We are all looking for something. For many, we are looking for a warm inviting Jewish community that makes us feel like we are home.
Har Shalom is a progressive Reform Jewish Community rooted in our traditions while meeting the needs of today’s modern family. We make a concerted effort to be the best we can be since we have such an advantage as a small, close group of families. Our families love being part of something where they don't feel like a number and know how important their contributions and participation are in making Har Shalom the community we want it to be. We embrace all who want to bring Judaism to their lives by creating a warm, engaging
community characterized by openness, integrity, acceptance and informality. We welcome all families of diverse faiths who wish to raise their kids in a fun and engaging Jewish community. Har Shalom strives to make celebrating our Judaism together a warm, fun and engaging experience.
Rabbi Michael Sommer
Rabbi Michael Sommer founded Har Shalom July of 2014 with great support from former members of B'nai Torah of Highland Park and many families whose lifecycle events he was blessed to officiate.
"My goal is to be part of a warm and engaging congregation that makes a difference in people's lives. I believe the relationships and connections within a congregation are the most important parts that draw people in and create a community that feels like a family.
I hated religious school and Hebrew school. I felt uninspired and unengaged and no rabbi ever took the time to talk to us or get to know us. However, I loved my bar mitzvah and my tutor. I loved starting our high school youth group my sophomore year and traveling to Israel in 1985.
These three things, combined with all the Shabbat and holiday meals my grandmother cooked us, simmered in the back of my mind. My positive experiences convinced me to give back for all the incredible Jewish experiences I had growing up. I knew I could do better and create an experience of family, friendships and meaningful connections."
In spring 2014, Rabbi Michael served as the interim rabbi of Temple B'nai Israel in Aurora, IL where he worked with all religious elements of this vibrant multi-denominational congregation for four months while helping them with their search for a full time rabbi.
Rabbi Sommer also served two years as a full-time rabbi at Congregation B'nai Torah in Highland Park, Illinois. He simultaneously served two years as the Jewish Lens instructor at North Shore Congregation Israel using digital photography to teach students how to read images and represent Jewish values photographically. Prior to the that he spent six years as the Director of Youth Programming at Am Shalom in Glencoe, Illinois, leading children's High Holy Day services, planning and leading high school mitzvah trips, leading the annual confirmation retreat, teaching religious and Hebrew school, and planning and coordinating all youth programming. As a student rabbi he served congregations in Texarkana, Texas and Fayetteville, Georgia. In 2001 he served as the NFTY-Ohio Valley Regional Advisor.
He was ordained by Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Cincinnati, Ohio in 2005. He received his Masters of Hebrew letters there in 2004.
Rabbi Sommer has a wide range of training, including certification as a Divorce Mediator from the Northwestern University School of Continuing Studies, and Clinical Pastoral training at Cincinnati Children's Hospital. Rabbi Sommer trained to be a military chaplain in the United States Army and was honorably discharged in the summer of 2003 at the rank of Lieutenant.
During the summers, Rabbi Sommer thoroughly enjoys working as faculty at Olin-Sang-Ruby Union Institute in Oconomowoc, WI. He worked many summers with Moshavah, the camp unit that sends campers biking, hiking, canoeing and rock climbing. Rabbi Sommer has also helped with Chalutzim's (7 week intensive Hebrew unit) annual canoe trip. Highlights over the years have been biking 65 miles in three days as a first and climbing at beautiful Devil's Lake year after year. Jewish summer camp is an amazing way to allow our children to live their Jewish life 2, 4, and 7 weeks at a time.
Prior to rabbinical school, Rabbi Sommer earned a BA in English Literature from the University of Florida followed by a Masters Degree in Theatre from the University of Kentucky.
He is married to Rabbi Phyllis Sommer, the Director of Congregational Learning at Am Shalom in Glencoe, Illinios. They have four amazing children, David (age 14), Sam (z"l), Yael (age 8), and Solomon (5). Rabbi Sommer's son, Sam, died in December of 2013 after fighting an 18 month battle against his leukemia. In April 2014, Rabbi Sommer and his wife, participated with more than 70 rabbis in raising over $613,000 for St. Baldrick's Foundation in the "36 Rabbis Shave for the Brave" event that April. Currently the rabbis and their colleagues have raised over $1 million dollars. Rabbi Sommer is dedicating his fundraising efforts to raising funds for pediatric cancer research until the disease is curable.
In his spare time Rabbi Sommer loves playing with his kids, dining with family and friends, teaching, reading, writing children's books, listening to music, playing video games and watching movies.
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Rabbi Michael can be reached at:
Cantor Lynda Dresher
Cantor Lynda Hope Dresher has been our musical spiritual guide at Har Shalom since 2015. She adds to our religious school by sharing her sense of creativity and artistic wonder with our students. She was an integral part of Congregation B’nai Torah in Highland Park for 12 years as their Cantor. She received her Bachelors of Arts Degree from the University of Illinois and her cantorial degree from the American Conference of Cantors certification program in partnership with Hebrew Union College-School of Sacred Music.
In 2013-2014 Cantor Dresher was the first Jewish clergy to be a Chaplain Resident in the first year-long Chaplaincy program at Advocate Condell Medical Center in Libertyville. She trained with the Grief Recovery Institute to become a Grief Recovery Specialist and conducts grief recovery programs for groups and individuals. She has her training as a Jewish Mindfulness Instructor through the Institute of Jewish Spirituality and conducts weekly classes. Cantor Dresher developed and conducts music enrichment and healthy aging programs for older adults. She is a graduate of the Florence Melton Adult (2 year) program for Jewish Educators supported by the Board of Jewish Education of Chicago.
Cantor Dresher is Past-President of the Chicago-Milwaukee Association for Synagogue Musicians (CMASM), past President of the Southeast Lake County Clergy Association (SELCCA), member of the ACC (American Conference of Cantors), and member of Reform Cantors of Chicago (RCC). Member of Association of Jewish Chaplains (local). She served on the Teen Safety committee with the Mayors, Police departments and School Districts of Highland Park, Highwood and Deerfield. She served on the URJ Commission on Synagogue Music in New York for three years.
Cantor Dresher has been a professional singer for over 30 years. She has performed in cantorial concerts throughout the United States and Israel. Cantor Dresher's current CD, “Lev Echad” is available on Oysongs, CDbaby and at her website www.lyndadresher.com . She just published her new book Jackie and Creativity Go to School and was interviewed about it on the Natural Awakenings website. She lives in Lake Bluff and has two daughters, Jody and Cheryl.
Cantor Lynda can be reached at: