Dear Kol Ami members and friends,
Whew! This past year has been one of great change and transformation for our community. We moved. We have a new synagogue administrator, our 2nd in the past 5 months. We have new prayer spaces and a new structure for our youth education programs. We are evolving and transforming ourselves to better serve the Jews (and the people who love them) in our area. We are becoming a Center for Jewish Life and we are attracting new members and participants because of many of these changes.
I want to acknowledge that with change comes loss. It is inevitable. I wish that change, transformation and renewal were pain free processes. But it is only when something is broken, cracked open, that new light can come in. This is the season of new light, possibilities and directions and I truly hope these changes will give you new life and energy as you take time from your busy lives to participate in the Jewish Days of Awe.
We are an ancient people. We have moved together, traveling the world together, for more than 2000 years. We have experienced innumerable changes, disruptions and transformations over centuries. And we have survived them all. We are true survivors. We have shown, our history has proven, that we can weather just about anything. All of our changes at Kol Ami are good changes, changes we chose, transformations we sought out.
I want to tell you a bit about the changes and transformations to our High Holidays Services this year. I want you to understand the intention behind the changes and how these changes indicate the direction we want to move not just the congregation but Judaism as a tradition.
This year our High Holiday Services will include a greater expanse of Jewish music. We hired a new choir director, Simon Hill, who is a doctoral candidate at the University of Washington in choral direction (only the best of the best for Kol Ami!) and he brings a new energy and insight to the choral aspects of our worship. We have a wonderful choir full of dedicated and talented people-made up of both members and people who are new to our community. Traditional Ashkenazi choral music is still an aspect of our celebration.
But we are expanding our understanding of sacred Jewish music! Both Asher and myself come from Mizrachi backgrounds and this flavor of Jewish music will also be on the bima this year. This High Holidays you will also be led in the liturgy, and in song, by Asher Hashash and Micheal Woldman. This new team brings guitar and percussion (the heart ❤️ beat, the 🥁) to our celebration. This musical team brings the sound of Mizrachi, Sephardic and Folk Jewish music into our sanctuary for this holy season.
We will also be graced by the leadership of two new participants in our High Holiday liturgy leadership. Ben Schreiber, a new member and dedicated community member, will be leading us in the Kol Nidre prayer on Yom Kippur. And the delightful and supremely talented Kol Ami youth, Zoe Starikov, will be leading us in Avinu Malchenu and Shema Kolenu.
And I, your rabbi, will also be chanting some of the liturgy-for the first time at Kol Ami. Not because I sing well but because I want you to know and hear and see that anyone can lead the liturgy—you do not have to be a singer in order to engage in the liturgy.
We are also including members in doing some the gorgeous readings in our High Holiday prayer book-the Machzor. And we have worked to tightened up the services (read: shorter) to better serve our participants. Longer does not mean better when it comes to a spiritual engagement.
I will be giving shorter sermons. My sermons will be filled with Jewish teachings and values and direction from Jewish wisdom for right direction in living our lives. I will be speaking about life, reality, what it means to be human and how to best live on this planet. Some might understand my words as being “political” but please know: I am not talking politics, I am teaching Judaism. I am extolling and uplifting ancient values which have been arduously passed from generation to generation down to YOU! ☺️ And Judaism, our wisdom tradition, speaks to reality, to this world and to making this world a better place for current and future generations.
When you take time out of your schedule for spiritual engagement, to connect with your community and to sit side by side articulating our highest values with our tribe, you are investing not just in your personal health and vitality but also you are investing in the future of the Jewish people. Showing up for each other is key to the survival of the Jewish people.
I look forward to hearing your feedback after the High Holiday season and your reflections on your experience this year. I will be standing at the doorway to our sanctuary to welcome and greet each and everyone of you. I can’t wait to see you face to face.
Many blessings for a happy, healthy and joyful New Year! May 5780 be our best year yet.