Interns Reflect Upon Lessons Learned


Our former interns – now rabbis and Jewish educators – reflect on the abiding lessons from their Or Ami internship that indelibly transformed the way they teach Judaism, effectuate Jewish living, and/or lead their synagogues and communal institutions. Mentored by Or Ami Rabbis Paul Kipnes and Julia Weisz, and Cantor Doug Cotler, these interns are now seeing their own communities with our innovative Jewish learning and engagement to Jewish communities across the country.


Compassionate Listening, Collaborative Working, and Engaging Storytelling
By Rabbi Jonathan Fisch

I worked for ten years at Congregation Or Am between 2002 to 2014, only stepping away to study in Israel. In those Or Ami years, I diligently studied and admired all that made up this sacred community. There are no words to describe the gratitude I have for my rabbis, Rabbi Paul Kipnes and Rabbi Julia Weisz, and for Cantor Doug Cotler and all the professional staff at Or Ami, who helped me understand Judaism, the work rabbis do, and the various roles we play…

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Listen from the Heart and Honor Others
By Rebecca Berger

Serving as Congregation Or Ami’s intern and Mishpacha Coordinator taught me four lessons that have guided my work as a Jewish educator: Hillel teaches Don’t say ‘When I have [free] time I will learn, lest you never have [free] time’ (Pirke Avot 2:5)… 

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Sharing Cell Phones and Safe Space
By Rabbi Julie Bressler

At the end of my first teen retreat with Congregation Or Ami, Rabbis Paul Kipnes and Julia Weisz asked all the teens to take out their cell phones (which we had been asking them to put away all weekend) and to open a new contact. A bit confused, the teens did so and awaited further instructions…

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Board Games, Curiosity, and the Noshery
By Sarah Rosenbaum Jones

The very first lesson I learned as an intern and Mishpacha Coordinator  at Congregation Or Ami was learned over the implementation of a board game, as one might expect from the place where joy lives at the center of Jewish life.. Rabbi Paul Kipnes and I found ourselves in a kerfuffle early on in my internship…

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Pushing Interns to “Go Bigger, Bolder, and Deeper”
By Sarah Lauing

The year I was an intern, and Coordinator, of Congregation Or Ami’s Mishpacha Family Alternative Learning Program, Rabbi Paul Kipnes had decided the curriculum topic for the year would be “Henaynu: Caring Community.” I admit, I was skeptical. In my mind, that was more of a value than subject matter for a curriculum, but Rabbi Paul insisted…

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The Power of Showing Up
By Rachel Margolis, RJE

I had the honor of serving the Congregation Or Ami community in 2006-2007, as the first intern to direct Mishpacha Family Alternative Learning Program, along with my friend and colleague Rebecca Berger…

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Teaching Parents to Teach Children
By Rabbi Dan Medwin

At Congregation Or Ami, I was honored to be a part of the Mishpacha Family Alternative Learning Program, one of the most effective and engaging educational models I have ever witnessed, let alone had the privilege to lead. Not only was this format for learning deeply transformative and revolutionary, it was also at its core, a very simple and apparent model…

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What Superpower Would You Like?
By Rabbi Alissa Forrest Miller

Recently at a meeting, we were asked to share one of our superpowers as part of the introductions. Without much time to think, I responded, “My superpower is to get people to say yes to a job, volunteer position or participation in a program…”

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Questions and Details that Stretched My Creativity
By Laura Siegel Perpinyal RJE 

My time at Congregation Or Ami taught me how to communicate, to actualize a vision, and to create meaningful relationships; these are enduring lessons that I use on a daily basis in my life as a Jewish professional…

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Developing a Deep Self-Reflective Rabbinate
By Rabbi Greg Weisman

Serving as Or Ami’s Mishpacha Coordinator and working closely with Rabbi Paul Kipnes, my eyes were opened to the innovative and compelling world of family education. As we learned together in classrooms, on the floor of the sanctuary, at the Gentle Barn farm in Santa Clarita, and in Or Ami’s temporary home in the spring of 2011, I saw the brightness of our Torah and our Jewish tradition brighten the light in the eyes of the parents and children who came to learn with us and walk their families’ Jewish journeys together…

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