For the first time in 21 years, Congregation Or Shalom in Vernon Hills has a new rabbi. Ari Margolis follows interim rabbi Nina Mizrahi, who succeeded Rabbi Scott Looper after he resigned his long-held post.
The 35year-old Margolis was born in Skokie, IL, and raised in South Florida. He always had a strong interest in science and wanted to help people, as well as having an interest in technology as a way to make lives better. As a result, he received a bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering from Northwestern University before his received a master’s degree in Hebrew letters and Jewish education and was ordained as a rabbi in 2010. He was not raised in a very religious household, but a conversation with his physician father made him rethink his values. While having a conversation, his father said he observed patients with a strong belief who also had people who prayed for them gave them a special strength. This made his father reason to believe in a greater power and the conversation made Margolis rethink his own values.
Before his move to Vernon Hills, Margolis served as both a rabbinic intern and the religious school principal at Congregation Kol Ami in West Hollywood, CA, and, most recently, served as an associate rabbi and educator at Temple Beth Or in Raleigh, N.C.
Congregation Or Shalom has been serving the northwest suburbs since around 1975 in a variety of edifices after starting out in the kitchen of its founders. As it has grown from a handful of families to more than 400 families, the temple has been housed in its current building at 21 Hawthorn Parkway since 2009.
“My wife Rachel and I were looking around the United States for possible places we might like to settle and raise our family,” said Rabbi Margolis, “if I was to decide to move. Or Shalom was exactly the kind of place we wanted to be.” He looks forward to fostering and advancing connections that enhance a feeling of family.
Expecting their third child in November, Rabbi Margolis and wife Rachel currently have two daughters, Laila, 5, and Adaya, 2. They now call Vernon Hills home.
The first service he led for Or Shalom was a Shabbat in the Park held in Century Park in mid-July. This service was prefaced by a picnic dinner, and followed by an ice cream social after the service. A crowd of nearly 100 people attended this service.
“With our congregation expanding,” said congregation president Andrea Ship, “we needed to find a spiritual leader who could help us meet our needs as well as who grow along with us. After reviewing the resumes of many candidates, the search committee came up with some excellent candidates, however once we met Rabbi Margolis, we felt we had to look no further.”
Rabbi Mizrahi worked with him as he transitioned into his new role and she transitioned out of hers. Rabbi Margolis was officially welcomed at a temple service at the end of July.