President’s Letter January 2018: Hanukkah, Teens, and Gala

This is the 15th 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.   Hanukkah is one of my favorite holidays, bringing a message of light, hope and re-dedication during the darkest days of the year. This Hanukkah was joyous both in the homes of our congregants and at KI. Director of Congregational Learning, Shirah Rubin organized a project for families to share video clips of themselves lighting the hanukkiah and sharing their thoughts about what makes our community special. Click on the link to watch the video. At the MenorahFest and Artistic Hanukkah Festival, co-sponsored with Congregation Mishkan Tefila and Center Makor (the cultural center for Russian-speaking Jews), Center Makor presented Congregation Kehillath Israel with its Community Appreciation Award “for welcoming, supporting and helping Center Makor during the most difficult times for the Center.” After candle lighting and dinner, the crowd was treated to a concert by violinist virtuoso Yakov Kovinser and soprano Mariana Popzlateva. My son, Eli’s favorite part was when Yakov played the violin behind his back! Planning and execution for cohort-specific activities at KI and the broader campus have been ramping up, helping to build peer relationships within the broader community. Campus Teen Coordinator, Michal Adar (pictured right) held one-on-one meetings with teens in order to identify activities and programs that they are most interested in, and has published a teen calendar that is posted on the fridge in our kitchen. (You can subscribe to it here.) We have three teen fellows who are gaining leadership training through the Jewish Teen Initiative

ט״ז בטבת ה׳תשע״ח (January 3, 2018)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

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|

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|

October President’s Letter

I’ve been writing this monthly president’s column for a year now, as a way to provide members with a perspective on what’s happening at KI and to invite feedback and discussion. From what I hear from readers, the column is serving its purpose. Members tell me they feel informed about what’s going on and are more connected to the shul. A couple of the columns, including the one I wrote about the Jewish Community Study and how our campus addresses changing demographics and patterns of Jewish engagement, have been circulated to the wider community and helped get our story out. Based on the feedback and comments, I’m planning to continue writing in 5778. The only change I’m making is to stop listing the topics of each of the prior columns in the introduction. Instead, I’ll ask you to visit the President’s letters page where older issues are archived.   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. I really wasn’t sure what to expect with this year’s High Holidays. With the construction of our new campus there was no space for us at KI, and it was difficult to find an appropriate venue close by that was large enough to accommodate our two adult services and four children’s and family services. The solution was to hold services in two off-campus locations: Brookline High on Rosh Hashana Day 1 and Yom Kippur, when school was closed, and Temple Ohabei Shalom on Rosh Hashana Day 2, when that congregation does not make use of its main sanctuary. The logistics were complex but our professional staff and lay leaders, especially Jonathan Slutzman, Stephanie Berkowitz, and

י״ב בתשרי ה׳תשע״ח (October 2, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

September President’s Letter

This is the eleventh edition of a monthly column intended to provide members with a perspective on what is happening at KI and to invite feedback and discussion. Earlier editions have focused on the High Holiday season and collaboration with our partners, the Jewish Community Study, Hanukkah, adult education, the KI Centennial, Purim, Israel, preparation for the Phase II construction, the Omer Project and daily minyan. 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. September will be a month of celebration, excitement and logistical complexity at KI, so take a deep breath and get ready! Kick things off with me on Monday September 4 (Labor Day) from 3-5 pm for an ice cream social to celebrate the success of the KI Next capital campaign, take a peek at the progress our construction and renovation crews are making, and get answers to your questions about the High Holidays. There will be outdoor seating in the newly cleared area at the corner of Harvard and Williams Streets. During construction we are making intensive use of the Epstein wing. Summer has given us a good opportunity to ramp up, but as people come back from vacation and the new school year gets underway, things will get busier and we’ll need to become even more resourceful and efficient. I’m delighted to report that the first big Shabbat simcha in Epstein last week went very smoothly. AZ Krebs (pictured right) celebrated his bar mitzvah (great job AZ!) and while everyone moved toward the lobby to make Kiddush, Santo and his crew of professionals and volunteers went to work to “flip” the room. Before you knew it we had multiple serving

י׳ באלול ה׳תשע״ז (September 1, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

August President’s Letter

This is the tenth edition of a monthly column intended to provide members with a perspective on what is happening at KI and to invite feedback and discussion. Earlier editions have focused on the High Holiday season and collaboration with our partners, the Jewish Community Study, Hanukkah, adult education, the KI Centennial, Purim, Israel, preparation for the Phase II construction and the Omer Project. 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. I have been out of town for Shabbat with my family almost every week this summer and so have missed seeing everyone at KI for Saturday morning services and kiddush. Instead I have been attending weekday minyan more often, either during the morning or afternoon. It’s a more intimate, shorter gathering where people saying kaddish or observing a yahrzeit mix with those who are there to help lead the service and make the minyan. It’s great to start or end the day with good thoughts and to join with other people who are grateful for your presence. There are many KI members, of course, but since we hold one of the few daily, egalitarian minyanim around, participants from our campus partners and the broader community are always welcome. Daily minyan is a core, sacred function of KI, and I am encouraging our professional and lay leaders to find ways to make it more accessible to those who are less familiar with the liturgy and rituals, and to leverage daily minyan further to build community. On a personal level, my teenagers and I have decided to attend morning minyan together at least a couple times a month during the school year. If you

י״ב באב ה׳תשע״ז (August 4, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

June President’s Letter

This is the eighth edition of a monthly column intended to provide members with a perspective on what is happening at KI and to invite feedback and discussion. Earlier editions have focused on the High Holiday season and collaboration with our partners, the Jewish Community Study, Hanukkah, adult education, the KI Centennial, Purim and Israel. 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. I started the month with a visit to Israel, where my daughter, Dafna is spending two months at the Alexander Muss High School. The nonstop on El Al from Boston was comfortable and on time, and I arrived to find a country pulsing with energy. I met dozens of people from all walks of life during my visit, including the leaders of two organizations that we are exploring partnerships with as part of our Israel Engagement Program. The Israel Venture Network invests in sustainable social change for the country’s most vulnerable populations, and Mazeh9 supports the ideas and activities of the young and creative in Tel Aviv. Both are enthusiastic in working with us; there is much we can accomplish together and learn from one another. If you have been to Harvard Street recently, you know that Phase II of the KI Next construction project is underway. Safety fencing is up, and we are busy migrating our offices and other functions to the Epstein building for the duration of construction. The last service in the main sanctuary is scheduled for June 17, and we plan to return in time for the High Holidays in 2018. During Phase II we will renovate the interior of the sanctuary building and construct a

י״א בסיון ה׳תשע״ז (June 5, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

May President’s Letter

This is the seventh edition of a monthly column intended to provide members with a perspective on what is happening at KI and to invite feedback and discussion. Earlier editions have focused on the High Holiday season and collaboration with our partners, the Jewish Community Study, Hanukkah, adult education, the KI Centennial, and Purim. 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. Israel is always top of mind, but these days even more than usual. As the 50th anniversary of the 6-Day War and liberation of Jerusalem approaches, we are commemorating those events at KI and committing to a bold, sustained effort to inspire and promote a renewal of Zionism and Jewish advocacy. The years 1967 and 1973 hold special resonance for me. I was born less than a month after the war, and my first real awareness of the State of Israel came in 1973 when my worried parents tried to explain the Yom Kippur War and to reassure me. My board colleague, Dr. Benj Raby, is taking the lead in planning our Israel initiatives. We envision a Jewish community of Greater Boston where every member, regardless of religious observance, political affiliation or socioeconomic status feels deep connections to the Jewish homeland. We believe that fortifying these connections will ultimately foster more substantive Judaic growth, enhance communal cohesion, and strengthen Israel-Diaspora relations. There are six main areas of emphasis: Israel advocacy, cultural engagement, social activism, Israeli American outreach, scholar in residence, and a Boston campus in Israel. If you would like to get involved in planning and execution, please contact me. I was deeply touched last week by the visit of

ה׳ באייר ה׳תשע״ז (May 1, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

April President’s Letter – Announcing New KI Next Match!

This is the sixth edition of a monthly column intended to provide members with a perspective on what is happening at KI and to invite feedback and discussion. Earlier editions have focused on the High Holiday season and collaboration with our partners, the Jewish Community Study, Hanukkah, adult education, and the KI Centennial. 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 big news this month is that a small group of donors has come forward with a $1.5 million dollar-for-dollar matching gift challenge to help us close out the KI Next capital campaign! In the three days since this challenge was confirmed we have already raised over $100,000 of matching funds. We need everyone’s help this month to meet the challenge, which will allow us to break ground on Phase II: interior renovation of the main sanctuary building and construction of a new social hall and flexible spaces on the garden side of our property. The construction will help us realize the vision for our second century with a modern facility that makes dramatic improvements in accessibility, security, and energy efficiency. A flexible layout will make the facility an ideal platform for campuswide initiatives focused on innovation, Israel, and inclusion, and equip us to work more effectively with partner organizations. Many of you have already made stretch gifts. Please consider extending even further, as my family has just done. If you have not yet made a commitment, this is the moment you have been waiting for. Remember, pledges are fully tax deductible and payable over five years. Drop me a line at president@congki.org if you are ready to discuss. We have

ה׳ באייר ה׳תשע״ז (May 1, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|

President’s Letter March 2017

This is the fifth edition of a monthly column intended to provide members with a perspective on what is happening at KI and to invite feedback and discussion. The November edition focused on the High Holiday season and collaboration with our partners, December’s examined the new Jewish Community Study and explained how our campus strategy will be a valuable asset for the broader Jewish community. January’s discussed Hanukkah, and last month I wrote about adult education. 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. We kicked off KI’s 100th birthday celebration with a bang during February’s Centennial Gala weekend. On-campus events included the presentation of the Love of Judaism Prize to Anita Diamant on Friday night (pictured left), Saturday morning’s Tu B’Shvat celebration, and Sunday’sstimulating class on Jewish spirituality by Rabbi Arthur Green, sponsored by Congregation Mishkan Tefila. Saturdaynight’s downtown Gala dinner drew over 300 guests for a magnificent celebration of KI’s past, present and future. Highlights for me were conversations with KI alumni, Dr. Daniel Gordis’s speech tying together the history of Israel and the history of KI (pictured right), a video presentation by Robert Kraft, and Geraldine Sunshine’s inspiring toast to our future, in which she reminded us of what a privilege it is to build a community filled with joy and purpose. Thanks to the hard work of the gala committee and the generosity of sponsors and advertisers, the evening was a financial success, too. Our KI campus strategy means there should always be interesting and meaningful activities taking place at 384 Harvard Street, with opportunities to interact with others and to grow Jewishly. This includes KI’s own activities, joint events

ד׳ באדר ה׳תשע״ז (March 2, 2017)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|