We met at an informal meeting to discuss the feasibility and desireability of instituting a new reformed temple... We decided that the need for this temple, both for the community and ourselves, was imminent and necessary.

~ from the minutes of the first meeting of what was to become Congregation Or Ami (May 29, 1972)

Congregation Or Ami began in May of 1972 with six families and a bold idea.  The founders agreed on four objectives for their new congregation: 1) An active and involved congregation; 2) An opportunity to experiment with liturgy, which in virtually all Reform temples was confined to the Union Prayer Book; 3) An "intellectually challenging exposure" to Jewish traditions, theologies and practices; and 4) Religious education for both children and adults.

At its third meeting in July of 1972, the new congregation chose a name for itself at the suggestion of Dr. Alvin Reines of Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati.  Thus was Or Ami, "Light of My People" born.

By the fall of 1972, Congregation Or Ami was a functioning Reform congregation with thirty  families, High Holy Day Services, and a part-time rabbi.  Just one year from its creation, Congregation Or Ami had grown sufficiently to hire a full-time rabbi.  The Congregation was then ready to expand programming and begin to full fill its unique place in the Jewish Community.

During these early years, the congregation made its temporary home at the Friends Meeting House.  In 1979 the Congregation purchased a house on Huguenot Road on the southside of Richmond.  The members converted this small house into a cozy synagogue, the first and still, only Jewish synagogue south of the James River in Richmond.  Because of the space limitations of the "house on the hill" and the expanding membership, the Congregation relied on the Jewish Community Center for its High Holy Day services and life cycle celebrations. 

 Within ten years of its founding, Congregation Or Ami was still "growing with purpose" and remaining true to its original goals while fitting within a Reform Jewish framework.  It also made Jewish history by hiring a female rabbi as its spiritual leader in 1981.  Rabbi Beverly Lerner, who served Congregation Or Ami until 1984, was the first woman rabbi to head a Reform congregation.

1984 was a significant year for the Congregation, as it was the same year that the State Highway Department finalized plans for a new highway that would cut directly through Or Ami's property.   Congregation Or Ami had to relocate by 1987.  In early 1986, the Congregation bought a 3.3 acre lot fronting on Huguenot Road, about one mile south from the house it bought in 1979.

Congregation Or Ami's new home was completed in late 1987.  The newly constructed contemporary facility with its expandable sanctuary, its exposed beams pointing to the ark, its Eternal Light of pottery (made by a congregant) and its multi-purpose classrooms was dedicated on December 4, 1987.

During the 1990s the congregation continued to evolve and grow. In 1995 several members started the Or Ami klezmer band.  The band became an ambassador for the congregation and the Jewish community by playing at area synagogues and the Jewish Community Center and at community wide events/festivals, schools, museums and libraries.   

Over forty years have passed since Congregation Or Ami was founded.  The congregation remains faithful to its original covenant and continues to be true to its early roots of creative Judaism, openness and social action.  It continues to create and perform its own services, to reassess the meaning of the High Holy Days and to furnish a forum for creative life cycle events. All of our services, including Bar and Bat Mitzvah services, are created by members and the rabbi. (Bar and Bat Mitzvah services are created by the Bar/Bat Mitzvah families.) These services include contemporary and traditional elements.