Kehilla Board Column: The Story of the Generosity Committee

Posted by on Feb 20, 2019 in Kol Kehilla Newsletter | No Comments

Are you looking to become more involved with Kehilla in a way that is fulfilling and productive as well as fun? Then consider joining the Generosity Committee (GenCo) or getting involved in some of our fundraising events. We have a great immediate engagement opportunity and a terrific team to support you.

In May 2019, GenCo will bring us a stellar event: an evening with one of the founders of Black Lives Matter, Alicia Garza. We would love to have you help to make this evening a powerful and moving success, not only for Kehilla members, but for lots of other folks in our community as well. We plan to reach out widely to the whole of the East Bay community. Want to help? If you are interested in learning more, please contact Michael Saxe-Taller (michael@kehillasynagogue.org). This is a terrific way to meet your Avodah obligation and to deepen your relationships both within the Kehilla community and with our many individual and organizational allies. Read on to learn more about the GenCo, which is a committee of Kehilla’s Board of Trustees and also welcomes non-Board members.

★         ★         ★

From our start as a small community synagogue back in 1984, Kehilla has grown by leaps and bounds over the years—attracting more and more individuals and families looking for a spiritual home that aligns with their progressive values.

To realize our community’s vision and to sustain Kehilla for generations to come, two Kehilla board members, Joel Kreisberg and Susan Freundlich, stepped forward (circa 2008) to lead a revitalized Fundraising Committee and build a culture of philanthropy (or giving) within Kehilla’s membership. Marjorie Cox and Julia Epstein took over the committee in early 2016, and the combination of this work and the administrative acumen of Michael Saxe-Taller as Executive Director has brought us to the place of fiscal soundness and balanced budgets that Kehilla has enjoyed for the past several years. To mark this success and the generosity of Kehilla’s members, the group changed its name from “the Fundraising Committee” to the “Generosity Committee” (aka GenCo).

Here are some examples of GenCo’s work in action—several successful fundraising events that have helped build our culture of philanthropy:

  • About five years ago, GenCo organized a major celebration honoring Kehilla’s 30th Anniversary.  Zen priest angel Kyodo williams, Joanna Macy, and Reverend Roland Stringfellow spoke with us, exploring the common threads of our shared spirituality and culture of human kindness. Rabbis Dev and David helped connect the threads. An amazing member-catered sit-down dinner was followed by Havdalah and a dance concert with Sol Tevel and Lior Ben-Hur. It was a triumphant evening, and Kehilla’s first major fundraising event.
  • Shortly after the November 2016 election, when many of us were mulling over how to respond to an unanticipated new world order, Rabbi Burt and Zen Buddhist priest Norman Fischer conversed in an overflowing Kehilla sanctuary with Rabbi Dev about the Buddha and the Baal Shem Tov, exploring our shared values. They addressed the necessary intersections between spiritual practice and social action. Local Buddhists and other friends joined Kehilla members for a deeply moving evening.
  • The following February, Kehilla filled the First Presbyterian Church in Berkeley to mark our rabbinical transition and honor Rabbi David with a soulful Songs of Freedom and Justice concert. Musicians Linda Tillery, Anthony Mordechai Tzvi Russell, and our own Linda Hirschhorn and Talia Cooper raised the roof in song. Blessings were offered by local Christian, Muslim, and Jewish leaders from around the Bay Area—an illustration of the range of interfaith and social justice work that is Kehilla.

These events illustrate one of Kehilla’s core values: connecting spirituality, Jewish prayer, and ritual with learning, cultural and artistic expression, and political action. Events like these help provide inner sustenance for our members as well as support us individually and collectively to work for social justice, fairness, and peace in the world we live in.

Our events foster deeper connections among us and raise public awareness about Kehilla outside our membership. And, these events also raise money—through sponsorships and ticket sales.

★         ★         ★

Events form part of a mix that also includes yearly donation drives, High Holiday giving, December Terumah to maintain our building, the Spring Annual Fund drive, individual conversations with members about giving, and research on grant opportunities.

The donations that result from GenCo’s fundraising comprise close to 15% of Kehilla’s overall budget. These contributions are crucial for achieving the financial health that enables us to offer religious services, Kehilla school and the B’nei Mitzvah program for our children, and adult classes.

You can always make a donation, optionally earmarked for one of several funds, such as  the Annual Fund, Terumah, or youth scholarships.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.