Meet Our Rabbi
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.
Meet Our Senior Staff
Barnet Kessel has been Executive Director of Kehilath Israel since 2020. He came to KI from the Vilna Shul in historic Beacon Hill, which he led for 7 years through the restoration and modernization of the landmark building and an institutional transformation that placed it at the vanguard of Jewish life in downtown Boston. Prior to running the Vilna, Barnet led a fourth-generation family manufacturing business for 24 years.
Barnet previously served on the boards of Combined Jewish Philanthropies, Jewish Community Relations Council, Council of American Jewish Museums, and the Synagogue Council of Massachusetts. He is actively involved in numerous philanthropic 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 Programs
Anna Winestein is a cultural historian, curator, and arts entrepreneur. She has previously served as Creative Director for the Hermitage Museum Foundation and a consultant on film and other programming to museums, including the National Gallery of Art (DC). In 2009 she co-founded the Eurasia-focused arts non-profit Ballets Russes Arts Initiative. Anna has curated exhibitions for the Boston Public Library and Sotheby’s, among others, and lectured at the NGA, Sotheby’s Institute of Art (London), Museum at Fashion Institute of Technology (NY) and elsewhere. She has also authored, co-authored, edited or translated books, exhibition essays and articles for academic and lay audiences. She is a research affiliate of the Davis Center at Harvard University.
A former Fulbright Scholar, Anna holds separate graduate and undergraduate degrees in history, economics, art history and painting from Boston University and Oxford University, where her dissertation examined artists from the Russian empire in Paris from 1870 to 1917. Her research encompasses visual art, dance, theater, film and social history and international cultural exchange. Anna was born in Leningrad, USSR, immigrated to the US in 1991 and grew up in Brookline. She has also lived in London, Paris, Zurich and Astana, Kazakhstan. She now resides in Brighton with her partner George. She is an avid ballroom and social dancer, wine and spirits aficionado and bicyclist.
Director of Family Engagement
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!
Director of Preschool
Elyssa Schick, our Preschool Director, is excited to be entering into her second year as director after being a dedicated teacher in the Kofim classroom the previous 12 years. Elyssa holds a BA in Psychology and Liberal Arts from Skidmore College and a Director Certification in Early Childhood Education. Prior to joining the team at KI, Elyssa taught at Boston Children’s School and interned at a psychiatric hospital in New York. Elyssa is also proud of her athletic ability, as she annually completes the Spartan Race, a series of obstacle races of varying distance and difficulty ranging from 3 miles to marathon distances