Or L’Atid at Or Zarua seeks to nurture and develop caring, knowledgeable and involved young Jews by providing a wide range of opportunities for engaging in rich learning in a positive and warm environment. We firmly believe that there is nothing more central to living Jewishly than educating our children and passing on to them our treasured heritage. Through a varied curriculum we seek to instill a lifelong intellectual, emotional and spiritual connection to Judaism.
The primary goal of Or L’Atid is to ensure that our children and youth gain deep Jewish knowledge and skills. As our children become Jewish adults, we want them to be able to live active, participatory Jewish lives. Or L’Atid will enable our learners to study texts, observe the rich tapestry of Jewish ritual, participate actively in synagogue services, speak Hebrew and visit Israel, all while connecting deeply to each of these practices. We practice a philosophy of active learning, in which we do Judaism. Our emphasis on learning through the creation of real products of that learning reflects our commitment to this philosophy.
Meet Our Staff!
Director of Youth Education and Programming
Sigal Hirsch is the Director of Youth Education and Programming at Or Zarua. Sigal has previously worked at OZ as one of the Youth Directors, and is excited to expand her work to include children and youth of all ages. Sigal is passionate about cultivating meaningful connections to the Jewish past and present, allowing learners to create a vibrant Jewish future. Sigal’s experience in a variety of formal and informal Conservative Jewish educational settings—including Camp Ramah in the Berkshires and the Schechter School of Long Island—enables her to build a community of learning that creates knowledgeable, skilled and passionate Jewish youth.
Sigal loves playing basketball, doing craft projects, reading (and re-reading), cooking and spending time with family and friends.
Sigal earned an MA in Jewish Education from the Davidson School of Jewish Education and an MA in Jewish History from The Graduate School at The Jewish Theological Seminary of America and earned a BA in Middle Eastern Studies and Judaic Studies from Tufts University.
Teacher: K-2nd Grade
Tamar is a wife and a proud mother of three. She is an Israeli that has been living here for the past 16 years. She misses her family and friends in Israel and visits them every year. Tamar loves reading, playing music (to children), photography and walking. Tamar loves sharing her love for Hebrew. She has been teaching Hebrew and Judaic Studies for more than 4 years and previously, was a preschool teacher in the mornings. She just learned Torah Trope this past year and started chanting Torah over the summer at her local shul – announcing to anyone who thinks it’s too hard – “If I can do it, you can do it!”
Teacher: 3rd-5th grade
Alyssa is from Atlanta, GA and just moved to New York from West Hartford, CT, where she attended graduate school at UConn. She is now beginning a second graduate program in Jewish Education at The Jewish Theological Seminary. Alyssa has worked in camps, youth groups, religious schools, and day school, and has a background in elementary and gifted education. In addition to reading, she also loves to bake and explore NYC.
Alyssa is very excited to continue teaching religious school at Or Zarua and to get to know her new Or Zarua family!
Teacher: B’nei Mitzvah Scholars – JAMM (Judaism for the Modern Mind)
Shani Abramowitz is a first year Rabbinical student at the Jewish Theological Seminary. Last year, she was a full-time fellow at Yeshivat Hadar, where she studied and taught Talmud, Tanach, and Jewish Philosophy. Shani graduated from Brandeis University, where she studied English and Psychology, and taught and the local Hebrew school. Shani is so excited to be returning to Or Zarua for her second year of teaching!
Teacher: B’nei Mitzvah Scholars- HALLEL (Hebrew Language and Literature)
Mark Somerstein, a longtime member of Congregation Or Zarua is excited to continue teaching at OZ after many years as an active participant in our learning community. Mark has taught Hebrew Language and Siddur and Tanach classes, in addition to training many of our youth as they prepare for their B’nei Mitzvah. He also has extensive experience as a New York City public school teacher, teaching subjects ranging from Spanish and Hebrew language to Social Studies and Jewish History.
Mark holds a B.A. in history from Brooklyn College, in addition to a diploma from Herzliah Hebrew Teachers Institute where he was the esteemed recipient of the History Award. He also won a scholarship to study at Hayim Greenberg Institute in Talpiyot, Jerusalem. Finally, Mark holds a diploma from the American Institute for Psychoanalysis and Psychotherapy and an MSW, CSW from the Wurzweiler School of Social Work.
After graduating from Tufts University with a degree in Child Development, Sarah spent the year as an assistant teacher at The Cooke Center SKILLS Program, and is now beginning her first year of graduate school at SUNY Downstate, studying Occupational Therapy. It’s been an interesting couple of years, moving from student to teacher and back again! When she’s not studying, Sarah loves reading books (about things other than anatomy and physiology, psychology, or occupational therapy), Settling Catan, doing all things Harry Potter and playing sports (hopefully without injuring herself). Sarah is excited to continue working with the great kids and families at Or Zarua!
For as long as he can remember Marc has been actively participating in all aspects of synagogue life. Way down south in Houston, Texas, he attended Beth Yeshurun Day School and Hillel High School where he learned how to chant Torah, lead Shabbat services, and speak Hebrew fluently. Marc also spent a gap year in Israel on Young Judaea’s Year Course and during college went back to Israel a few more times, once to do research at the Technion and another to lead a summer program for teens. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with degrees in engineering and liberal arts, and between his studies, he tutored B’nei Mitzvah students, led the conservative minyan at Texas Hillel, and was an active member of AEPi. Currently Marc works as a network engineer and technology consultant here in Manhattan. In his spare time, he coordinates events for young professionals at OZ, loves to cook new recipes, and is always planning his next travel adventure!
Mah Zeh Shabbat?!
Sarah Kieval is currently studying to become a 7-12th grade English teacher. Mostly she’s spent her time at high schools and middle schools over the year, and Camp Ramah over the summer. Sarah is an enthusiast of books, The Atlantic (or at least the first few articles before losing steam), Gilmore Girls, Harry Potter, Indian food, ice cream (and lactaid pills), the Red Sox (sorry), Riverside Park, ultimate frisbee, and spiritually fulfilling Jewish communities.
About Or Zarua
Now in its 26th year, Congregation Or Zarua has distinguished itself as a vibrant, innovative and involved urban synagogue. Our congregation is centered on three fundamentals of Judaism: Torah (study and practice), Avodah (religious worship), and Gemilut Hasadim (doing good deeds). While traditional and authentic in our Torah study and religious observance, we are an egalitarian, Conservative synagogue, offering men and women equality in all aspects of religious worship, participation and leadership. Founded in 1989 by Rabbi Harlan J. Wechsler and a group of visionary lay leaders, Or Zarua is a small, caring and spiritual community eager to extend its love of Judaism and Jewish learning through our services, Hebrew School, adult education, community service and programming.