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Executively Speaking

Michael Saxe-Tallerby Michael Saxe-Taller, Executive Director

Over the years, I have learned a lot about how synagogues function. Having worked at Congregation Kol Shofar in Tiburon, with dozens of congregations during my tenure as a community organizer, and being a rabbinical spouse for over 10 years (my wife is a rabbi at Congregation Sherith Israel in San Francisco), I know that building and sustaining well functioning synagogues is not simple, nor is it easy.

As I approached my first interview with the Kehilla Executive Director Search Committee, I was excited, but also cautious. I knew that the congregation had gone through many transitions in executive leadership and I wondered about the state of the synagogue in terms of infrastructure and congregational leadership.

As soon as I met the search committee, I knew some things were right at Kehilla. When they spoke about their community, I could feel their passion, commitment and competence. I left eager to find out more about them, and curious about the congregation as a whole. Needless to say, when they offered me the Executive Director job, I jumped without hesitation.

When I began in mid-January, I still had many questions about the state of the congregation. Over the last month and a half, I have been on an expedition to learn and assess the institution in terms of finances, systems, facilities, technology, leadership, and more.

And indeed I am finding that there are many needs to be addressed; our financial systems need attention, our technology is antiquated, and our beloved old building needs some love, to name just a few. But more importantly, I have found that Kehilla is solid at its center. There is an abundance of what I think is the most important resource a congregation can have – deeply committed leaders.

I have worked with synagogues that have new buildings, large budgets, and fancy marketing materials. But those do not guarantee the success and the strength of the congregation. What does is having people who have committed their hearts, minds, time and energy to the community. And in this regard, Kehilla is wealthy.

As I engage in my learning expedition, I have found that over and over people have stepped forward and done whatever was needed to maintain and build the congregation through its many executive transitions. The Kehilla staff – Beth, Sasha, Sandra, Molly, Malka and Josef, – and the clergy team – Rabbis David, Dev, Burt and Hazzan Shulamit – have all gone way beyond what they were originally hired to do. Members of the Kehilla Board of Directors have taken responsibility for areas of synagogue functioning into which lay leaders rarely venture. Leaders of Kehilla committees such as Finance, Personnel, Generosity and Spiritual Life and Practices have stepped up and made sure that the work of the synagogue has gotten done. And the members of the congregation have continued to sing, advocate, learn, pray, make art, fix the world and do what the Kehilla community is here to do.

I am grateful to all of you for growing this congregation and making my transition a smooth one. And I look forward to enjoining my heart, my mind and my skills to yours as we continue to build this fine community.

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