History of KI
KI’s Contrarian Spirit
KI’s leaders have done things differently at important junctures in our history. Swimming against the current has been a noteworthy feature of our Congregation’s ethos since its founding.
They established a synagogue in Brookline while Jewish life was thriving in Dorchester, Roxbury, Mattapan, and Chelsea. They preferred traditional Talmud learning societies to America’s trend toward the Protestantization of the suburban synagogue. They prioritized rigorous youth education at times when school standards were waning. This contrarian approach involved risk but was consistently rewarded.
Our forebearers’ legacy of instilling strong skills through vigorous educational systems is flowering for new generations who bring their time, talent, and voice to the Beit Knesset, House of Assembly, of the 21st century. Building a community of learning was a foundational tradition that formed our institutional DNA and continues today.
Another example of KI’s against the grain leadership relates to the prominence of the State of Israel in the rhythms of our communal life. At a time when Israel engagement is increasingly tenuous and conditional, KI is intensifying its prioritization of such work at deeper and broader levels with each passing year.
The KI of today is also somewhat of an outlier is in our vast and expanding network of Jews by Choice. On average, KI welcomes some 15 to 20 new converts to Judaism each year, many of whom remain as part of the KI family.
Inclusion for those with disabilities is an expanding priority, too. We stand upon the shoulders of innovative KI educators who established pioneering, inclusive programs for the disability community over 50 years ago.
It is hard to overstate the impact of this two-decade trend on our culture of personal religious growth. Everyone grows at KI. This reality encourages a more personalized Judaism within a community setting.
This atmosphere of dynamic inclusion reassures participants of diverse backgrounds, ideological or gender orientations, lifestyles, and commitment levels to stir Jewish growth throughout our community.
As we enter a new century, KI is an empowered community in which congregants lead services and teach; an inclusive community, embracing the dignity of difference and acknowledging that Jewish authenticity comes in many flavors; and a partnering community, collaborating with more than two dozen organizations for worship, education, entrepreneurship, and social justice.
We are building a unified, empowered, extended campus community. We’re fostering a fertile ecosystem where Jewish social and religious entrepreneurs will test their best ideas. We are creating opportunities where funders will want to place their bets with thoughtful investment. We have a religious dynamism where individuals and families who want to find and create an intensely meaningful, invigorating, challenging, and dynamic Judaism will be both welcome and gratified.
And we’re supporting an environment where more traditional Jewish institutions can renew themselves.
For our Centennial in 2017, Debra Hamilton compiled a book of essays and photographs, titled “Kehillath Israel: The First 100 Years.” Copies of the book can be obtained from our main office. The first two chapters are provided below; we will add more as time passes.