From Rabbi David, Michael Saxe-Taller, Executive Director, and Lynn Bravewomon, Board Co-Chair
This is a special moment in the life of our congregation. We have emerged from a somewhat shaky interim period and are on solid footing with a full permanent staff for the first time in two years. This means that we can now start imagining new possibilities, planning for new endeavors and moving forward on projects and ideas which have been on hold. The three of us—representing the spiritual, administrative and community leadership of Kehilla—are excited to invite you to our Annual Community Meeting on Sunday, May 3 from 3:00-6:00 pm at Kehilla. It will be the first opportunity that we will have to move together, as a whole community, into this new period. And it will be more interactive and engaging then ever!
Despite our transitions, we have still had quite a year. We have advanced in our social action work, in our service to ourselves as a community and in our spiritual programming. The embellishment of our sanctuary space is basically complete. We are seeing a rise in our membership. Younger people are joining up and taking leadership. And there are more changes on the horizon.
It was also an anniversary year in which we found ourselves looking back at where this community came from as a socially and politically progressive spiritual center and which now occupies an extremely important position in that milieu. We are a major progressive presence in the Jewish community, and we are the major Jewish presence in many progressive endeavors in the Bay Area from community organizing to the environment, economic justice to housing, and on Israel/Palestine issues as well.
Our Shabbat and holiday services have become deeper and more interactive while maintaining their accessibility to both those with little Jewish background and those experienced in Jewish observance.
Our huge 30th Anniversary gala was a great opportunity for all of us to see how, even with our great growth over these decades, we have remained true to the original vision of Kehilla, laid out by Rabbi Burt, and that we have actualized these values in practice even beyond our early expectations.
Throughout this year’s long transition, Kehilla’s staff members have continued to do their work with creativity, dedication and skill. We have a new executive director who has hit the ground running. Beth Bittle has taken on greater responsibilities as she now occupies the new managing director position. Our Board worked extremely hard during the transition and came through this sometimes challenging time with high morale. We entered this fiscal year with uncertainty about our financial sustainability and now we are on much better footing – even if issues of sustainability must and should remain an ongoing top priority of our fiscal agenda. And we have four highly qualified new candidates for the Board who are enthusiastic about serving the community.
From where the three of us stand, we are feeling good about where we are and where we’re going.
One of Kehilla’s greatest strengths is that it is made up of many parts, including our education programs for children and adults; our Bar/Bat Mitzvah families; social action on local and global issues; our many different kinds of spiritual activities; our young adult Glitter group; and our mutual Chesed support network. In these various centers of activity, congregants are finding different ways to express their Jewish values and identities. We have so much going on that it even the most involved Kehilla members don’t know about all of our parts.
Our community will become stronger and more cohesive the more we are able to see ourselves as part of a greater Kehilla community, bigger than our particular niche. At our May 3rd Community Meeting, we will have the opportunity to meet and learn about and from members of the many parts of the Kehilla community.
We are hoping that you can attend so we can learn about you and your experience of Kehilla. We will take time to share our vision of how we want our community to expand and grow, and we will each have the opportunity to think about what role we want to play in this growth. So bring your visions and hopes with you and get ready for an afternoon of fun, food, interactive exercises, small group conversations and more.
As we start the congregation’s fourth decade, a time of a new generation, it is a good time to reassert ourselves as visionaries, as activists, as a caring community. The verse with which Rabbi Burt opened his original Kehilla vision statement from Proverbs 29:18 still applies: “Without a vision, the people perish.” We’re still here and we are not standing still.