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 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 and Hillel International, empowering them to be communal connectors and to develop meaningful connections with their peers.  Our campus teen leaders are Annie Siegal, Gabby Hyman, and Dafna Williams.  They have been busy planning a full array of teen gatherings, which focus on social, Shabbat, Israel, and chesed/ social justice opportunities for teens in Brookline and Boston.

Some near-term highlights include dessert and a movie in Boston after Shabbat for high-schoolers on January 13 and a middle school trip to Sky Zone for trampoline jumping on January 21. An 11 am teen parsha discussion is on the calendar for January 20. Email to RSVP or if you have questions.

384@KI is our community of those in their 20s and 30s that strives to create social programming with a soul. 384@KI is helping make the minyan on Thursday evenings at 7 pm and then heading out for dessert. DävenDazs they call it! And this Sunday they’ll be cooking brunch together. You’ll need to RSVP for that one.

I have to admit I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the runaway success of our Kiddush and Games, which we have now turned into a monthly event.  It starts around 12:30 pm in the Epstein Auditorium, just after Kiddush and is open to all ages and interests. If you have a favorite game, please bring it along –and let the office know in advance if possible.

Speaking of games, the KICKS dinner and game night in late December was also a big hit, with a standing-room crowd of close to 100 people in the library for Friday night davening and over 60 for dinner. The next KICKS meal is January 26th.

The mood is good at KI these days. One way I measure that is by the size of the crowd on a super cold Shabbat morning during school vacation. Attendance looked a little light when we started last Saturday, but by musaf the room was pretty full and at Kiddush a member of another congregation asked me if there had been a bar mitzvah –she was surprised at just how many people were present! Let’s keep it up this Shabbat when it’s even colder and there is more snow on the ground!

Within a couple months the weather should be getting a little warmer. When it does, I hope you’ll be ready to celebrate KI Through the Decades at our annual gala, Sunday evening March 11 at KI. There will be live piano music, delicious appetizers, deluxe food stations, an open bar and a fantastic silent auction featuring vacation homes, sports packages, NYC hotels and Broadway show tickets. “Entertainment for the sharp mind” will be provided by international performing artist Dan Harel, Israeli Mentalist. Save the date! Official invitation and opportunities for sponsorship and advertising will be on their way soon.

Have a wonderful month!

David E. Williams

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