We founded Or Zarua in 1989 to create a new model for the synagogue, especially the urban synagogue.
Traditional texts provide profoundly rich resources which must be explored anew and our synagogue should be a place where serious searching, accompanied by serious commitment, takes place. The Torah should come alive, revelation should be an experience and not just a concept, and God should make a difference in all of our lives. Contrary to the goals of most congregations, we want Or Zarua to be a small congregation – a place in the heart of the big city where a person can get to know other people and can get to be known, as well. We created Or Zarua to forge a religious environment where study and prayer would be thoughtful challenges, rather than passive experiences or perfunctory events. – Rabbi Wechsler
Dr. Harlan J. Wechsler is founding Rabbi of Congregation Or Zarua. Rabbi Wechsler is an alumnus of Harvard College and received his ordination and Ph.D. degrees from the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. Author of What’s So Bad About Guilt?, published by Simon and Schuster, Rabbi Wechsler’s many articles on theology and ethics have appeared in numerous journals. Rabbi Wechsler taught Jewish ethics and the history of Jewish thought for over thirty years in the Department of Philosophy at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America.
In seeking new methods of healing the seriously ill – in spirit as well as in body – Rabbi Wechsler has served as Chairman of the Board of Trustees of The Hospital Chaplaincy, an interfaith center which provides chaplains for the major hospitals of New York City and which teaches seminary students of all faiths to administer effective pastoral care. He is a Life Trustee of the Chaplaincy.