The Book of the Givers

by Mary Adlersberg

In 1998, the Board of Or Shalom struggled with how to reconcile two challenges. The first was to honour those who made special contributions to the shul or the community, and the second was to preserve the ideals of Or Shalom`s egalitarian values within the holy space of the sanctuary. After much study, thoughtful consideration and lively debate, it was decided that Or Shalom would continue its tradition of declining named recognition on the building or its furnishings, but would instead record major contributions in a manner that would preserve the history and significance of the gift and its context. The idea of a Book of the Givers was proposed.

The Book was crafted out of oak and brass, and constructed in such a manner that pages could be added over time. Those most familiar with the history surrounding some of Or Shalom`s most precious religious objects were asked to write something of the story so that it could be preserved and remembered by the community.

However, the Book of the Givers provides an account of only a small fraction of all of the meaningful donations that have been made to Or Shalom over the years. Although they will not be named here, Or Shalom`s existence is due to the many hundreds of wonderful souls who have volunteered their time, their talents, their money, or their wisdom, and made our community what it is today. In remembering the large or concrete donations, we also reflect on the less visible and often thankless donations that have been made to Or Shalom in such forms as: childcare, davvening, cooking, schlepping, decorating the shul, preparing for ritual, leading meditation, planning retreats, serving on the Board, handling our finances, securing us a physical space, cleaning up after us, visiting the sick, writing melodies, encouraging us to be socially conscious, helping us network with the larger community, tutoring our young people, providing transportation, administering, talking Torah, and simply being counted within our minyan.

In a small way, this Book of the Givers is intended to recognize the multitude of mitzvot that have built, and continue to build, this community.


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