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 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.

I brought my 14-year-old son Seth along, because we are building this community for his generation as well as ours. I thought he might be impressed that Robert Kraft (pictured right) compared our leadership team favorably with Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, but it didn’t seem to make an impression.

This year, as we renovate and build modern physical infrastructure, we are also building and rebuilding our non-physical structures to improve our community and the world around us. Candice Kiss, VP for Chesed and Social Action has been leading the charge on two fronts. The Tzedek initiative aims to work with Jewish Family Services to “impact a troubled world by stepping forward to help a single Syrian refugee family make a new home in our commonwealth.” The initiative held two training sessions in October and is building a core team of volunteers to assist the family in the areas of household set-up, health, education, employment, and community connections. Contact to learn more or volunteer.

They were one of several dozen initiatives on display last Sunday in Epstein Auditorium at Inspo:Expo, the Brookline action fair.

Candice has also spearheaded establishment of the KI Chesed Community, and recruited co-chairs Gordon Bennett and Rachael Wurtman to lead it. Chesed Community volunteers will initially focus on visitation and mitzvah meals.  The next Chesed Community meeting will be held tonight, Wednesday, November 1, from 6-7 PM in the KI library. Contact for more information and to RSVP.

Inclusion is a deeply held value at KI, and we are proud to participate in the Ruderman Synagogue Inclusion Project, which supports synagogues in creating communities where people of all abilities are valued equally and participate fully. We are also deepening our partnership with New England Yachad, which is dedicated to enhancing opportunities for individuals of all ages with disabilities and ensuring their participation in the full spectrum of Jewish life. Our inclusion committee is studying best practices and collecting targeted feedback to support development of a plan to enhance inclusion as we prepare to move into our new facility. Contact if you’re interested in joining the committee.

We have been heartened by the large number of new members joining KI this fall. Word is getting around about our innovative approach. VP Membership, Rosa Kramer Franck has been taking the lead on recruiting and welcoming new members. Send her a note at if you know of people who might want to join, or if you’d like to provide feedback.

Finally, tune in to Jewish radio show Chagigah on Sunday, November 5 from 8-11 am to hear a special feature on Kehillath Israel! Host Hal Slifer interviews members who share KI history and memories, plus Jewish/Israeli tunes chosen by each. The feature can be streamed online after the broadcast at

Have a wonderful month!

David E. Williams

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