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Our Clergy & Staff

Rabbi Ari Margolis

IMG 7437 copy 2Welcome, 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.

I am always looking for an opportunity to get out of the building to meet up for a cup of coffee or hot chocolate — just click here to email me and let me know some times that work for you!

More about Rabbi Margolis

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  tikkun olam (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 another 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 –

Facebook –

Twitter –

Blog –


Cantorial Soloist Laurie Akers

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Laurie Akers was born and raised in Deerfield, Illinois. Laurie’s professional career began at age 12, when she was cast in the Lyric Opera of Chicago’s production of Tosca. She earned a degree in musical theatre from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor. Following college, Laurie moved to New York City, where she spent more than a decade performing in regional and Broadway national touring productions.

In 2015, Laurie was offered a full-time interim cantorial role at Temple Sholom, where she spent two years. In addition to serving in this role, Laurie served as the Shaliach Tzibbur and musical director for Chicago’s Makom 20s and 30s organization.

Laurie is currently pursuing cantorial ordination through the ALEPH: Alliance for Jewish Renewal program.

Laurie is married to Brad Akers. When not on the bima, Laurie and Brad moonlight as singers of family favorites, You are My SunshineSomewhere Over the Rainbow and most recently, Hamilton tunes, to an audience of three boys, Isaac, Levi and Ashton. In addition, Laurie is a fitness fanatic and loves to find ways to incorporate fitness into anything...including her creation, Aerobitrope, one of Laurie’s favorite ways to teach Torah trope.

Marcia Cohen, Education Director

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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

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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, In-House Accountant

Nancy Trudell, Membership Engagement

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Wendy Smith, School Administrative Assistant

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Tanya Zivin, Administrative Assistant

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Sat, December 15 2018 7 Tevet 5779