “offer a new perspective on our spiritual search for value and meaning.” (Arizona Jewish Post, September 1, 1995)
In late 1995, Friday night services moved from the Zenith Center to the Pavilion at the home of Peggy Hitchcock; while Torah study, some holiday celebrations, and the first religious school were at the home of Rabbi & Marcia Louchheim. Trudy (Wrubel) Haggard served as the first accompanist and cantorial soloist.
The congregation’s original members included: Fran Braverman, Gail Dent, Jane and Herb Elins, Belle Horwitz, Robert Klein, Bonnie and Oscar Krasner, Wendy Kreindler, William Louchheim, Sr., Saul Ostroff, Rise and Bill Rosenfeld, Connie and Ian Shalek, Emily (Wolitzky) Danies, and the board members below. The first Board of Directors was: President, Ken Jacowsky, Secretary, Betsy Sandlin, Vice President-Education, Steve Caine, Vice President-Membership: Pam Treiber Treasurer, Lois Jacowsky, with Members-at-large Elaine Nathanson, Rhonda Krinsky, Trudy Wrubel, and Marjie Klein.
Our First Torah Scroll:
In 1996, Goldie Silverman made a donation for purchasing a torah scroll in memory of her husband Jake. The Board of Directors of B’nai Sholem, an Orthodox congregation in St. Joseph, Missouri, decided to “gift” us with a scroll that Marcia Louchheim’s great-grandfather, Rabbi Joshua Frumhoff, had brought from Kharkov, Russia to B’nai Sholem. The congregation attended the scroll’s dedication Friday evening, January 29, 1999. Mary Ann Danin created a mantle and Fran Braverman donated two yaddim.
First Religious School:
Fifty-six students enrolled in the religious school program under Marcia Louchheim, the first Director of Education. Classes were at the JCC, and the staff expanded to include Melissa Winkle and Cindy Weintraub.
First Bat Mitzvah:
February 6, 1996
First Bar Mitzvah:
June 22, 1996
First Adult Bat Mitzvah:
First Confirmation Class:
June 9, 2000: Emily Brent, Ruth Morrison, Ariel Tinney, and Robert Weintraub
Joining the URJ:
The congregation joined the Union for Reform Judaism (at the time, the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, UAHC). We received our charter on January 29, 1999.
Cantor Janece E. Cohen, D.S.M, was our soloist for the 1999 High Holy Days and then hired as congregational cantor in January 2000.
In conjunction with Congregation Chaverim, Or Chadash built the first “Jewish Build” for Habitat for Humanity. Neither Chaverim nor Or Chadash were permanently settled on a property of their own at the time.
The congregation moved Friday night services to the Junior League of Tucson on River Road.
First Adult B’nei Mitzvah Class:
April 13, 2002: The congregation celebrated its first Adult B’not Mitzvah on Rosh Chodesh Iyar 5762. The B’not Mitzvah were Su Benaron, Diane Kerrihard, Terri Krasner, Rhonda Krinsky, Fay Roos, and Toni Tallman.
The Board adopts a Vision Statement for the Congregation: Congregation Or Chadash is a warm and welcoming spiritual Jewish Community – a place to experience God.
Putting Down Roots 2002-2011
March 1, 2002:
At a special meeting, the congregation passed a motion made by Fred Havas & seconded by David Weintraub, to purchase a 4.2 acre property at 3939 N. Alvernon Way from Libby Ross as the site of its religious school and synagogue.
The Vallance family donated their Torah scroll to the congregation on permanent loan.
May 2, 2004:
Rabbi Louchheim hung a mezuzah on the door of the new office building at 3939 North Alvernon Way and moved the Torah scroll from the JCC to the new ark in the congregation’s chapel on the Alvernon campus.
Or Chadash launched the Make Your Mark project with Sofer Rabbi Shmuel Miller writing a Sefer Torah for the congregation. The Torah became known as the Levy Scroll due to the generous support of Yoram & Helaine Levy.
October 16, 2006:
The Jessica Issaharov Memorial Educational Enrichment Fund was established in honor of the passing of Jessica Issaharov, a religious school teacher.
December 9, 2006:
In its 10th Anniversary year, the congregation dedicated the new Education Center on the Alvernon synagogue campus.
December 7, 2009:
The clergy and Board of Directors of Congregation Or Chadash formally received Scroll MST-1408, a Holocaust Scroll. The Scroll is on long-term loan from the Czech Memorial Scroll of Westminster, United Kingdom. A special dedication took place on Friday, May 21, 2010. The generosity of Sue and Herb Cohn made the Czech Torah project possible.
Rina Liebeskind is hired as Education Director.
July 4, 2008:
Religious Services are moved from the Junior League to Handmaker.
May 16, 2010:
Noah Cohen, a 7th grade student and the Vice President of the Youth Philanthropy program, passed away. The Youth Philanthropy program was renamed in his honor and has donated over $70,000 to worthy causes.
Home on Alvernon 2011-2018
May 20, 2011:
The congregation dedicated its new Community Room that enables the Congregation to hold Shabbat services in a synagogue setting on its property and provides space for congregational meetings. The Community room seats 200 people and is the venue for many community events that the congregation previously was unable to host for lack of space.
April 22, 2012:
Grand Opening of the Or Chadash Library with over 1000 volumes organized and catalogued by Roberta and Marty Greene. The library has a check-out system for members and others, and special shelf dedicated to authors who are Or Chadash members or relatives of members including David Levy, Lauren Grossman, Michael Tauber, Amy Lederman, Robert Klein, Naomi Benaron, Sol Resnick, and Bonnie Marson.
Rabbi Louchheim received his Doctor of Divinity from Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Los Angeles, CA for his 25 years in the Rabbinate. The Board of Directors renames the property the Rabbi Thomas A. Louchheim Campus in his honor.
Or Chadash installs the Etz Chaim Wall of Gratitude, designed by Lynn Rae Lowe, to recognize everyone who contributed to the past Capital Campaigns. The tree is a rustic metal vine with room to attach metal leaves with the donors’ names engraved on each of them.
The Mitch Dorson scholar-in-residence endowment is established on the passing of long-time Or Chadash member and teacher Mitch Dorson.
In honor of its 18th anniversary the congregation undertook the Eitz Chayim campaign to restore its first Torah scroll. The scroll’s departure is celebrated at Simchat Torah and it is returned and rededicated at Chanukah.
June 11, 2014:
Executive Director Alan Pearlman passes away.
May 9, 2015:
We honored Cantor Janece Cohen’s 25 Years of Cantorial Excellence and receipt of her Doctorate of Sacred Music, Honoris Causa at the Music of the Night Gala.
October 25, 2015:
The congregation kicked off its year-long 20th Anniversary celebration: 20 Years of Light – Keep on Shining.
November 20, 2015:
Allen Erenberg, Immediate Past President of the Board of Directors, passes away.
Amy and Wayne Gould donated the Gould Family Torah to the congregation.
April 15, 2018:
The congregation celebrated Rina Liebeskind’s 10 years of service and her promotion to Executive Administrator and Director of Youth Engagement at the Flying Chai event.
Looking Forward 2019...
Talks began between Or Chadash and Temple Emanu-El to consider future partnership possibilities.
February 9, 2020:
The congregation voted to approve a Memorandum of Understanding authorizing the Board to further pursue a possible merger with Temple Emanu-El.
The Board approved the creation of a joint religious school with Temple Emanu-El.
The Joint Religious school opens virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Virtual High Holy Day services are also shared with Temple Emanu-El.
Congregation Or Chadash celebrates its 25th Anniversary: Milestones!