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Oh, What A Year!

Michael Saxe-Taller-BESTby Michael Saxe-Taller, Executive Director

This has been a fine year for the Kehilla community.  On May 18, 2016, more than 60 Kehilla members, staff and spiritual leaders came together to learn about and celebrate this year and to share our hopes and goals for the one coming up.

After welcomes, songs, and a get-to-know you activity, congregant leaders, Jenny Wong and Richard Speiglman, shared their “Kehilla stories.” We then broke into small group discussions during which everyone had the chance to answer the following:

Take a moment and think about what brought you to Kehilla – what was it you were needing and/or seeking? Now think about what you are needing/seeking now at Kehilla. What would be necessary to create that? And how could you contribute to making that happen?

Lively conversations filled with stories and ideas ensued throughout the Kehilla building.  And after we shared highlights to the whole group, we jumped into what is quickly becoming one of my favorite activities, giving a “State of the Congregation” talk.

We shared specific highlights from the past year – and there were many – topped off by Ruthie Levin sharing highlights of her experience (along with three other members of the Kehilla community) at the first ever “Jews of Color Convening” in New York City.

Then it was my stage, and here are some excerpts from what I said:

We all agree that long-term strength and sustainability is a crucial goal for Kehilla. By all measures, we are succeeding in that goal, and here are some of the details.


We have grown. We welcomed 50 new member households this year (including 10 who re-joined Kehilla).  Our overall membership has grown from 382 to 408 member households, an overall increase of more than 25!

We have diversified. Of our new members:

  • Ten are in their 20’s, 30’s or early 40’s.
  • Ten are religious school families
  • Six have babies or toddlers

We have increased our capacity as our new members have brought their energy, talents, ideas and financial resources to Kehilla.


Kehilla’s annual budget this year is $940,000. Dues make up about 55% of our yearly income and donations bring in 15% more.  Personnel expenses make up more than 65% of our overall expenses.

Following several rough years, Kehilla is on solid financial ground.  After operating on a deficit for a number of years, we have reason to expect that, for the second year in a row, we will finish with a budget surplus.


Our Board of Directors and Generosity Committee have worked to develop a culture of giving, one that both honors our values and recognizes the need to raise funds to run our synagogue. Many of you have given generously, and I thank you for that.

We set a fundraising goal this year of $145,000, and through hard work and much generosity, we are closing in on our goal.  We still need to raise several thousand dollars, so if you haven’t yet made an Annual Fund or Terumah gift, we hope you will do so. (You can donate online at or send a check payable to Kehilla,1300 Grand Ave. Piedmont, CA 94610.)

This year our Legacy Society grew by more than 18 members, and therefore we received $10,000 from the East Bay Jewish Foundation through their Create a Jewish Legacy Program.

Rabbinic and Staff Transitions

We completed the first part of our rabbinic transition, holding several meetings for members to learn about the transition and share their ideas on how to make it go smoothly.

The next steps in the rabbinic transition are:

  • This summer, Rabbi David and Rabbi Dev will become Co-Rabbis, sharing senior rabbinic leadership for the year 2016-2017.
  •  Rabbi Dev will continue as Director of Kehilla School for this next year. She will receive additional administrative help from current School Assistant Natalie Boskin, who is moving into a new role as Youth Program Coordinator (more below).
  • In July 2017, Rabbi David will decrease his role, though he will still be serving as a Kehilla rabbi and spiritual leader, and Rabbi Dev will step solely into senior rabbinic leadership.
  • In the next year, we will have many chances to honor and appreciate Rabbi David, including a major event in February 2017 honoring our rabbinic lineage

There is also a transition in our Bar and Bat Mitzvah Program.  Natalie Boskin will be taking over much of the day-to-day administration of the program and Bar/Bat Mitzvah Program Director Sandra Razieli will continue to oversee the program, though she will be scaling back her hours.


Our beloved Kehilla building is in need of some special attention.  There are a number of repairs and improvements that we want and need to make in the near future.  Therefore, we are developing a new building committee, and are in the process of creating a capital campaign.

We are about to roll out our new database.  This month you will be receiving our new Membership Renewal and School Registration forms.  We think you will appreciate the changes, and we ask for your patience and assistance as we bring the database on- line.


Kehilla’s greatest strength is its incredible number of skilled and committed lay leaders.  This past February, we held our first weekend Leadership Retreat, with 67 active Kehilla congregants spending the weekend building relationships, which are the foundational structure upon which our community grows.  We look forward to many more members joining in the leadership of our community.

Our Congregational Meeting concluded with an opportunity to recognize our dedicated Board of Directors, including new members Shoshana Finacom, Remedios Martinez-Cantú and Tova Vance.  It was announced that Barbara Petterson will continue serving as Chair of the Board.  And we recognized the long, skilled and dedicated service of outgoing board members Lynn Bravewomon, Susan Freundlich and Nancy Feinstein.


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