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In May 2014, Congregation Or Chadash and Har Zion Congregation completed a merger which resulted in the creation of Congregation Or Tzion, a Conservative synagogue of about 450 families (and growing) serving the north Scottsdale area.
The history of Har Zion Congregation:
In 1960, twenty people gathered together to bring a Conservative synagogue to Scottsdale. The core group of twenty grew to 60 founding members who adopted the name Har Zion Congregation of Scottsdale. “Har Zion” means Mt. Zion, one of two mountains which hold a special place in Jewish history. The new congregation’s vision was that the hope that this community would become a center of Jewish life in the Phoenix/Scottsdale community, as the ancient temples were in Biblical Jewish life.
During Har Zion’s first year, High Holiday services were attended by 200 people, Torahs were borrowed from sister congregations, a sisterhood was formed, 50 children attended Sunday School, a religious school library was established and the first B’nai Mitzvah were held. In 1966, the synagogue’s new home on Lincoln Road opened to serve its 125 member families.
In 1983, Rabbi Mark Bisman was welcomed as spiritual leader and the congregation began to flourish. The mid-1990s saw record membership numbers, and in 1997, Har Zion moved from Lincoln Drive to Thunderbird Road to serve its 150 Religious School students, 30 pre-school children and more than 400 member families. Rabbi Bisman served as lead rabbi until 2013 when he became Rabbi Emeritus.
The history of Congregation Or Chadash:
Congregation Or Chadash was founded in 2001 when a small group of twenty families identified a common desire to found a Conservative synagogue in the northeast Valley that would strengthen their Jewish identity. This core group’s vision was the establishment of a congregation that was multi-generational, highly participatory, and which offered innovative programs to celebrate Jewish customs, rituals, heritage, and beliefs.
Initially, services were held monthly in classrooms borrowed from a generous local Lutheran church, using prayer books assembled by participants with Jewish organizational experience. By 2002, membership grew to 40 families. Reflecting its new approach and enthusiasm for Jewish life in Phoenix, the congregation selected “Or Chadash” – New Light – as its name.
Over the congregation’s first years, many milestones were reached. High Holiday services were well-attended, a scholar-in-residence program was established, the synagogue’s first full-time rabbi was hired and the Roz Goodell Education Center was established. Congregation Or Chadash began to thrive with support received from sister synagogues who provided prayer books and a Torah. Congregants built the synagogue’s first ark, lecterns and crafted beautiful covers for our Sefrei Torah.
In 2010, Rabbi Micah Caplan became spiritual leader of Congregation Or Chadash and the synagogue relocated to a larger facility. Over the next four years, Congregation Or Chadash experienced phenomenal growth, from 120 to over 400 families, all while maintaining its warm and caring environment that was always an important part of its founding vision.
Today, Congregation Or Tzion, a vibrant community of about 400 families, is dedicated to preserving the best traditions of both Congregation Or Chadash and Har Zion Congregation, to be a place where our fellow congregants become our friends, and our friends become our family.