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Thank You to the People Who Make Our High Holy Days Come to Life!

by Rabbi Dev Noily

I’m about to take down our sukkah, excited that rain is miraculously in the forecast. All that lulav-shaking inviting an early drizzle to our parched soil in these early days of what we pray will be a season of rain. I feel the fullness of this time of year, a kind of calm that comes after the months preparation, anticipation, introspection and celebration that the High Holy Days lead us through. And I have a chance to notice and appreciate the extraordinary feat that Kehilla’s people executed, making it possible for all of us to tend to our Jewish spiritual practice in this holiest time of our year.

There are dozens of people who are indispensable in this, including our generous volunteers, musical prayer leaders, spiritual leaders and all of Kehilla’s staff. Here I want to focus on some of our staff who are less publicly visible. So much of what makes all of our experiences possible happens behind the scenes, with people working long hours, amid the extra stress of the deep importance of the holy days. They think about every detail, and take care of little and big glitches so graciously that few of us are aware that anything was ever amiss. So now I get to say a little “Thank you,” and to share with you some of what they do.

Dee Ward and Maya Joshua
Dee and Maya hold down every aspect of our incredibly complex High Holy Day logistics, planning and running. They essentially produce a multi-day festival over several weeks and two venues for over a thousand people. They handle membership renewals, tickets, inventory for moving to Scottish Rite (and back to Kehilla), timelines, honey sticks, round challahs, Havdallah sets for Ne’ilah, hiring childcare staff, providing your nametags and welcoming you, making postcards, arranging for streaming, coordinating volunteers, getting all the information on the website—the list goes on and on and on, literally. They work long, long days, and log tens of thousands of steps. They plan for everything, and then, without missing a beat, take care of all the things that pop up in the moment. This year was Dee’s second High Holy Days with us and Maya’s first! Maya and Dee were in such a groove, it felt as if they’d been doing this for years.

Josef Straub and Fred Williams
Josef and Fred are our amazing custodians. Josef has been serving 1300 Grand since before Kehilla bought our building, and Fred joined us this year. Josef and Fred move our whole physical operation from Kehilla to Scottish Rite and back, including our ark, prayerbooks, sound equipment, signs, nametags, podiums, candles, lighters – from the biggest to the smallest things, they fill up a U-Haul. It’s like moving apartments twice in ten days. They also move hundreds of chairs, adjusting our spaces at Kehilla to meet our constantly changing needs for 2nd day Rosh Hashana, Family Kol Nidre and Yom Kippur afternoon and Ne’ilah, and our break fast. Every time we take a seat at Kehilla, our chair was placed by Josef or Fred. Our carpets are vacuumed, our garbage, recycling and compost are emptied, our bathrooms are cleaned and our paper towels and toilet paper are re-stocked by Josef and Fred. Many times over the holy days I saw Josef or Fred break a heavy sweat as they tended to our material needs and comfort. Their care and devotion are matched by their kindness and good humor.

Molly Melamed and Natalie Boskin
Molly, our bookkeeper, processes the avalanche of transactions that come at this time of year with hundreds of membership renewals and hundreds more High Holy Day tickets for non-members. Then there are all the extra expenses that come with a production the size of High Holy Days. Molly always sees that there are people behind the transactions, and treats us all with respect and compassion.
Natalie, our Youth Programs Coordinator, holds down the logistics of Kehilla School and the Bar/Bat Mitzvah program as both programs launch their year. The overlap of the beginning of the school year with High Hoy Days makes this time particularly demanding for Natalie and Rabbi Gray Myrseth, our Youth Education Director. Natalie’s compassionate presence in the office helps all the staff as we navigate the demands of the season.

Together, our staff worked this year as an extraordinary team – supporting each other, helping each other wherever we could, paying attention when things got stressful for one or another of us. It’s an incredible blessing to be part of this team, and to be lifted up in my work and in my practice by all that they do, and by the way that they do it. Dee, Maya, Josef, Fred, Molly and Natalie – thank you for an amazing Holy Day season–I love you all!

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