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Facing Our Times With Spiritual Audacity – Yamim Nora’im / Days of Awe 5778


by Rabbi Dev Noily

Last year we gathered for High Holy Days with the election just weeks away and the water protectors holding ceremony at Standing Rock. This year we come together in an increasingly authoritarian and chaotic country, bracing ourselves every time we hear the news. This year, we are joined by many new members and friends. We come together more strongly connected to one another, and to the many groups whose values we share. Like a tree in a forest of aspens, we’re joined at the roots to thousands of people and communities who share our commitments to radical hospitality, human dignity, and loving curiosity about difference.

One common thread in my conversations with people of all ages is that we’re seeing things that are new in our lifetimes and life experiences. It can be disorienting and destabilizing. And as frightening as that can feel, the instability is also opening opportunities for us to grow new capacities – for courage, compassion, leadership, generosity and connection.

Our theme this year is Facing our Times with Spiritual Audacity.  More on that below. Here, I want to share with you some of the people who will be guiding our prayer and reflection in this holy season, with deep gratitude to the extraordinary Kehilla members who will share their wisdom.

 Erev Rosh Hashana – Sermon by Howard Hamburger

Howard is a psychotherapist who is a founding member of Kehilla, and part our Spiritual Leadership team.



Rosh Hashana morning – Sermon by Jessica Shen-Wachter

Jessica is a sixteen-year-old Asian American Jew. She is a junior at Albany High School and is passionate about fighting systemic oppression.



Rosh Hashana morning – Torah service led by Rabbi David J. Cooper

Rabbi David is now Kehilla’s Active Emeritus Rabbi. He is a founding member of Kehilla, and served as Community/Senior Rabbi from 1999-2017.

Torah Reading:  Exodus 3:1-11 – This is the moment when Moses is called away from his happy, quiet life as a shepherd and family man, and into the struggle for his people’s liberation.

Kol Nidre – Kol Nidre chanted by Hazzan Shulamit Wise Fairman,

Sermon by Rabbi Dev Noily

Hazzan Shulamit is Kehilla’s Music Director, and has been serving Kehilla since 2005.

Rabbi Dev is Kehilla’s new Senior Rabbi, and has been serving Kehilla since 2010.

Yom Kippur morning – Sermon by Aurora Levins Morales

Aurora is a writer, an artist, a historian, a teacher and mentor. She is also an activist, a healer, a revolutionary.


Yom Kippur Morning – Torah Service led by Rabbi Dev Noily

Torah Reading: Numbers 13:23-33.  Standing on the wilderness side of the Jordan River, the Israelites are facing unprecedented challenges and opportunities. Most feel small and scared, and some see a clear way forward.

Yom Kippur Afternoon: A Disability Justice Healing service – led by Rabbi Elliot Kukla

Elliot is a trans chronically ill and disabled rabbi. For the past 10 years he has served those who are ill, dying, or bereaved at the Bay Area Jewish Healing Center in San Francisco.


All our services are collaboratively led by Kehilla’s “Bima Team:”

Founding Rabbi Burt Jacobson, Rabbi David Cooper, Rabbi Dev Noily, Hazzan Shulamit, Sharon Grodin, Howard Hamburger, Avi Rose, Beth Dickinson, Julie Nesnansky, and Debbie Fier.

Our High Holy Day theme:

Facing Our Times with Spiritual Audacity

I propose that (we) declare a state of moral emergency….The hour calls for high moral grandeur and spiritual audacity.    — Abraham Joshua Heschel, 1963

Since last year’s High Holy Days, so much has happened. Many things that some of us have taken for granted are under assault.  Facing our new circumstances, how do we resist and persist, drawing on our spiritual teachings to stay true to our values of human integrity, and our commitment to this planet and its creatures? Now, we look ahead with awareness of our individual and collective struggles, traumas, gifts and strengths. How can we break free from the impact of our past traumas?  How do we offer our gifts with humility, clarity and spiritual audacity? This, like every moment, is novel and requires our creativity, our compassion and a renewed awareness of our spiritual resources. Every High Holy Day cycle brings a powerful invitation to reflect back and to prepare to move forward; this year calls on all that our hearts and minds can offer.

May our coming together in practice and community during these Holy Days bring us strength and renewal!


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