by Rabbi David J. Cooper
[At our Chanukah party on December 12 we are “ribbon cutting” the amazing Kehilla History Wall in our social hall and honoring the folks who made it happen.]
The board of directors was pondering how to celebrate Kehilla’s 30th. This was more than two years ago. Board member Susan Freundlich was inspired by the beautiful commemorations of history she had seen at the Berkeley Rep and Spirit Rock and felt that Kehilla’s 30 years deserved equal treatment. Susan was deep in the heavy work of organizing our anniversary party and so she asked Dvora Gordon (whose artistic eye is behind many of our art exhibits in the Fireside Room) to take over the research and coordination. Joel Kreisberg was excited by the idea and decided to have a contribution made to support the project through the Luisa Kreisberg Family Foundation.
Dvora hadn’t been a member then for more than two or three years, so it was an opportunity for her to find out more about this community in which she was now actively participating. Painstakingly, piece-by-piece, she assembled photographs from, and information about, the different eras of our existence and about the activists and leaders who took responsibility for the spiritual and administrative life of the congregation. A chart of our history from our 25th anniversary had disappeared, but the information was still available via email from Dar es Salaam in Tanzania by Richard Miles, who was very helpful to Dvora’s research. She expressed deep gratitude to him and to a variety of people who spent hours with her sharing their stories about Kehilla. Soon it became apparent that there was more information than could fit on the wall as planned. “We could have done a full-length book,” she commented. And she had to contend with a Rashomon effect: the same events and developments were remembered differently by different participants. Sigh.
Dvora began the process of drawing up what she was finding, and she assembled writings from people about the shul. Given the wealth of information and the limited space to contain it, this meant a process of editing or triage. Since she was fairly recent to the congregation, she needed an old-timer with editing talents to help determine what to include and how to express it best. Enter Bracha Stone who worked with Dvora to create the final text.
When it became clear that it could not possibly be ready by our 30th anniversary celebration, the work could now be done as carefully and artistically as possible. With the images and texts collected, it was time for someone with the right skills to actually assemble all the pieces into the six panels that would take the viewer from before our beginning as a synagogue to the present day and beyond. Norma Mark responded to a request in Kol Kehilla for someone with design and tech skills. She took over this aspect of the work and for a year she worked to create a visually stunning presentation. As Nikee Borden mounted the great panels onto the Social Hall wall, it became clear that the work surpassed our expectations. The wall represents a community effort at its best—using the energy and skills of volunteers who came forward just as they were needed.
Photos of the wall that are included with this article cannot do it justice. So if you want the full effect of a graphic rendition of the three-decade history of this “spiritually oriented, politically progressive” community, you should definitely be here for Hanukkah on December 12th as we honor the makers of the project and celebrate our history on this holiday of dedication.