by: Michael Saxe-Taller
We recently completed a marvelous holiday season. More people than ever came to our High Holy Day services, including overflow crowds at our Family and Tot services. Powerful words were spoken on our theme of “Facing Our Times with Spiritual Audacity” (see the sermons on our website). And we concluded the season with a glorious Simchat Torah celebration, highlighted by dancing and the music of the latest incarnation of the Kehilla Klezmer Band.
The following is excerpted from what I said to the community on Erev Rosh Hashanah:
Last November, the night after the election, many of us came to Kehilla to share our confusion, heartbreak and anger over the national election results. Rabbi Dev encouraged us to be patient, to take the time we need to process our reactions and only then choose to respond.
It was a shocking time, but we didn’t wait long to respond. And we did so, in the words of this years High Holy Day theme, with spiritual audacity.
Ten days after the election, we packed the Kehilla sanctuary to learn from our founding rabbi Burt Jacobson and renowned Buddhist teacher Norman Fischer. When asked how to respond to the new administration in Washington, Norman noted that more than ever, we need to do our activism as part of a spiritually rooted community – like Kehilla.
Throughout this year, we have continued to grow and build our spiritual community. We have done this by learning together, praying together and celebrating together.
And we have boldly worked for Justice together:
Kehilla’s Immigration teams have now provided accompaniment for 12 immigrant and refugee families, couples or individuals
Kehilla school parents have organized a monthly “Let My People Go” protest at ICE’s Richmond Detention Center
Our Economic Justice Committee held a wildly successful Political Engagement Workshop for those inspired to deepen their involvement in social change.
Kehilla supported indigenous struggles, including the “Save West Berkeley Shellmound” campaign (stickers available in the lobby!) and our first-time annual commitment to the Shuumi Land Tax / Sogorea Te Land Trust.
Kehilla had large contingents at the Women’s march, Earth Day Climate Action and most especially we were a force around the responses to the Berkeley alt-right rally in August.
The afternoon before that rally, our sanctuary teemed with people at a Non-Violence and De-escalation Training, while our social hall was filled with families participating in an Art Build and Teach-In Against White Supremacy. The next day, Kehilla had large contingents at all three major public responses to the Berkeley rally and Rabbi Dev, Hazzan Shulamit and many Kehilla leaders took visible leadership throughout that day.
Soon after the White Supremacist rally in Charlottesville, we found three Alt-right stickers on the glass that covers our Kehilla sign. When, a few days later, a reporter asked me if the stickers made our community feel insecure, I reminded myself what Kehilla has been doing since November 8th and for the last 33 years. I told her that we feel secure because we are a part of a broad, multi-faith, multi-racial community that we know has our back, as we have theirs.
We can be proud of the work we are doing and pleased with the position we are in. In February, 400 people came out to celebrate Rabbi David and honor his lifetime of social justice activism. Rabbi David declared how fortunate we are that Kehilla was founded 33 years ago, because in these challenging times, we would need to create Kehilla if it didn’t already exist.
And we are well positioned to do more. We have a growing capacity to impact the way our broader Jewish community responds to repressive policies. And we are stepping into new leadership as the times draw us into broader coalitions and partnerships among social justice leaders and organizations.
As we enter our new year, I want to invite every one of you to be part of Kehilla’s audacious community building and work for justice.
Be part of sustaining our community. Take leadership. Help out when asked, or offer to do so even before you’re asked.
Make sure that Kehilla stays strong by contributing to our financial security. Make a donation in Rabbi Dev’s honor as we prepare for our Brit Kehilla – a Community Covenant to welcome Rabbi Dev as our Senior Rabbi or become a member of the Kehilla Legacy society by remembering Kehilla with an afterlife gift.
Whatever you do, cozy on up to the Kehilla community and be part of building something audacious – a community that loves boldly, learns boldly and acts boldly.