Meet Our Rabbis
Rabbi William Hamilton
Rabbi William G. Hamilton has led Kehillath Israel since 1995. He strives to activate Torah in the service of meaningful living – nourishing growth, solacing grief, and deepening joy.
Empowering learners is at the heart of his leadership approach. Lay-leaders, Jews-by-choice, and rabbinic interns, all take responsibility for creating community and celebrating Judaism. A commitment to inclusion is also central to Rabbi Hamilton. His deep involvement with the Ruderman Foundation’s work for disability inclusion alongside his Board leadership with New England Yachad, complements a principled commitment to gender, ideological, and diversified practice inclusion at KI.
Rabbi Hamilton’s vision for partnership practice now shapes a new century at Kehillath Israel. Establishing a campus that hosts five prayer-communities and several other agencies under his leadership has made KI the subject of a Harvard Business School Case-Study. His impact and influence are strengthened by exceptionally strong engagement with Israel. As a founder of The David Project (Campus advocacy) and the New England Friends of the Israeli Defense Forces, Rabbi Hamilton regularly brings groups on specialized tours of Israel. He sees resourcing Israel as essential to deepening Jewish commitments and furnishing richer inner-lives.
His leadership in civic settings also distinguishes his voice throughout our region. For twenty years he has served as Chaplain of the Massachusetts State Police, on the Board of ADL, and on Harvard University’s Board of Ministry.
He enjoys playing sports and rooting for local teams. His wife, Debbie Block, an accomplished historian and educator, gathered, produced and edited Kehillath Israel: The First 100 Years.
Rabbi Elizabeth Bonney-Cohen
Rabbi Elizabeth Bonney-Cohen was ordained from Hebrew College in 2018, and she became KI’s Assistant Rabbi and Director of Outreach & Innovation after two years as our Rabbinic Intern. She is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship and Hillel International’s Office of Innovation Fellowship for Rabbinic Entrepreneurs. She holds a B.A. from William Jewell College in Religion, Philosophy, and Gender Studies & Human Sexuality, an M.Div. from Yale Divinity School, and an M.J.Ed. from Hebrew College. Originally from Overland Park, KS, she now lives in Brookline with her husband, Matt, their son, Ma’or and their daughter, Tziona.
Executive Director Barnet Kessel
Barnet Kessel is the Executive Director of Kehilath Israel since June. He comes to KI after leading the Vilna Shul, Boston’s Center for Jewish Culture in historic Beacon Hill to become the vanguard of the renaissance of Jewish life in downtown Boston, and through a historic restoration and modernization of the landmark building. Before his 7 years at the Vilna Shul, Barnet led fourth generation family manufacturing business for 24 years.
Barnet currently sits on the board of directors of the Council of American Jewish Museums and previously sat on the boards of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Jewish Community Relations Council, and Synagogue Council of Massachusetts. He is actively involved in many efforts, including Dana Farber Cancer Institute, Pan Mass Challenge, and Out of the Darkness Overnight Walks. He holds a BS from Syracuse University’s School of Management. Barnet lives in Newton Centre with his wife Nava and their four children.
Director of Family Engagement
Associate Director of Youth Education Kelly Kossar
Lisa Redisch comes to Kehillath Israel and Boston from Washington DC, where she has been living and working for the past decade. Following her undergraduate degree in Jewish Studies from the University of Maryland, Lisa moved to Washington where she worked as a teacher, tefillah educator, and art/ dance specialist at the Jewish Primary Day School of the Nation’s Capital, now known as Milton Gottesman Jewish Day School. For the past four years, she worked as the Director of Youth & Family Programs at Ohev Sholom- The National Synagogue, where she built and developed numerous programs for children of all ages. In 2017, Lisa earned her Masters degree in Jewish Education from Hebrew College, through their online program. When Lisa is not building community and or having fun with children, you can probably find her making art, baking and cooking, hiking and being outdoors, or spending time with her friends and family- maybe even several of those at once!
Kelly Kossar is our Associate Director of Youth Education. She directs KIRS, develops our teen programming, and manages our Bnai Mitzvah Seminar program. Kelly graduated from Binghamton University with a BA in Judaic Studies. She went on to spend four years living and working at the American Hebrew Academy (AHA) in Greensboro, NC where she was part of a fellowship program. She then moved into a year-round role as a Houseparent, Administrative Coordinator for Student & Jewish Life and a Judaic Studies faculty member. Following her time at AHA, Kelly went on to get a Master’s Degree at both JTS and Hebrew College focusing on Israel Studies and Special Education. While in school, Kelly taught multiple ages at different Religious Schools in both NYC and Boston. In her free time, Kelly enjoys playing guitar, reading, and baking challah.