President’s Letter December 2017: Construction, Vision, Hanukkah plans

This is the 14th edition of my monthly president’s letter. Earlier editions are available on the President’s letters page. As always, please let me know what you think –and what you’d like me to write about—by emailing president@congki.org or calling (617) 731-3182.   Walking down Harvard Street (or flying over in a helicopter) you just can’t miss the beautiful new structure rising up next to the KI sanctuary (pictured top left). The new social hall, library, innovation center, classrooms, multi-purpose spaces and administrative offices represent the physical manifestation of the KI Next plan to make our campus more modern, welcoming, flexible, green and secure. As the construction crews move expeditiously to make the exterior of the building weather-tight before winter sets in, building committee chair Marc Plonskier and his team (pictured bottom left: Marc Plonskier (4th from left) with design team Varda Koerner Lis, Bennie Ber, Leslie Saul, John Garrahan) are hard at work designing the interior configuration and selecting the finishes to produce a facility that is simultaneously beautiful, functional and within our budget –no easy task! The project continues to be on schedule, and we expect to move into the renovated sanctuary building and brand new building in time for the High Holidays in early September 2018. Meanwhile, planning is underway to come out of the gate quickly and maximize the potential of the new campus. I’m working with KI leaders and campus partners to develop campus vision and mission statements, which will guide our strategy. Please share with me your feedback on the draft version of the vision, which expresses our long-term aspirations: To unite and uplift the Jewish community of Greater Boston and serve as an example for Jewish communities everywhere. I wrestled with

ט״ז בכסלו ה׳תשע״ח (December 4, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

eDvar Shabbat Parashat Vayeitzei 5778

Empathy or Apathy? “In a high-trust relationship” writes Stephen Covey, “you can say the wrong thing and people will still get your meaning.  In a low-trust relationship, you can be very measured, even precise, and they’ll still misinterpret you.” Suspicion has become more normative than trust.  Our highly anxious times fuel skepticism as readily as they fuel extremism.  How can we know whom to trust? Distrust saturates a biblical Jacob’s world in this week’s portion of Torah.  We can chart a decline in trust across three experiences involving stones.  Trust is at its highest as the portion opens when Jacob turns his stone pillow into a pillar upon which he vows to God.  Next, Jacob rolls a large stone off the mouth of the well, indicating his love for Rachel.  Yet even this spousal bond will end tragically because of mistrust.  Rachel deceives Jacob when she steals her father Laban’s idols, inviting a fatal vow from Jacob: “let the person with whom you (Laban) find your idols not continue to live” (Gen. 31:32).  Finally, escaping from Laban, who thrives in distrust, requires a stone and the gathering of stones to consummate a non-aggression pact (Gen. 31:45-46).  God’s protection and promise save Jacob. For us today, knowing ‘who to believe in’ can prove very elusive.  Perhaps an outcomes-based approach can help. Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel applies such an approach to discerning divine authenticity. Does a sacred act or text generate excessive pride, indifference to the suffering of others, or an unawareness of evil’s dangers?  If it does generate these things, then it is counterfeit.  But when a religious experience has the effect of uniting what lies in strife, stirring empathy, or inspiring responsibility, then it is likely an

ו׳ בכסלו ה׳תשע״ח (November 24, 2017)|Categories: archive, edvar, news|

eDvar Shabbat Parashat Toldot 5778

Closure and Disclosure “I write to seek the Rebbe’s help.  My life is in disarray.  I pray, yet my prayers seem not to help me.  I don’t know where else to turn.  I eagerly await the Rebbe’s advice.”  Many years ago the Lubavitcher Rebbe did respond to this letter.  But he did so without writing a single word.  Instead he circled the first word of every sentence.  The message was clear.  Self-encased living would not enable healing. Studies show that post-war mental health among Veterans is determined less by the atrocities they witnessed than by the supportive communities that welcome them home.  Compassion can prove more healing than the passage of time. Raw feelings like sadness and fear are prominent in this week’s portion of Torah.  The bestowing of covenantal blessing from Isaac to Jacob is fraught with trembling and trepidation.  Jacob deceptively impersonates his elder brother Esau, inciting anguish.  Why the Torah associates this transmission with such trauma is unclear. That it does, can help school us in coping with emotional rawness. Rebecca sends Jacob away to keep him at a safe distance from his brother’s wrath. “Until your brother’s fury will turn back, until your brother’s anger turns back” (Gen. 27:44,45).  Curiously, the verb (tashuv) used to depict the quieting of aroused emotion is related to the word for repentance (teshuva).  Like the journey to fulfilling penitent promises, emotions have directionality.  They flow to and fro, readily reawakened by reminders of past wrongs. The text’s distinction between fury (cheima) and anger (af) suggests that while time helps fury reverse course, still residual anger may not subside.  Reversing course may not guarantee a reversal of coarseness. Deference and healing actions will enable sibling reconciliation decades later.  The path

כ״ח במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 17, 2017)|Categories: archive, edvar, news|

Inspo:Expo

First-ever Inspo:Expo Brookline Action Fair Attracts 300+ People to Epstein We did it! Thanks to all of KI’s generosity and help, over 300 people were at our first-ever Inspo:Expo Brookline Action Fair on Sunday, October 29. We heard from a number of people that they were getting volunteers, learning a ton, and building positive connections. Inspo:Expo would like to thank Rabbi Hamilton for his undaunting support and spreading the word. We’d also like to thank Candice Kiss, Madona Haber, and Michael Goldstein (presenters/volunteers); Bindy Fleischman, Jodi Hecht, Amy Weiss, Shirah Rubin, and Jessica Woolf (presenters); and Patty Margolis, Danny Margolis, Martha Auerbach, Gordon Bennett, Cheryl Dockser, Beth Kramer, Aron Troen, Jordan Weil, and Rachael Wurtman (event volunteers). Thank you to Kris, Yusheng, and Paula for logistical help. A special thank you to Santo for creating a wonderful room. Todah Rabbah and kol hakavod to all. NBC Boston Video Watch NBC Boston's feature on Inspo:Expo.       Inspo:Expo Facebook Page For more photographs, visit the Inspo:Expo Facebook page.

כ״ו במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 15, 2017)|Categories: news|

Youth Tefila Update for KI families

As you may know, we at KI are creating a 384 Campus Community which welcomes a variety of prayer groups and imagines new possibilities for Jewish youth engagement. This year we are experimenting with expanding our youth offerings in partnership with Washington Square Minyan (WSM). We are creating a collaborative pilot to enrich children’s tefila. See our Google Calendar of Shabbat youth services and activities. We also have a list of partner minyanim Shabbat dates. Three Shabbatot per month we will join together for: Pre-tefila drop-off educational activities 9:45 am - 10:30 am led by two teens and a WSM staff person. The programming planned will include learning the parsha through drama, Hebrew games, and singing. children ages 5 - 7 will meet in the Mini-Minyan room (Rm #5) children ages 8 - 12 will meet in the Junior Congregation room (Rm #2) A new peer-oriented format for Junior Congregation. To foster connections between similarly aged kids and to help manage space constraints during this transitional year for our building, we encourage children to attend without parents.  Parents will be welcomed back for once or twice per month family-oriented services (see below) during Junior Congregation.  As mentioned above, teen counselors will be joining this service to support the kids and act mentors. In addition, please be on the lookout for special invitations each month to join your Junior Congregation children for family-oriented services. The dates of these family-oriented services will be: 11/25, 12/2, 12/23, 1/13, 2 /3, 2/24, 3/17, 3/31, 4/21, 5/19, 5/26, 6/16. We will also remind families as these dates approach, in our weekly KI e-newsletters. The next family service is November 25! Continuing as usual: Nitzanim and Mini Minyan tefila services will continue to meet as

כ״ד במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 13, 2017)|Categories: archive, news|

eDvar Shabbat Parashat Hayei Sarah 5778

Listen and Speak Out “I am angry,” Olympic gold-medalist Aly Raisman expresses as part of this Sunday evening’s 60 Minutes interview. “I just want to create change so [that young girls] never, ever have to go through this.”  This morning Time published the news of Aly’s having suffered sexual abuse perpetrated by the US Gymnastics team doctor.  She joins an alarming and escalating number of individuals who have begun to speak publicly of the pain of having been defiled, molested, and harassed. The pain is deep.  It is pervasive and prevalent.  It is outrageous that it has been sustained and even supported for so long. The pain being disclosed daily deserves to be treated with the utmost gravity. What should be our response?  My thinking has changed.  I had been of the opinion that men should stop talking and start listening.  I still believe we should be listening with more sensitivity to those who courageously share.  Sacred communities earn their sanctity when they provide safe, confidential, healing space  for such sharing.   But I now realize that we should also be audible with our support.  Listening empathically is necessary.  But speaking vocally in support of those who are still doubted or whose vulnerability is scorned is increasingly important.  Anita Hill conveyed this last night on CNN.  “It will take men who are willing to stand up for equality in the workplace, on the streets, and in the schools” to begin to repair the climate that enables abuse. In this week’s portion of Torah, Abraham remarries.  “And Abraham additionally married a woman named Keturah” (Gen 25:1).  The commentator Rashi offers a telling clarification.  Abraham’s new bride, having honorably buried a deceased Sarah, is none other than Hagar.  She has

כ״א במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 10, 2017)|Categories: archive, edvar, news|

Campus Partner Shabbat Dates

Congregation Kehillath Israel and Congregation Mishkan Tefila meet at 384 Harvard Street each Shabbat. In addition to these services, several minyanim also meet at the 384 Campus. For youth services and activities information please click here. Minyan Shaleym meets on the following dates. Please see their website for more information. December 16 December 23 January 6 January 20 February 3 February 10 February 24 March 3 March 17 March 24 April 7 April 21 May 5 May 19 June 2 June 16 June 30 Minyan Kol Rinah meets occasionally, with the dates below currently planned. Please see their website for more information. December 2 December 23 January 13 February 3 February 24 March 17 April 21 May 19 June 16 July 7 August 4 September 1 Washington Square Minyan meets for Shabbat on the following dates. Their website has more details. November 11 November 18 December 9 December 16 December 30 January 6 January 20 January 27 February 10 February 17 March 3 March 10 March 24 April 7 April 14 April 28 May 5 May 12 June 2 June 9 June 23 June 30 July 14 July 21 July 28 August 11 August 25 September 8

כ״א במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 10, 2017)|Categories: news|

eDvar Shabbat Parashat Vayera 5778

Faith comes to life not when it is one-sided but reciprocal “Abraham complained to Avimelech about the water well that his servants had wrongfully seized.  Avimelech responded, ‘I was unaware of this, you never told me of it, and I heard nothing about it until now’” (Gen. 21:25-26).  His answer is unimpressive.  It assumes no responsibility.  It actually shifts blame to Abraham for failing to inform him earlier of the iniquity.  Yet, Abraham immediately responds by making a covenant with Avimelech (Gen. 21:27-32).  Why does Abraham overlook Avimelech’s unimpressive conduct in favor of establishing such a covenant? Abraham is keeping faith with his larger project - establishing permanent roots in the land of promise.  Ownership of land covenanted by God is geopolitically strengthened by a mutual commitment between Abraham and Avimelech.  This is too important to be disrupted by miscommunication or irresponsible leadership.  Note that they establish not a contract but a covenant. Earlier this Fall the Head of New York’s Trinity School sent shockwaves through the city’s elite private school system by calling for a complete overhaul in how his school educates more responsibly.  John Allman’s back-to-school letter drew heavily from Rabbi Jonathan Sacks’ juxtaposition between covenants and contracts.  Contracts involve self-interest and mutual advantage.  Covenants are about moral commitments and are held together not by legalese, but by loyalty and faithfulness.  Contracts are about what we gain; covenants are about what we give. Victimhood is contagious today.  North Korea, Iran, Antifa, neo-Nazis all claim they are victims.  Groups now self-define around common allegations more than around common dreams.  This epidemic of group victimization - aside from degrading freedom’s responsibilities and beyond turning dark very quickly - actually devalues authentic victims.  Importantly, the current

י״ד במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 3, 2017)|Categories: archive, edvar, news|

President’s Letter November 2017: Sukkot, Groundbreaking, Chesed

This is the 13th edition of my monthly president’s letter. You can visit the President’s letters page to read earlier editions. As always, please let me know what you think –and what you’d like me to write about—by emailing president@congki.org or calling (617) 731-3182.   The positive feelings from our successful off-campus High Holiday season continued when we returned to campus for Sukkot. We had strong attendance at all the pre-Sukkot and holiday events and managed to fit everyone in, thanks to the ingenuity of our planners who figured out how to maximize the size of the courtyard and corner structures. The ceremonial groundbreaking on the Sunday of Sukkot was the highlight of the month for me. The weather was iffy and at the last minute we had to shift the event inside, but it did not dampen the occasion at all. Rabbi Hamilton gave a moving tribute to our history, mission and purpose, and I talked about how much progress we’ve made on our vision to create an innovative center of urban Judaism to serve greater Boston and act as a model for communities across the country and around the world. You can read my full remarks here. We were joined by our inner group of trustees, campaign volunteers and generous donors and also by leaders of the wider community (pictured left) including CJP Chairman Neil Wallack, Gann Academy’s Head of School Rabbi Marc Baker, and Robert Kraft, who grew up at KI and whose father was a beloved leader of the congregation. Our partners Congregation Mishkan Tefila, New England Yachad and Washington Square Minyan were also represented. Deb Shapiro did a terrific job of organizing and documenting the event --and procuring the golden shovels.

י״ב במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (November 1, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

President’s remarks at Groundbreaking, October 8, 2017

Good morning. My name is David Williams, President of Congregation Kehillath Israel. It’s my pleasure to welcome you to today’s ceremonial groundbreaking. From the time we started planning for KI’s 2017 Centennial almost a decade ago, we knew that we had an opportunity to create an innovative center of urban Judaism, one that could serve Greater Boston and act as a model for communities across the country and around the world. Today we can proudly say the vision is within reach. We are in the midst of implementing a multi-organizational, multi-generational campus to address religious, educational, social, cultural and housing needs for Jews across the spectrum of engagement. From the immersed group for whom synagogue is central, to cultural Russian Speakers and Israelis, to the familial and even the minimally involved, we have something compelling to offer that lines up closely with the needs identified in the Greater Boston Jewish Community study that CJP commissioned. We didn’t wait for the groundbreaking to start building the physical structure. And we aren’t waiting for the building to be completed to implement the campus vision. Consider just some of the partners who are active on this campus. We have historic synagogues including KI and Congregation Mishkan Tefila, a more than 150 year old shul that made the bold and enlightened decision to co-locate and collaborate with us. We have non-traditional congregations, including Washington Square Minyan –100% of whose members donated to the KI Next campaign, along with Minyan Shaleym and Minyan Kol Rinah. Jewish Community Housing for the Elderly will build apartments for independent living. We are the headquarters for New England Yachad, which integrates people with disabilities into the mainstream of Jewish life, and Center Makor, the

י״א במרחשון ה׳תשע״ח (October 31, 2017)|Categories: archive, news|