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Our Vision & History

Kehilla Community Synagogue is a Jewish spiritual home for politically progressive people. Our approach to progressive politics is based on a spiritual mandate to heal and repair the world, a central theme in Judaism, by showing compassion to all, and actively working towards social justice, peace and environmental sanity.

This is the core of what Rabbi Burt Jacobson envisioned when he started Kehilla School, and later Kehilla Community Synagogue, in 1984. For more than a quarter of a century, Kehilla has lived — and continues to live — this vision through our liturgy, our music, our rituals, our inclusive and egalitarian community, our advocacy and social action, our education of our children.

Kehilla Community Synagogue at a demonstration against US intervention in El Salvador, circa 1985

Rabbi Burt was also keenly aware of the sense of isolation many people experience in their day-to-day lives, and recognized that tikkun olam (healing the world) also requires creating and sustaining community. Kehilla is a community of participation, of creating together the community and the world we want. Kehilla has many leaders, many teachers, and many learners.

That is why we call ourselves a “community synagogue.” In Kehilla, you don’t need to experience life’s inevitable simchas and tsuris – joys and heartaches – in isolation. Being in community sweetens our joyous times and holy days, and softens the times of distress as we support and console each other.

Our liturgies are drawn from tradition, and use newer prayer forms that reflect our feminism, our egalitarianism, our concerns for the health of the planet, our spiritual seeking and our faith, as well as our healthy skepticism. Music, dancing, humor, joy, and meditation all can be found at Kehilla services; the cerebral, the visceral, as well as the transcendent; all are part of the Kehilla religious and spiritual experience.

Our youth programming – especially in Kehilla School and our Bar/Bat Mitzvah program – is designed to help our young people become critical thinkers: empowered to develop their own perspectives; understanding the contributions of the Jewish past, while grappling with the values and challenges facing the human community in today’s world.

As Kehilla enters its second quarter century we delight in seeing the character of our community evolve, as a new generation – some already in leadership in Kehilla –use their experiences, visions, needs and leadership to guide us through the next decades.

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