Close this search box.

A Word from the Board: December 2018 – January 2019

This is the second installment of our new column about the life of the Kehilla Board of Trustees. This month we’re presenting a summary of some of the Board’s work over the past year and explaining the various modes of Board work (source article:  “Governance as Leadership: Reframing the Work of the Nonprofit Board,” The Pew Fund for Health and Human Services).

The Board’s “Fiduciary Mode”

Pew Fund: In this mode, the Board’s central purpose is the stewardship of tangible assets, and its principal role is to act as a sentinel. It oversees operations and ensures efficient and appropriate use of resources, legal compliance and fiscal accountability.

The Finance Committee researched a number of places to invest some of our banked assets into liquid, low-risk, short term, FDIC money market accounts. That money previously was not earning interest and was held in amounts over the FDIC-insured limit. In our last meeting, the Board approved the Finance Committee to go ahead and place some of our banked assets into these accounts for the short term. The Board also requested and approved the forming of a small committee of Board and Finance Committee members who will develop an Investment Policy including ethical investment guidelines, and come up with a plan for future investment.

The Generosity Committee successfully coordinated several events and up to 4 fundraising campaigns throughout the year, as featured in Kehilla’s Annual Report distributed during the High Holy Days.  In addition, the committee and ED led efforts to gain Legacy Program members, which provides gifting after a person’s passing.  The Generosity Committee welcomes new members who want to help others learn how to financially support our community.

Board member Ruth Atkin led in the forming of a Building Committee.  She is working with the ED to identify a comprehensive list of improvements that the building needs, including improving accessibility of various kinds.  If you would like to provide input around prioritizing significant building projects and know about home remodeling or other pertinent experience, contact Ruth Atkin (

The Personnel Committee worked on supporting rabbinic transitions, updating job descriptions, compensation and performance reviews for the clergy and executive director, as well as began to review personnel policies which were adopted in 2004.

A time-limited committee has been formed to examine the existing Board committees –  Finance, Membership, Board Development, Generosity, Personnel, and the newest committee, Building – with the goal of seeing that they are functioning in the best possible way.  For example, should the membership committee expand its scope from welcoming new members to a broader mission of member engagement. While these committees are known as “Board committees” – one or more Board member must be on the committee – non-Board members are welcome to join on all but Personnel.

The Board’s “Strategic Mode”

Pew Fund: Here, the Board’s central purpose is to ensure a winning strategy for the organization, and its principal role is to be a strategic partner to senior management. Its core work includes setting priorities, reviewing and modifying strategic plans, and monitoring performance against plans.

Each Board meeting includes a report from both the ED and the Senior Rabbi.  ED Michael Saxe-Taller engages the Board to examine quarterly and annual budget reports, and prepares annual budgets with the Finance, Generosity and Personnel Committees for full Board approval.  The Board also hears about staff and congregation needs, such as improving disability access. Rabbi Dev reports on their activities within and external to Kehilla, work with Spiritual Leaders and the SLPC, and learning gained from professional development.

At the recent Board retreat, Rabbi Dev and Michael led a discussion regarding the changes within Kehilla: transitions in the Spiritual leadership, the growth of both the congregation and the school, and the impact and potentials of having a strong ED, after a few  years with interim and less than full-time EDs. Rabbi Dev, Michael, and the Board co-chairs are in the planning stages of how best to move this self-reflective organizational development process forward with the entire community.

The Board’s “Generative Mode”

Pew Fund: Generative thinking is a cognitive process for deciding what to pay attention to, what it means, and what to do about it. And, Ryan said, this is also a good definition of “governance.” In the generative mode, the Board’s central purpose is to be a source of leadership for the organization, and its principal role is as a “sense maker.”

The Board focused on collaboration with two external Committees this past year. In March of this year the Sanctuary Task Force (a subgroup of the Immigration Committee) presented – and the Board passed – a proposal that Kehilla plan to provide physical sanctuary and shelter.  This followed more than a year of collaborative work between the Task Force, the Board, the ED and the Spiritual Leadership. The task force, in collaboration with the Board, obtained financing, provided opportunities for feedback and education with the community, and created policies and procedures in preparation for welcoming guests.  The Task Force is providing regular updates to the Board.

The Cemetery Task Force (a subgroup of the Chevra Kadisha and Board member Jay Koch) presented – and the Board passed – a proposal that Kehilla plan to have members purchase up to 30 plots in a Kehilla area of Mountain View cemetery, and that Kehilla purchase 2 plots to be used for up to 20 future cremated remains of Kehilla members.

The Board is looking at how best to support and collaborate with all committees.  One way to be sure the Board is aware of all the activities is to send a summary in writing.  There is also a time at the end of the meeting for announcements regarding committee meetings or events.  A representative of the Economic Justice Committee will begin attending meetings regularly.

We welcome – and encourage – anyone to join us at our Board meetings.  They are generally held the 4th Tuesday of the month (December will be on the 3rd Tuesday, December 18).  We serve dinner at 6pm and the meeting starts at 6:10. If you would like to attend please do let us know ahead of time so we can be sure to have plenty of food.  Contact Catherine Lyons

Join our Mailing list!

The Weekly, Kehilla’s newsletter, is released every Thursday.