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Executively Speaking: The Whole is Greater than the Sum of its Parts

Michael Saxe-Tallerby Michael Saxe-Taller, Executive Director

More than 70 Kehilla members gathered on the first Sunday in May for Kehilla’s Annual Community Meeting.  It was easy to see that people were happy to be there as they were chatting with friends and munching on snacks.  We came together with a song, and then learned more about who makes up our community by doing an interactive, “step into the circle if…” game.  I then had an opportunity to share my observations and my hopes with the group, and here is the gist of what I said. 

     Since arriving in mid-January, I have spent my time learning as much as I can about the members of Kehilla and what makes this community tick.  I am struck by just how many different people are deeply committed to Kehilla.  Those 75 who came to the Community Meeting on a beautiful, sunny Sunday afternoon sure are, as are so many others.  Whether involved in Economic Justice Committee or Middle East Peace Committee actions, attending Kehilla School or Tot Shabbat, participating in the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program or coming for Chai Shabbat, Wednesday Morning Meditation or one of the rabbis’ classes, hundreds of people are connected and dedicated to Kehilla.  

     Our incredible diversity is one of our greatest strengths, and we have dozens of areas of our community that are functioning well.  It is because of the involvement and leadership of so many of you that Kehilla has come through its many transitions in such good shape.  You can be proud and pleased with what you have built. 

    It is a common phenomenon that someone experiences a community and then assumes that is what the community really is and that others have the same experience of the community as they do.  From what I have seen, this appears true for many of us at Kehilla.  We make assumptions that our corner of Kehilla is what Kehilla is.  And as board of trustees member, SAM Luckey, so aptly said to me as we planned the community meeting, this results in our not always communicating, coordinating or collaborating as well as we could (and want to!). 

    I have an opportunity that most of you don’t, which is to learn about all of the many corners that make up Kehilla, and I can assure you, we are much more than any one of them.  This is a diverse, multi-faceted, multi-generational community in which people live their Judaism and their Jewish values in many different ways. 

     Our distinctions are important, but the more we see ourselves as greater than the sum of our parts, the stronger our community will become.  The more we can see the broad picture of Kehilla, the more different Kehilla members we can meet, and the more we can experience the many facets of our community, the more effectively we can create the kind of Jewish community we want.   

     This is one of my goals, and I have known from my first interview for the executive director job, that it is a goal of many others here at Kehilla. 

     After I spoke, we heard from four congregants about how they had experienced the broader view of Kehilla in the past year, and then we broke into groups to give everyone the chance to put their minds to the issues that I raised.  We asked:

  1. What have been your experiences with seeing the diversity in the Kehilla community beyond your specific niche?
  2. What is your vision for how you want it to be and how can we get there? What can you do and what can the community do to realize that vision?

   When everyone came back together, a representative of each group shared an idea from their groups.  Here are some of those ideas:

  • Members should attend and experience Kehilla events and services that they haven’t gone to before
  • More communication about the different Kehilla committees, including articles about them in Kol Kehilla
  • Renewed attention to the summer retreat
  • A visual diagram of the many parts of the Kehilla community
  • A conference on social action and spirituality
  • Get members connected through lifecycle events
  • Hold community engagement events
  • Set up buddies for all new members
  • Have joint projects between committees and Kehilla School
  • Have an activity that all can work toward in common, whether it be reading the same book, or working on a single project such as rebuilding together for a short period of time.

     We are having all of the ideas that came out of the discussions compiled, and they will be available for all members to read.  We invited people to take the initiative on any of these or other ideas they have to strengthen the community

     We concluded the meeting with reports on the state of the congregation financially, administratively, spiritually and in social action, and people left with a sense of pride, connection and hope for our community.

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