by Rabbi David J. Cooper
When Rabbi Dev Noily started working with us as the Director of Kehilla School, she was honest, and told us that she would work hard at this job, but that it was a job for her, and that Kehilla was not her family’s synagogue community.
That satisfied us, because she seemed to us very capable for serving as school director and we thought that she was a good fit for Kehilla. Like us, she is spiritually oriented and politically progressive. She was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, and she clearly is someone with a deep, innovative and well-educated understanding of Judaism in this time of change and redefinition. That quality is a high priority for us as a community. She was very much in parallel with us on issues of Israel and Palestine and her resume showed that she was involved in Philadelphia’s Dialogue Group, which meant she had grappled with the same issues and concerns that we had.
As her first year progressed, I found myself wishing that Kehilla served her and her family—Sara Felder, her wife, and Jesse, their son—as their shul community, because I saw how much her rabbinical presence was already affecting us so positively. Well, it turns out that I was not alone. Everyone who came within her aura was also wishing the same thing.
When she told the spiritual leaders that she and her family had come to see Kehilla as their spiritual home, you could feel the rush of joy among us, because we knew we had a colleague to be cherished and who clearly was so able at providing erudite and spiritually profound leadership. And she was so much fun to work with.
Last year, we all officially greeted her at a Chai Shabbat as a Kehilla Spiritual Leader. She has served the congregation far beyond her job description–for example, helping to lead the Welcoming Synagogues project, Pop-Up Shabbat, the Family Shabbatot, and in so many other capacities. She has become the personal rabbi of many Kehilla members. Our spiritual leaders rely on her and value her guidance.
As her three-year contract as School Director was coming up for renegotiation, it occurred to many of us that her next contract should reflect the reality of the role she is playing in our lives and in the life of the community.
The Spiritual Leaders of Kehilla and Kehilla’s Board of Trustees are now overjoyed that, as of July 1, Rabbi Dev will now serve us with a new job title: Associate Rabbi, working with us full-time as a rabbinical leader and continuing her amazing work in Kehilla School. I expect that all of the Kehilla membership