Or Zarua began in 2004, with a small group of people who had been active in Reconstructionist communities in other places and were looking for a Reconstructionist community in the East Bay. Most already had other local Jewish affiliations. Our first event was a Lag B’Omer bonfire, followed by a Sukkot gathering, and we soon began having Saturday morning services.
We chose the name "Or Zarua" which literally means "Light is sown." It is a phrase taken from the liturgy that reflects our connection to traditional texts, the value we place on spreading justice, and the experience for some of us that divine light is all around.
In the first few years, we had gatherings to study and discuss our community's approach to specific Jewish practices, such as whether or not to use musical instruments or fire on Shabbat. We called them "Minhag ha-makom," meaning that we were thoughtfully establishing our "practice for this space."
In 2008, when gay marriage was legal in California for a few months, we had a joint wedding for several couples in our community. The whole community, children and adults, came together to hiddur mitzvah, or beautify the sacred event, with a hand-decorated chupah, food, flowers, and entertainment.
We continue to study, pray and celebrate together. Some people are affiliated with other congregations and, for some, Or Zarua is their primary affiliation. Our services have expanded beyond the first Saturday of every month to include some Friday nights and some High Holy Days activities. We have a camping retreat in the spring and a newer indoor retreat in the winter.