Clergy and Staff
Rabbi Ari Margolis
and thank you for taking the time to find out more about our fantastic family that we call Congregation Or Shalom. As our rabbi, it is my privilege each and every day to spend time journeying alongside so many wonderful people, learning what drives us as individuals and as a community and creating opportunities for meaningful connections. The warmth and energy of this community inspired my family to come to Vernon Hills – I want to help you find your spark that can add to the light of peace that shines at Or Shalom.
Our rabbi, Ari Margolis, came to Congregation Or Shalom in 2015. He is quick with a smile, ready to listen and primed for jumping in and supporting the Jewish journeys of each of us in our Or Shalom community. Prior to his time with us, Rabbi Margolis served Temple Beth Or in Raleigh, NC as the associate rabbi and educator, where he reenergized the religious school program, created connections and innovated new programming.
Rabbi Margolis earned his undergraduate degree from Northwestern University in the field of chemical engineering. Though he is no longer spending his days tinkering with differential equations, he enjoys trying to engineer a sense of community, learning and (healing the world) wherever possible. Ever the optimist, Rabbi Margolis also patiently awaits the time in which his beloved Cubs will enter the Promised Land of the World Series. Rabbi Margolis and his wife, Rachel, who is also a talented Jewish educator, are parents of three daughters – Laila, Adaya and Eliora.
To connect with or follow Rabbi Margolis:
Email – firstname.lastname@example.org
Cantorial Soloist Rhonda Wehner
Our cantorial soloist, Rhonda Wehner, began making music as a young child, singing and playing piano. She picked up the guitar at age 15 and soon after began song leading in camps and JCC programs. Rhonda has served as a cantorial soloist in many congregations throughout the Chicagoland, Indiana and Wisconsin areas and has been a song leader for more than 30 years. She has been a familiar face at Or Shalom since the move to our new building in 2009, engaging our students weekly in her role as music specialist and director of our Youth Choir.
Rhonda began her training at the American Conservatory of Music and graduated from DePaul University School of Music with a degree in Music Therapy and a minor in Vocal Performance.
When she’s not at Or Shalom, Rhonda works fulltime in hospice; she coordinates a Jewish care services program to help meet the cultural and spiritual needs of Jewish patients entering hospice. She also provides music therapy at the bedside of patients. You can find her on summer weekends at the Bristol Renaissance Faire as “Clover O’Hara.”
Rhonda lives in Wheeling with her sons, Jonathan and Alexander, and is looking forward to her expanded role partnering with Rabbi Margolis this year.
Marcia Cohen, Education Director
Our Education Director, Marcia Cohen, has been involved in Jewish Education in the Chicago Area for the past 18 years, and has been director of Or Shalom’s Religious and Hebrew school program since 2001. Whether through teaching Family School on Sunday mornings, working with b’nai mitzvah students, helping students with special needs or running retreats, Marcia gets to know each student and his/her family personally. Marcia's goal is to instill a positive Jewish identity in each student. She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Pennsylvania and her master’s degree from the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies. In addition to her responsibilities at Or Shalom, Marcia is a past president of the Chicago Association of Temple Educators, and served as co-chair of the Midwest Conference for the Advancement of Jewish Education.
Andrea Freier, Executive Director
Andrea Freier (Andi) has been an advocate for quality and meaningful education for children, both in the public school arena and in temple life for many years. Before joining the professional staff at Or Shalom, she taught religious school at several area congregations while serving on the School Board in Long Grove - Buffalo Grove District 96. Born in Connecticut and educated at American University, Andi lives in Highland Park with her husband, Steve Nussbaum. She has three children, Sari, Lauren and Kim, three step-children Mara, Daniel and Hannah. Andi is the secretary of the Chicago Association of Synagogue Administrators. She loves to travel and can often be spotted on suburban bike trails and Wrigley Field.
Lauri Holmes, Bookkeeper
Nancy Trudell, Membership Engagement
Wendy Smith, School Administrative Assistant
Tanya Zivin, Administrative Assistant
Jessica Ceisel, Clergy Administrative Assistant