President’s Letter February 2018: Empowerment and Inclusion

 This is the 16th 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 or calling (617) 731-3182.

KI is an empowered and participatory congregation. We encourage one another to learn synagogue skills and take an active role: leading services, reading Torah, having an Aliyah, opening the ark, and more. This past Shabbat we were all impressed by our B’nai Mitzvah students and their coordinator, Batya Ellinoy, who did a beautiful job leading parts of the service. But learning to participate is not just for youngsters; Jonathan Slutzman, Stephanie Berkowitz and Bruce Weinstock led a synagogue skills session during services, helping people learn how to recite the blessings for an Aliyah, and to lift and dress the Torah. Please contact Jonathan at anytime if you’d like to work on your skills. Don’t be shy!

I’m the first to admit that I often get tangled up trying to put on tefillin. So I’m looking forward to attending Sunday’s World Wide Wrap at 8 am in the library. This is a fully egalitarian event; women and men of all ages are invited and the B’nai Mitzvah class will be there, too. It’s an opportunity to learn about tefillin, participate in a global event, and get ready for the Super Bowl later on.

Speaking of the Super Bowl, KI has enjoyed a deep association with the Kraft family since our early days. At October’s KI Next groundbreaking, Robert Kraft spoke movingly of his father, Harry, a central and beloved figure in the synagogue’s history. Harry’s faith-warming leadership has inspired generations of congregants, and his own children, grandchildren and even some great grandchildren have maintained their ties with KI. You can watch the video of Robert Kraft speaking at groundbreaking here.

Campus teen initiatives have ramped up to a level not seen in many years. Over the past month, teen coordinator Michal Adar led the teens in a meaningful discussion of the parsha, took high schoolers to dessert and a movie, and middle schoolers to the Sky Zone trampoline park. It tells me something about the attraction of the teen program that both evening events were well attended despite going head to head with Pats playoff games! Tomorrow night, teen coordinator Michal Adar is hosting teens for an Israeli Shabbat dinner in her home. It’s not too late to RSVP to, so please do! Cooking for a Cause continues Sunday morning, where teens will be making meals for community members in need.

Jewish Disabilities Awareness and Inclusion Month starts today. KI’s motto, “An Ever-Widening Circle” is a wonderful way to describe the welcoming, accessible approach we strive to take with everyone with disabilities, the elderly, and those with mental illness issues. KI was awarded a Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project grant to help turn our aspirations into reality.

Linda Simansky and Shirah Rubin are leading a committee of passionate volunteers to foster an even more inclusive culture at KI and the 384 Campus community; providing support and education in the areas of disability awareness, sensitivity to diverse populations; and integration of individuals with disabilities and special needs into Jewish life. We look forward to community conversations and workshops in March and May that promote our sensitivity towards differences. For more information or to join the Inclusion committee, please contact Linda at

Purim is coming! Highlights include mishloach manot (please order and volunteer to assemble and deliver), a Purim spiel (contact Vladimir to join the cast), Megillah reading, campus-wide Purim Party and a Purim carnival. Check your mail for all the details.

My wife, Nyna and I just bought tickets for KI Through the Decades, our annual gala on Sunday evening, March 11, at KI. We are eagerly anticipating live piano music, delicious appetizers, deluxe food stations, and open bar. Dan Harel, an Israeli Mentalist will be providing the entertainment including teaching us some mind reading techniques. This year there’s no need to wait for the event itself to participate in the fantastic silent auction featuring vacation homes, sports packages, NYC hotels and Broadway show tickets. You can register and start bidding next week!

Have a wonderful month!

David E. Williams

ט״ז בשבט ה׳תשע״ח (February 1, 2018)|Categories: archive, news, President's Letters|