Executively Speaking: Off and Running in the New Year

by Michael Saxe-Taller, Executive Director

As our son Sam headed off this morning to his first day of junior year at Berkeley High School, reality hit me head on – we are beginning a new year. All of the signs have been showing here at Kehilla; the pace of work is increasing, members are renewing, preparations for Kehilla School are speeding up, and there is a look in the eyes of our staff that conveys, “Oh boy, Rosh Hashana is only a few weeks away!”

I will take this opportunity to give you a heads up on some of the things that are brewing here at Kehilla:

Membership Renewal and School Registration

Our new membership year began on July 1st. By now, you have received a number of emails from me inviting you to renew your Kehilla membership. More than 300 of you have already done so (thank you!!). I invite the rest of you to do so as soon as possible. High Holy Days are coming soon and admission to services comes with your membership renewal. Late renewals put an additional administrative burden on our staff, so for the first time, we have instituted a late fee for those who are renewing after Labor Day.

Kehilla School holds its first day of classes on September 5. Those who have not renewed but are planning to register your child for school still have time to do so.

High Holy Days

Rosh Hashanah is just around the corner with services beginning on Sunday evening, September 29.

The Kehilla staff is deep into the many details of planning for our always ambitious High Holy Day services and programs. This year’s theme is Tools for our Time: Teshuvah, Tefillah, Tzedakah – (Re)turning/repair, reflection/prayer and acts of righteousness. Given the year of great challenge and opportunity that we are entering into, this is a good time to lean into our long-practiced tool box.

As members (once you renew!), you receive High Holy Day tickets, and this year seems like a good time to invite friends to join you at Kehilla’s services.

Safety and Security

Because of the rise in white nationalist and antisemitic violence in the US, we have been motivated to pay more attention to issues of safety and security at Kehilla. We have formed a Community Safety Task Force that has been charged with considering the many issues that fit are related to increasing safety in our community. We are in the process of updating our safety plan at Kehilla School as well as creating a High Holy Day safety plan. You will receive a detailed email from me with specific details. If you are interested in joining this important task force, please let me know.

Physical Sanctuary

Last winter, our Board of Trustees voted to declare Kehilla a place of physical sanctuary for immigrants and refugees facing unjust deportation. Our key limitation to implementing that declaration has been that we don’t have a shower in our building. After a few tries, we get the city of Piedmont to approve our plans and construction of a full bathroom and shower off of Miriam’s Well is underway. We expect to be finished by mid-October.

Building Upgrades

If you haven’t been in our sanctuary recently, you are in for a treat. We recently completed a thorough cleaning of our sanctuary, including the cleaning of the rafters for, maybe the first time ever. In addition, we took the opportunity to install beautiful new light fixtures in the sanctuary. The place looks extraordinary. We were able to do the cleaning and install the lights because of the incredible generosity of an anonymous Kehilla member who made donations to support accessibility at Kehilla. Additional thanks are due to Lisa Korwin, Dee Ward, Josef Straub, Fred Williamson and Vladimir Rosell.

And if you haven’t noticed already our social hall has been freshly painted and the outside of the building got a wash before the High Holy Days.

New Kehilla Staff

Interviews are underway for two new staff positions as Kehilla (no need to worry, all of our current fabulous staff members are still here). We are hiring a part-time Development and Communications Associate to work with the Generosity Committee and me to manage and administer all of our fundraising efforts and to take on much of our congregant communications. We are also hiring a quarter-time People of Color Organizer to support the work of our Belonging & Allyship Racial Justice Initiative. We hope to have them both on board before the holidays!!

And There’s More….

That is not even close to capturing all of the activity in our community. I am happy to tell you more or answer any questions about any of the subjects I just covered. You can call, email or just stop by. Otherwise, I look forward to seeing each of you many times over our marvelous upcoming holiday season.

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