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Or Ahavah is a welcoming community dedicated to personal transformation and healing the world through Jewish practice.

Upcoming Services and Events

  • A Letter to Or Ahavah

    Everyone Shalom,
    Though I usually begin my letters to you with a wish for peace, it has never been more important for me to do so than today.  I am sickened by the hatred, violence and murder that overwhelmed the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh.  And I am sickened by Nazi march in Charlottesville, and by the murder of people in a South Carolina church during bible study, and by the murder of two people in a mosque in New York City, and by pipe bombs mailed to terrorize our political and civic leaders.  The Jewish people in Pittsburgh are my people, and so are the others who have been terrorized and murdered because of their religion, race, political view, gender identity or sexual orientation.

    To answer this violence with “we will pray for you,” is good but insufficient.  To answer this violence with, to paraphrase our national leadership, ‘the synagogue should have had better security inside,’ pours fuel on the fire and begs for greater violence.  Listen to the rabbis teach in Pirkei Avot 5: 1 that “The sword comes into the world because of justice delayed and justice denied.”
    We are responsible!  Each of us, singularly and collectively is responsible. And we are empowered to act in ways that can help to bring more civility and decency into our world.

    1.  Vote!  Vote for who inspires you to fulfill the mitzvah of love your neighbor as yourself.  Vote for who helps you to see greater possibilities than hatred and division.  As horrific as these acts of violence are, they also are predictable. Racism, anti-Semitism and other brands of hatred has been introjected into our public discourse and this stimulates and enables deadly action against one another. The Torah teaches repeatedly to “be kind to the stranger.”  Vote for those who accept and even celebrate the differences and who desire justice.

    2.  Have compassion for yourself and act with compassion towards others.   The Torah is filled with mitzvoth about being kind to the stranger.  Justice can be a difficult mitzvah to fulfill and often entails extended struggle.  To be an Israelite is to struggle.   We are G!d wrestlers and this includes how we work to bring justice and peace into the world.

    3.  I hope that our community, Or Ahavah, will become involved in at least one interfaith dialogue this coming year.  In the past two years, I personally have presented at an interfaith gathering at both a mosque and a church.  I welcome any ideas that you may have.  Please send them to me or to the entire community to discuss.

    4.  I feel, as you may, that I am so tiny compared to massive problems.  Remembering the wisdom of Rabbi Tarfon in Pirkei Avot 1:15 helps me and I offer it in hopes that it helps you:  “The day is short, the work is much, ….It is not incumbent upon you to finish the task, but neither are you free to absolve yourself from it.”

    B’ahvah,

    With love,
    Rabbi Deb

  • Yom Kippur Retreat 2018

    Join us as we begin our immersion into the autumn holidays that bring so much light and blessing!

    September 1,  7:00 pm, Spiritual Preparation for the High Holidays, home of Olivia and Sal Delvalle, 11321 ola Ave, Tampa, Fl  33612.
    Each of us will will engage with the opportunity that the holidays bring to change and grow into a better and more authentic person.  Our gathering will include drumming, chanting, and meditations all designed to help each of us focus on what really is important right now and in our future.  Please bring a dessert to share with others.

    RSVP by August 30th

    Download Yom Kippur Registration 2018

    Download Yom Kippur Retreat 2018 p1

  • Rosh Hashanah Services 2018

    September 9, 7:00 Candle Lighting for Rosh Hashanah, home of Olivia and Sal Delvalle, 11321 N. Ola Ave, Tampa, Fl  33612
    An evening of blessing and envisioning;  Candlelighting to usher in the New Year will be at 7pm.  Apples and honey provided.  Please bring something sweet to share.
    RSVP by September 6th

    September 10, 10:00 a.m.  Rosh Hashanah morning services; Home of Barbara and Curt Freedland  6629 Thoroughbred loop, Odessa, Fl 33556
    Services include creative Torah Service and Meditation. .  This is a vegetarian/dairy/fish pot luck.
    Please fill our and send the registration form to reserve your space

    September 18 and 19, Yom Kippur Retreat at the Franciscan Center;  See Attached Flyers for details

    September 30, 1:00 pm, Succot Party, Home of Barry Shalinsky and Robin Rosenberg
    Information to follow.
    RSVP by September 27th

    November 17, 4:30 pm, Torah Study followed by Havdallah, Home of Barbara and Curt Freedland, 6629 Thoroughbred Loop, Odessa, Fl  33556
    RSVP by November 15th

    December 9, 5:30 p.m  Chanukah Party, Home of Inga Nassi
    Bring cans of food for the Jewish Family Services’ Food Bank, bring you Chanukiah and Chanukah candles, bring a dish dairy/vege/fish dish to share.  Kids are welcome!
    More information to follow.
    RSVP by December 6th.

    RSVPs can be sent on orahavahtampa@gmail.com

    Contact Rabbi Deb if you need more information at d.shenefelt@att.net

    Blessings everyone!
    Rabbi Deb

  • Passover Seder First Night 3/30/18 – Joyous, Deep and Meaningful Vegan Friendly; Fish Available

    Passover Seder – Friday, 3/30/18

    Passover Seder First Night
    Joyous, Deep and Meaningful Vegan Friendly; Fish Available

    When: Friday, 03/30/18
    Time: Doors open at 6:45 p.m. Seder begins at 7:00 p.m.
    Where: Location given upon reservation
    Cost: $18 Members and Seniors, $36 Adult Guest, $6 Children under 13, $15 Students

    RSVP: by 03.26 Your check is your reservation.
    Make checks payable to Or Ahavah and mail to:
    Debrah Shenefelt
    15919 Nottinghill Drive
    Lutz, Fl 33548
    Please include names of adults and children. Limited financial support is available.
    Please consider donating $5 to help support those in need.

  • 2017 the Alternative Yom Kippur… a Spiritual Retreat

    Join Congregation Or Ahavah for a day of reflection and transformation at a beautiful retreat center on the Hillsborough River.
    Experience the true meaning of the holiest of days – a time to re- turn to your authentic self, a time for second chances….

    When:

    Friday, Sept. 29 and Saturday Sept. 30, 2017

    Where:

    Franciscan Retreat Center
    3010 N. Perry Ave.
    Tampa, Florida 33603-5345

    Time:

    Friday

    4:00 pm – Preparatory Meditation
    5:15 pm – Dinner (fish/vegetarian meal)
    6:15 pm – Kol Nidre and Evening Services

    Wednesday

    8:30 am – Qi-gong, 30-45 minutes
    9:30 am- Services throughout day with rest periods
    7:17 pm – Havdallah and full Break the Fast Meal

    What:

    • Yom Kippur services with spiritual integration
    • Kol Nidre and Experiential Services
    • Meditation and Prayer
    • Drumming and Chanting
    • Meal before Kol Nidre and Break the Fast Meal after Sundown

    Creative Rosh HaShanah Services Celebrate the Cosmic Gift of a New Beginning!

    When:

    Wednesday, 09/20/2017 7: 00 p. m.
    Amazing Blessing Seder,
    Thursday, 09/21/2017 10:30 a.m.
    Morning Services including Tashlich followed by Vegetarian/Dairy pot luck lunch

    Where:

    Services will be held at the Sabbath House at the Franciscan Center , 3010 North Perry Ave, Tampa 33603

    Cost:

    Registration ans fees attached

    For further information, contact Rabbi Debrah Shenefelt at 813.728.3194 or orahavah.org

    Download the attached REGISTRATION flyer below for more info:

    High Holiday Registration 2017 (PDF)

Mitzvah & Meaning from Rabbi Deb

  • A Remebrance of Reb Zalman

    Reb Zalman, z”l

    Reb ZalmanRabbi Zalman Schechter-Shalomi, z”l, died last week and, for me, his departure brought an end to an era of great rabbis who truly care about the people.  This is not to say that there are no longer any great rabbis who care.  Reb Zalman cared for people in ways that seem unique to the rabbis of his generation who came to the United States carrying with them the lights of a Euopean Yeshivah and Chassidic background.

    Reb Zalman was not my primary rebbe.  His colleague Rabbi Brod, z”l, whom we all called “Rabbi,” was my rebbe, my friend, the one who subtly taught me how to reconcile my soul to something better, and the one who taught me the heart of a rebbe.  He taught that a rabbi should be driven by the need to find flexibility to meet a person’s needs if traditional avenues are, for whatever reason, closed.  Reb Shlomo, another colleague and friend of Reb Zalman’s, had boundaries so thin that he was able to help a stranger as if his life depended on it.  These are the three rabbis who influence me beyond measure.

    Reb Zalman made openings in the Jewish world where spiritually hungry travellers could rest and maybe even take up residence.  The most valuable lesson that I learned from Reb Zalman was a different expression of something precious that I learned from Rabbi Brod.  Reb Zalman taught about retrofitting changes that we make as rabbis and spiritual leaders to traditions and Jewish laws that have developed over thousands of years.

    He gave over his analyses of Paradgm Shift through the centuries to anyone who would listen or read.  This enabled me to see that Judaism has been changeable and has to have flexibility if it is to respond to the changing needs of different people at various times in history.  It also gave me a leg to stand on when confronted by unsympathetic others about “what is Jewish.”

    I remember reading an article about Reb Zalman that questioned whether he was a tzaddik or a renegade.  I suspect that Reb Zalman might have answered that he was neither, but that he was somewhere in-between.  It was not the only time that Reb Zalman’s teachings or positions raised an eyebrow or a hackle in the Jewish world.  At the last Ohalah he spoke to the group about supporting each other as we develop the newer paths identified by many as Jewish Renewal.  He  commented on how lucky he thought we were to have one another.

    It reminded me of Rabbi Brod who had no rebbe after his father who also was a rabbi died.  Rabbi Brod used to say that G-d was his rabbi and his wife Freda would wryly quip that the relationship was very personal.  I imagine that it might have been the same for Reb Zalman.  His courage, his faith, his willingness to loom large in face of criticism and to constrict his presence at times when his students needed to grow all inspire and strengthen me to do work to which I feel called.

    Reb Zalman, the founder of Jewish Renewal, made it possible for me to become a rabbi in a number of ways.  The ALEPH rabbinic program allowed me to keep my home base in Tampa with my family and to study long-distance.  He cared about spiritually nourishing his students, not just by feeding us but by showing us how to mine the rich soil of Jewish and other mystical traditions.

    He was a prolific writer and I remain a student of his works.  On the day that he drew his last breath I had just received one of his books entitled Fragments of a Future Scroll, Hassidism for the Aquarian Age.   Every time I look at the book’s title, I feel supported in my non-traditional, experiential and experimental work, and feel urged, with mindfulness of so many teachings from Jewish tradition, to study and forge ahead.

    I did have a few personal encounters with Reb Zalman.  My favorite memory was probably the least eventful.  As he passed me at an Ohalah gathering, he looked at me and said “G!d bless you!”

    Reb Zalman was a rebbe of blessing, whether he uttered it, manifested it through his teachings, or gave it through his generous spirit toward the people.  Reb Zalman involved heaven in his works and taught us to return something with holiness.  During the past few months I noticed that he would sign off on his posts by writing something like:   blessings in the ways that you need them,” or blessings in the ways that will do you the most good.  How awesomely incisive is that!

    Reb Zalman’s blessings through his teachings, his friendships and his accomplishments persist with us today.  May his memory and his works always be a blessing in the ways that each one of us needs.

    L’shalom for now,
    Rabbi Deb    

  • Jewish Megatrends by Rabbi Sidney Schwarz

    Shalom all:
    One of my colleagues, Rabbi Daniel Siegel, wrote a review of Jewish Megatrends by Rabbi Sidney Schwarz that I found insightful and touching.  It is a tribute to the unsung heroes throughout the Jewish world.  Some of these invisible heroes have devoted their lives to making positive changes in Jewish culture and practice so that more Jews can come back to their religious or cultural home of origin and feel welcome and nourished.
    I hope you enjoy the essay as much as I do.  You can find it at http://rabbidanielsiegel.com/the-invisibles-reflections-on-jewish-megatrends/
    With blessings for a healthy and fulfilling New Year,
    Rabbi Deb

  • Women of Distinction Program

    Last Thursday, on December 5, 2013, Or Ahavah was proud to hear Dr. Linda Wexler’s name called as our honoree during the Women of Distinction program.  Several women from a variety of Jewish organizations were honored for the work that they have generously given to the Jewish community and beyond.  It’s a fabulous event.  It is inclusive of the mitzvah mavens so well known in the Tampa Jewish community and other mitzvah mavens who we are hearing about for the first time.

    Two pictures of Linda are posted on the website, one with Rabbi Deb and the other with her husband Colby.  Based on a write-up submitted by Or Ahavah, here is what was written in the program and spoken about Linda as she was called up to be honored:
    “Linda has been an active supporter of Or Ahavah for more than seven years.  She was a primary care physician in Dunedin from 1979-2008, and a staff physician at the VA from 2008-2012 prior to her retirement.  Linda’s background as a physician makes her a healing presence at Or Ahavah who embodies the teachings and ethics of Judaism.  Since 1996, she has provided educational seminars on end of life issues for local and international groups including the Association of Death Educators and Bereavement Counselors, Women in Thanatology, and Hospice.  Linda was also involved with the Jewish Film Festival from 2006-2009.  Linda is married to Colby Munger.  She and her late husband, Mel Wexler, have three children and six grandchildren.”

  • Spa Day-Making it Jewish – Part 1.

    Yum!A couple of Sundays ago, Or Ahavah indulged in Spa and Schmooze Day.  Our very own Dr. Phil  talked about skin care and answed our many questions.  Two masseuses and a facialist offered spa treatments that were awesome and reasonably priced.  As we were waiting our turn on the spa table and chair, many of us gathered around a table filled with healthy but tasty food and drink offerings.  “What makes this Jewish,” I asked, and someone quipped “eating good food!”  I agree that enjoying and sharing Jewish-style food with others is a way of experiencing Jewish identity, but I wanted something moreSo we sat in a circle and I led a Jewish meditation.  To be consistent with the spa day we had planned, I made sure to focus on relaxation, calm and peace.  But the spiritual technology that I used to induce an ever-increasing feeling and sense of relaxation was the idea and experience of “Light.”  Light is present throughout our sacred writings, such as the light that G!d creates in the third line of  Genesis (not to be confused with the lights of the sun, moon and stars created in lines 16 and 17) or “in your light we see light” from Ps. 39:6,  just to mention a couple of examples.

    Still, even with the sacred metaphor of “light,” is what I led really “Jewish” meditation?  Do Jewish symbols and Jewish people make the meditation Jewish?  Yes, I think that they work to form the permeable energetic vessel of our meditation.  I think it is Jewish also because it encourages awareness of being in the Presence of G!d, of being present to the Light of G!d.

    MeditatingAt the end of the Amida prayer, we find a line from Ps. 19:  “May the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in your sight, O Lord, my rock, and my redeemer.”   During our meditation on Spa Day, we were open to being in G!d’s sight and open to our indulgences being acceptable to G!d.  We were open to Divine Presence within us and surrounding us.  We were living the line from Psalm 19 with hearts moved by deep comfort and enjoyment, and with awareness of being present to One!.

    We know that there are many ways to live out this line from Ps. 19, such as doing mitzvot with consciousness and praying with kavannah..  But ordinary pleasures of everyday life can be part of our G!d consciousness too.   With awareness, having spa treatments and eating dark chocolate can lead us into the Light of Gd as well!

    Shalom for now,
    Rabbi Deb

     

  • Chanukah Gathering

    Our Chanukah gathering at Siesta Key Beach was fabulous!  Somebody remarked that it felt like she and her husband were with family.  I cannot think of better feedback to share than that.
    Here are a few pics from the party.