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Executively Speaking: Looking Ahead

by Michael Saxe-Taller, Executive Director

We have entered the month of Elul.  I have a personal practice, at the moment between the conclusion of one year and the beginning of another, to review my past year and imagine the one that is coming.

I have been the executive director of Kehilla for eight months so it seems only right to apply that practice to my past (almost) year with this marvelous congregation.

Many important moments, big changes and real accomplishments have happened since I arrived this past January, many of which I listed in my July Kol Kehilla article. (You can view it on the website here:  We have solidified our financial situation, updated our communications, technology and administrative systems, and have continued to develop the leadership on our board and committees. Most importantly, we have ended our year with the sense of satisfaction, hope and possibility that comes from facing big challenges and coming out on the other side stronger than ever.

I have been deeply touched by the commitment and care that so, so many of our members have for each other, for the well-being of the Kehilla community, and for doing the right thing in the world that we live in.  It is this commitment and care that provide the stability of the foundation that this synagogue is built upon.

I am very excited for this year to come because I see it as an opportunity for us to grow and develop and build a stronger, more vibrant community.  We have stabilized in every key area of the organization and now we have the opportunity to imagine, strategize and prioritize.

This is already underway. Our board of directors, which for several years has been required to do considerably more than a congregational board should ever be asked to do, now has begun the process of goal setting and strategic planning, as well as putting attention on fiscal growth and fundraising.

Our staff, who have generously stepped in and taken on any role or task that was needed to sustain our community, are being able to focus on their core responsibilities and expand and strengthen the areas of the community that they serve.

We are poised to put more attention on developing the leadership capacities of our members, and therefore the capacity for our community to grow.  As I have said regularly, we need to take the time to talk to our membership and find out about people’s passions and skills, and then think with them about how they can apply those to our community.  I think we have the time to do that now.

We now have the time to pay attention to our building.  We are forming a new Building Committee that will address the long-term needs of our building and make plans for gathering the resources to address them.

We also are ready to think about how we welcome new people into our community and how we bring those that are already here, closer in.  This is a warm community, but we can become more intentional and radical in our welcoming.

We are in the position to make our community more connected and unified. We can think together about how to better communicate and coordinate.  We have begun conversations about how to do this at our congregational meetings, at board meetings, and within our staff and spiritual leadership.

I think we are ready to fully come out to the broader community.  Kehilla is a treasure, and, I think, one that is not well enough known.  I said recently to the loan manager from the bank that holds our mortgage, that I am hopeful about our future growth because I think that there are so many people out there who want what Kehilla has to offer.  Whether it is our dynamic, child-focused religious school, our deeply engaging and meaningful Bar and Bat Mitzvah program, our Jewishly rooted social justice work, or our inclusive, innovative, yet tradition-based spirituality, there are so many Jews and others who are searching for these.  It is the right time for us to explore ways to let them know we are here.

At this High Holy Day time, I am filled with anticipation, hope and possibility. The year 5776 promises to be a good one for the Kehilla community.  I believe it will be one of continued growth and development. And the best thing about it is that we get to do it together, and for me, it is that I get to do it with you.

Shana tovah.  May you have a sweet, sweet new year.


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