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Our Clergy & Staff

Rabbi Ari Margolis (he, him, his)

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 –


Cantor Laurie Akers (she, her, hers)

Laurie is a Deerfield, Illinois native and is proud to serve as Congregation Or Shalom’s cantor and music director. Following graduation from the University of Michigan’s acclaimed Musical Theatre program, Laurie spent ten years performing in Broadway touring and regional productions. In addition, Laurie was honored with the title of Miss USO, in which she spent a year traveling globally to visit US Military troops as a US ambassador. Laurie is a celebrated Jewish Rock Radio artist and serves as the host of the Chicago Sings Jewish Rock Radio series, which brings together cantors and musicians from over 20 congregations in the Chicagoland area to create, share and celebrate original Jewish music.

Her song, Stand Strong, served as the anthem for the March of Our Lives rally in suburban Chicago and the RAC’s Illinois launch, and the choral version of this piece was recently premiered at Temple Emanu-El in New York City. This same piece was recently chosen to be part of Transcontinental Publication’s new social justice songbook, Chazak V’Ematz: Jewish Songs of Hope and Protest. In addition, three of her liturgical pieces were chosen to be a part of Transcontinental Publication’s new Shabbat Anthology, as well as their upcoming Nigun Anthology. Laurie was recently commissioned to compose music for some of the most esteemed congregations in the country including Park Avenue Synagogue in New York City.

Laurie’s diverse musical performances include participating as a soloist alongside Keith Urban, the Illinois Holocaust Museum’s annual Kristallnacht program, The Book of Ruth at BHBE, Broadway Barks with Bernadette Peters, “Imagine More”, a celebration of influential Jewish women in New York City, and “Israel’s Gone Platinum” celebration at the North Shore Performing Arts center. Laurie recently released her first album, The Key of We, which can be downloaded on ITunes, Apple Music and CD Baby. Laurie and her husband, Brad, have three children, Levi, Ashton and Isaac.


Rabbi Sarah Rosenbaum Jones, Director of Education (she, her, hers)


Rabbi Sarah is thrilled to join the Or Shalom family! She grew up immersed in the Reform movement at synagogues in her native Southern California, NFTY SoCal, and URJ Camp Swig-Newman. She continued her Jewish journey through college at Northwestern University, earning degrees in Education and Social Policy and Jewish Studies. While in college, she taught at Am Shalom in Glencoe and became their Director of Youth Engagement upon graduation. The four years serving as a youth worker helped Rabbi Sarah realize that building Jewish community through experiential learning was her passion and calling.


Throughout Rabbinical School at HUC-JIR in Los Angeles, Rabbi Sarah served congregations large and small throughout the U.S. and the world (including a year in London!). Wherever she serves, Rabbi Sarah strives to create a culture of care and belonging that encourages families to feel comfortable however they participate in synagogue life. We are proud that she was named one of Jewish Chicago's 36 Under 36 change makers for good in 2023.


Rabbi Sarah, her spouse Jeff, and their daughters Adira and Liana now live in Deerfield. When she’s not thinking or teaching about Judaism, Rabbi Sarah usually has her hands in a pile of dough, on a yoga mat, or in a basket of toys. The Rosenbaum Jones family loves being part of this caring and dynamic community! Please reach out to say hi—Rabbi Sarah would love to get to know you over a cup of coffee/tea (her treat!) or on a scenic walk.


Jennifer Daniels-Lake,  Director of Engagement & Clergy Relations (she, her, hers or they, them, theirs)


Jen is a non-profit professional with 10+ years of experience in non-profit business administration for cultural and educational institutions with a focus on community outreach and membership engagement. She holds a Masters of Science degree in Non-Profit Management with a concentration in Fundraising Management from Spertus Institute. She also graduated cum laude with departmental honors from Northwestern University with a bachelor's degree in Psychology. Jen was recognized as an honoree of the 36 under 36 awards by the Jewish United Fund of Chicago in 2020. She lives in Indian Creek with her spouse Emily, two children, Roane and Eva, and their two dogs.


Marcia Cohen, Educator Emerita (she, her, hers)

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Marcia Cohen was awarded the Education Emerita title upon her retirement in 2021, following 20 years as Or Shalom’s Director of Education. During her tenure as Director she was passionate about meeting the needs of each student, teaching family school, and running the annual Congregational retreat at OSRUI camp, (which is now called the Marcia Cohen Congregational Retreat.) Marcia still enjoys working with Or Shalom learners of all ages, currently working as a b’nai mitzvah tutor as well as teaching Adult Hebrew classes.


Shari April, Administrative Assistant (she, her, hers)


Shari earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice from Illinois State University and is an American Bar Association Certified Paralegal. She has 40 years of experience as a paralegal, an Administrative Assistant, and in customer service. Shari has experience in many fields and works well in diverse professional environments. She was also B’nai Mitzvah here at Or Shalom.  She lives in Vernon Hills with her husband Steven and son Jeremy.


Gia Heritsch, Administrative Assistant (she/her/hers)


Gia is excited to join Or Shalom as our new administrative assistant that will be helping in the front office as well as our religious school! Gia earned a bachelor’s degree from Loyola University Chicago in Cognitive and Behavioral Neuroscience with a minor in Spanish language and literature. For the past four years, she has worked in different administrative positions, namely managing a Covid-19 testing site at the height of the pandemic, and continues to be passionate about the impact of her work. She lives in Deerfield with her two roommates, Kaylie and Leah, and their two cats. While she isn’t working, she enjoys spending time with her family, friends, and playing volleyball.

Mon, April 22 2024 14 Nisan 5784