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“When we met to create a synagogue, we envisioned an intimate community that was connected in multiple ways, one that encouraged people to support each other and that provided an infinite spiritual core. It’s gratifying to see that vision fulfilled.”
In 1994, a small group of people got together with Rabbi Holin to discuss their vision of an ideal spiritual community. The result of those discussions was the birth of Congregation Kol Ami. Ruben Honik was one of those founding members.
As a member of the first Board of Trustees, Ruben helped write the bylaws and define the mission and objectives that shaped the congregation. “I’m proud of the work we did in those early stages,” he says. “Those were exciting days, defining the community we wanted to have.” Ruben also helped launch the congregations search for a spiritual home by co-chairing the first capital campaign.
After an absence from the congregation, he “returned home” and once again became active, co-chairing the 2016 fundraiser at the Cairnwood Estate. When Shelley Chamberlain and Jeff Cohen reached out to him to rejoin the Board, he was excited to have the opportunity to continue serving the community he helped to create.
Ruben moved to the United States from Havana, Cuba in 1960. As a five-year-old who spoke no English, he felt like an outsider when he attended public school in the Bronx. But when his parents sent him to Hebrew school, he no longer felt different. “I was like everyone else. I belonged. And when I became Bar Mitzvah, I felt truly connected.”
Ruben was the first member of his family to attend college. He graduated from Syracuse University with a dual degree in religion and philosophy, and received his law degree from the Rutgers University School of Law. Ruben is a partner in Golomb & Honik, P.C., a law firm specializing in commercial and consumer litigation, class action litigation, personal injury law, and environmental law. He was elected president of both the Philadelphia Trial Lawyers Association and the Pennsylvania Trial Lawyers Association (now the Pennsylvania Association for Justice).
In 1995, Ruben had the opportunity to revisit his childhood home with other members of Kol Ami on a congregational trip to Cuba. He was amazed to see so much of what he remembered still intact, including his apartment in Havana. He visited the grave of his maternal grandmother, and was thrilled to participate in the dedication of a synagogue in Camaguey, our sister city, and the place where his grandparents had lived before immigrating to the US.
Ruben has two daughters: Sophie, a psychotherapist and part-time yoga instructor; and Grace, a physician at Abington Hospital. He was an avid runner, completing six marathons, two of them with his daughter Sophie. His discipline was such that he drove to Washington D.C. every weekend to train with her. He now runs recreationally, and loves biking, hiking, golf, and tennis.
Ruben lives in West Mt. Airy.
“Rebecca’s music draws me to the service, and drew my daughter Maddie out. Through the music at Kol Ami, Maddie was transformed into a confident participant in the choir, and then a confident leader on the bimah at her Bat Mitzvah. She was so poised and that resulted from her training with Rebecca and Rabbi Holin. The way the Rabbi works with the kids each week and really gets to know each child and who they are is uniquely Kol Ami.”
Board of Trustees member Barb Fink’s values and career were shaped by a Reform upbringing. Says Barb, “I love that it’s egalitarian, I love the music, I love the social action!”
When Barb and her husband, Andy August, moved to Cheltenham Township from New York City, they began hearing about Congregation Kol Ami from neighbors and acquaintances. In 2000, when their eldest child, Maddie, was an infant, they began synagogue shopping, and were drawn to Kol Ami by its size, believing it would be easier to find a community in a small place. “The sense of community for us has grown deeper the more involved we get. There was an instant fit for us with this congregation. It felt like where we belonged and that feeling has only deepened.”
Maddie and her sister Talia are both members of Kol Ami’s Confirmation Academy.
Barb joined the board in 2012. She has chaired the synagogue’s annual Second Seder for many years. Barb served on the Search Committee for Kol Ami’s Religious School director David Monblatt, and is co-chair of the Religious School Committee, which helps develop the vision for education at Kol Ami. Her husband, Andy, a professor of history at Penn State, is a prior member of the board of trustees.
Barb began her career serving the Reform movement as a legislative intern at the Religious Action Center in Washington, DC, which is the social action center of Reform Judaism. She is currently a senior research associate at Branch Associates, conducting social policy research and evaluation.
Barb earned an MPA from NYU and a BA in government from Cornell University.
Barb and her family reside in Elkins Park. Barb loves yoga and competes on a dragon boat team with several other fierce, fit Kol Ami women.
“Congregation Kol Ami is so welcoming. The families at Kol Ami aren’t just people with whom I go to services. I have dinner with them, go to events with them, celebrate and mourn with them. They’re my friends, and many of those friendships were made at Kol Ami.”
Board of trustees member Lorie Slass and her husband, Bill England, joined Kol Ami when their daughter Sarah was in kindergarten. In 2013 the family celebrated Sarah’s Bat Mitzvah. Like other local families, Lorie’s was blessed with an abundance of options when choosing a synagogue. In seeking a synagogue, Sarah’s religious education was paramount, as was the congregation’s attitude toward and treatment of interfaith families and their commitment to social action and progressive values.
“I’m in an interfaith marriage and Kol Ami is incredibly welcoming to families such as ours. They make the non-Jewish partner feel like part of the community, and there is no distinction between Jewish and non-Jewish members. Bill can join in and be part of all of the activities, which is very important to us.”
Lorie is Director of Communications and Marketing for the Society to Improve Diagnosis and Medicine and brings more than 25 years of experience in non-profit marketing and communications to her role as a board member. She considers Kol Ami one of the region’s “best kept secrets”, and is using her expertise to broaden the range of people who know what the synagogue has to offer. She works with various committees and on marketing efforts.
Prior to joining the board of trustees in 2014, Lorie worked on the Casino Night committee for several years. She served as Vice President for the Board of Trustees for two years.
Lorie and her family live in Elkins Park.
“Kol Ami has proven to be the best choice my wife and I have ever made in joining a synagogue – an intimate place where new members are welcomed and encouraged to participate, where a real community of friends in worship and song is formed and sustained by leadership that cares about everyone and constantly demonstrates it through their kindnesses.”
When Gary and his wife Cheryl were searching for a reform synagogue, they knew they wanted to be part of a congregation that was friendly and welcoming—one that was led by a rabbi who set the tone by being inclusive and supportive of new members. In Kol Ami, they found a community that offered all those things in a beautiful setting, with meaningful worship services. Gary and Cheryl have been members since 2015.
Gary serves on the Membership and Worship Enhancement Committees, but his desire to do even more to help Kol Ami grow and thrive motivated him to join the board of trustees in 2018. As a board member, he hopes to assist the leadership in expanding the religious school and adult education programs.
Gary practiced law for twenty years, but in his heart he knew all along what he really wanted do: teach. So he left his law practice, got a Master’s degree, and spent the next fifteen year teaching social studies at the middle school in the North Penn School District. Now retired, Gary volunteers as a tour guide at the Rosenbach Museum and Library in Philadelphia. He is also active in the retired division of the Pennsylvania State Education Association. Gary studied piano at the Settlement Music School. He still takes piano lessons and plays chamber music with friends. In 2018, Gary became an adult B’nai Mitzvah.
Kol Ami membership is a family affair—Gary’s father, Al Turetsky is also a member of the congregation. Their daughter lives in Washington state.
Gary and Cheryl live in Elkins Park.
Ben Long maintains a personal philosophy that emphasizes the importance of learning and growing from the challenging times and difficult decisions in life. He tries to see the positive potential in otherwise adverse situations, an outlook that is always constructive, but perhaps especially so at this moment in history.
Ben has been a member of Kol Ami practically since its inception, having attended the first High Holy Day services held at Abington Friends and joining shortly thereafter. Over the years he has been deeply committed to Kol Ami, serving as Vice President from 2000-2003 and President from 2003-2005. Ben has now formally re-joined the Board in order to be more involved once again at a critical time in the Kol Ami life cycle, a reflection of his deep and ongoing dedication to the congregation. Over the years Ben has been involved in our capital campaigns, our building search committee, numerous golf outings, our Adult Choir as a tenor and was a perennially stellar outfielder on the Kol Ami softball team.
Ben is an alumnus of the University of Michigan and the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. He is a partner in a specialized real estate firm located in Conshohocken, noting that he fell in love with the telecom tower space in the late 1990s and never left. His career has spanned the realms of banking, accounting, finance, and running rapidly growing businesses before settling on investment real estate.
Ben lives in Blue Bell with his wife Beth, teenage son Ryan, and their dog Theo. They recently moved from their home in Narberth. Daughters Emma and Zoe – Kol Ami alums themselves — are young adults who Ben quips have “flown the coop, so to speak.” Beth, who grew up near Scranton, is a Senior Vice-President at Firstrust Bank, and she is on the Board of the Risk Management Association as well as a Philadelphia charter school. Ben notes that Beth loves the Kol Ami vibe and the friends they have there. Ryan is a sophomore at Penn Charter, and their dog Theo is a three year-old bernadoodle who loves to swim and play and “runs the house.” Daughter Emma was trained as a pastry chef at the Culinary Institute of America and had been working at Zahav prior to the interruption caused by the pandemic. Zoe will be starting nursing school at Johns Hopkins University in the fall.
Ben is a very active, energetic person. He loves to be outdoors, playing tennis, golfing, biking, swimming, and sharing these activities with his family and friends. He is also a volunteer at MANNA, both delivering meals and working the kitchen. Overall, Ben brings valuable experience, know-how, talent, optimism, and a spirit of giving to the Board.
New Zealand once had a vibrant Jewish presence, but the community had shrunk considerably when Ben Adams was growing up there. In Christchurch, where his family lived, there was a single synagogue with only fifty families.
Throughout his childhood, Ben was active in Habonim Dror, a Progressive Labor Zionist Youth movement, and in 1983 he made aliya. He lived on a kibbutz, where he met and married Gail Korostoff, who had also grown up in the Habonim Dror movement here in Philadelphia. While in Israel, Ben was the production manager for the kibbutz industry (they manufactured adhesives) and Gail worked as a welder. From 1986 to 1987, Ben served in the IDF as a member of the Nahal Brigade. They returned to the U.S. when their first child was born.
Initially members of Or Hadash in Fort Washington, Ben and Gail wanted to join a shul closer to home. They were especially interested in finding a spiritual home with a progressive commitment to Israel. They were drawn to Kol Ami not only because of its proximity and its relationship with Israel, but also because they already knew so many members of the congregation. They joined Kol Ami in 2005 and knew they had made the right choice.
As a member of the Board, Ben is eager help with the transition to the next phase of the synagogue’s life. He brings years of experience serving on the boards of a number of regional and national non-profit organizations. His most recent community volunteer experience was as a board member of CreekSide Co-op.
Ben earned his BS degree at the University of Canterbury and worked on energy efficiency for the New Zealand Ministry of Energy before making aliya. After returning to the U.S., he earned an MBA at Drexel and is now a partner at MaGrann Associates, a regional engineering company focused on green building consulting for residential construction.
Ben and Gail’s two grown children carry on their parents’ commitment to Judaism and Israel. Jonah teaches Hebrew school on Sundays at Society Hill synagogue; Sarah is a full time educator in Dror Yisrael in Israel.
When he is not working or volunteering, Ben likes to bike and travel.
Ben and Gail reside in Cheltenham.
This is the personal motto offered by Nigel Blower installed on Congregation Kol Ami’s Board. Nigel lives in Elkins Park, literally within sight of the synagogue, with his wife Julie Cohen and their 15 year-old son Aaron, who is currently in Kol Ami’s confirmation academy. Nigel has been a member of Congregation Kol Ami since 2003, having been introduced to the congregation by friends Bill Hyman and Janine Pratt, and having felt at home in the family services that were then held at the Gratz campus. Nigel cites a sense of community, shared values and ethics, and inclusiveness as being qualities central to Congregation Kol Ami and reasons for his strong connection. Previous to joining the Board, Nigel has been on Kol Ami’s finance committee, as well being past co-chair (with wife Julie) of the Interfaith Relationship Dialogue Group.
Nigel was born and raised in England, and earned his Master’s degree in Electrical Engineering from Bradford University. He has had an active and successful career in the field of Information Technology as a consultant, expert, and executive. His current IT business focuses on strategy and project management. Nigel is vice-president of Cheltenham Sports, an Eagles season ticket holder, and a valued veteran of the Kol Ami softball team. It is safe to say that Nigel has embraced North American football and learned the ins and outs of the sport of baseball way better than most of us native locals could ever have mastered the sport of cricket.
Over the years, Nigel and Julie have hosted more Kol Ami events at their house than can readily be counted. Their home inherently has a warm, welcoming, and nurturing feel that reflects the heart and soul of the family who lives there, and that acts as a natural extension of the best of what Congregation Kol Ami represents.
Barry Boise has been a member of Congregation Kol Ami since 1997, and previously served on the Board of Trustees from 2008-2014, and served as the Vice President of the Board for much of that time. Barry also previously co-chaired the Interfaith Relationship Dialogue Group, and currently co-chairs the Inclusion Committee – Special Needs.
Barry and his wife, Allison, were initially drawn to Congregation Kol Ami because it is a welcoming place for interfaith families with a Rabbi committed to inclusion. And for the last 20 years it has been a place where our entire family and extended family could share in our children’s Jewish education, Bar and Bat Mitzvahs, and Confirmations.
Now, with adult children, Barry and Allison are able to connect with the Kol Ami community through participation in religious and social programming.
Barry is an attorney at the law offices of Pepper Hamilton, and spends his spare time on all things family and Philadelphia sports.
The Boise family lives in Cheltenham Township.
“Congregation Kol Ami is a community that, I am very proud to say, welcomes everyone: traditional and non-traditional families, interfaith families, singles, young couples and active adults and seniors. We support each other emotionally and spiritually, and reach out into the larger community to achieve Tikun Olam (repairing the world). In my role as President, I look forward to increasing the engagement of every Kol Ami member to make their membership more meaningful to them and to continue to strengthen our sacred community.”
Shelley’s path to Congregation Kol Ami began in Pittsburgh several decades ago. As a teenager, she was president of the PAFTY chapter (Pennsylvania Federation of Temple Youth) at Pittsburgh’s Temple Emanuel and Rabbi Holin was her Rabbi. Thirteen years later, when Shelley got engaged to David Chamberlain, a non-Jew, she sought out Rabbi Holin to perform their marriage. She knew she could count on him to provide the unique support that she and David needed in their interfaith relationship.
When their son Michael began first grade, Shelley and David moved to Cheltenham. As Shelley says, “There was little doubt that both Kol Ami and Rabbi Holin would be ‘home’ for me and my entire family. David felt very comfortable and included from the start.” Both Chamberlain sons, Michael and Brian, became Bar Mitzvahs and were confirmed at Kol Ami. They continued on with their Jewish education to earn Reform teaching certificates through the Isaac Mayer Wise Program at Gratz College.
Since joining Kol Ami in 1997, Shelley has taken on a variety of leadership roles and committee chair positions. She was central to developing the very first Jewish CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in Philadelphia: Elkins Park Hazon CSA hosted by Kol Ami. It has served as a model for other regional CSAs and positively contributed to Kol Ami’s name recognition in its early years as a vibrant, forward thinking part of the community. Shelley’s interest in sustainable, local and organic nutrition is consistent with her past position as Director for Dining Services at Jefferson University Hospital.
Shelley is now serving her second term on the Board of Trustees, this time as President. Her 30+ years of management experience have prepared her well for assuming this leadership role. She knows the power of teamwork and the synergy generated by committed individuals. In this next chapter of her service Shelley brings a new perspective, as an empty nester with institutional memory. Says Shelley, “Kol Ami continues to be a major part of my life. I love the warmth and the connections. There’s an excitement about meeting and working with members, harnessing our collective strength to ultimately write the next chapter in Kol Ami’s story (history).”
Sara Cohbra is an attorney who has devoted the majority of her career to defending those who have been sentenced to death. It is fitting that the motto she lives by is a quote from Bryan Stevenson, founder of the Equal Justice Initiative: “Each of us is more than the worst thing we’ve ever done.” With a spirit of compassion and understanding, Sara emphasizes that as humans we all make mistakes, but these should not be the only things by which we are judged or judge ourselves.
Sara was born and raised in San Francisco and lived there until 2015, when she and her husband Larry and their children moved to Pennsylvania (Cheltenham) to be closer to their extended families. They joined Kol Ami just a few weeks after arriving. As Sara describes, Larry drove past Kol Ami, sparking their interest. They looked up the website and put out an inquiry. Sara adds, “Julie Cohen called us back almost immediately, invited us to a children’s Shabbat service, we attended and heard Rebecca Schwartz sing and engage the kids, and we were sold.” It is an interesting coincidence that their journey from San Francisco to the Philadelphia area mirrors the life path of Kol Ami’s founding rabbi, Elliot Holin.
Sara earned her undergraduate degree in English at Pomona College in Claremont, CA, and her law degree at Stanford Law School in Palo Alto, CA. In the early years of her law career in San Francisco, Sara also served as a member and secretary of the Board of a nonprofit special education advocacy project. In her current law practice defending persons sentenced to death, Sara’s work includes investigating the crime, law enforcement investigation, and trial proceedings, and learning about and developing information about the clients’ history and background to present in support of a sentence less than death. Notably, Sara speaks Spanish, and she has represented many foreign nationals.
Sara and her husband Larry have been married for 17 years, first meeting in San Francisco. Larry was born and raised in New York, joined the Navy after college and lived in various places in the U.S., including the big island of Hawaii, during his time in the military. After leaving the Navy, Larry went to graduate school on a G.I. bill and got his teaching credential and his Master’s in education. He teaches biology to English Language Learners at Northeast High School in Philly.
Sara and Larry have two children, Atticus and Malina, aged 13 and 10, respectively. Atticus became a Bar Mitzvah over Zoom in May 2020. He is an avid reader and enjoys playing video games with his friends. He has a keen mind and a very strong sense of social justice. Malina is a very dedicated soccer player who comes alive on the field (and who greatly misses playing on her team at this time!), and she continues to practice daily by herself and with her family members in their backyard. Malina also loves making art.
Sara’s favorite activities are reading, hiking, camping, cooking, and especially singing. Sara describes herself as someone feels most connected to others – socially and spiritually – through music. Fittingly, Sara joined Kol Ami’s Adult Choir. She values the choir as being a wonderful place to meet members of the synagogue and make friends, learn more about the prayers – what they mean and how they fit into ritual and spirituality – and re-center during Sunday morning rehearsals. In addition to participating in the Kol Ami Adult Choir, Sara sings with the Myers Elementary School Community Choir. Sara also participated in the Religious School committee for two years, including being active in the search for our new Religious School director.
Sara states that she is looking forward to becoming more involved in inclusion efforts at Kol Ami as a member of the Board. We at Kol Ami are extremely fortunate that Sara and her family found us. We could not have done better if we had assigned a search committee to the Bay Area.
Former Congregation Kol Ami President David Hyman has every right to take pride in the congregation’s progress in the years since Rabbi Holin first approached him to help build a new synagogue. A founding board member of the congregation, David has been an integral part of Kol Ami’s growth, serving on the first of Board of Trustees from 1994 to 2000, and as one of the first co-chairs of the Worship Enhancement Committee. He rejoined the Board in 2010, and served as President the following two years.
As President, David prioritized increasing engagement by helping members find added meaning in living Jewishly.
For many years, David acted as Rabbi Holin’s stand-in when the Rabbi was on vacation. He chanted from the Torah at Kol Ami to celebrate the 30th anniversary of his Bar Mitzvah, was a member of the synagogue’s first adult trope class, and is currently studying Hebrew online with a teacher in Israel.
David is a managing partner of the law firm, Kleinbard LLC. He served as Chief of Staff for Philadelphia City Councilman George Burrell. Philadelphia Mayors Nutter and Kenney have appointed David to the Board of the Philadelphia Authority for Industrial Development. David also travelled with Mayor Nutter to Israel n a 2013 Trade Mission.
In addition to Kol Ami, David has chaired a number of non-profit boards, including the Philadelphia Gas Works, Operation Understanding (our Tikun Olam Award winner in 1995), the Philadelphia/S. Jersey Region of the American Jewish Committee and the Association for Independent Growth. He also served as Vice Chairman of the Board of the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation and acted as the Mayor’s Representative to the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corporation Board. David also currently serves as a member of the Board of Trustees of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia and the Board of Directors of the Building Industry Association.
David has received Eisenhower Exchange and Wexner Heritage Fellowships and the Judge Learned Hand Award. The Economy League has selected David each year since 2009 to participate in the Greater Philadelphia Leadership Exchange.
David is married to Farah Jimenez, a Cuban-American, who is the President and CEO of the Philadelphia Education Fund. During a trip to Cuba with Farah’s family, David conducted the first Rosh Hashanah service at our sister congregation in Camaguey, Cuba – in Hebrew and Spanish.
David and Farah reside in Chestnut Hill.
“Ever the problem-solver and perpetual learner, Kol Ami Board member Justin Krik’s mottos are, ‘There is a way out of every box, a solution to every puzzle; it’s just a matter of finding it.’ and ‘My only enemy is someone from whom I can learning nothing’.”
Justin, previously from Fox Chase, lives in Huntingdon Valley with his wife Julia and their daughters Sophia and Rebecca. They have been members of Kol Ami since 2015.
Justin is an attorney specializing in real estate transactions and litigation, small business consulting, and general contract matters. His clientele are typically private real estate investors and small business owners. Justin obtained his Juris Doctor degree from Widener University School of Law in 2006 after having earned his Bachelor of Science in Psychology from Penn State in 2002.
Justin is a new member of the Board who is currently on the Membership Relief Committee, though he plans to be affiliated with several committees in the future.
Outside of work, Justin enjoys spending time with his family, drumming and playing music with friends, doing home improvement projects, relaxing at the shore, camping, going to Phillies games, and getting into “all things science”.
Justin and his family volunteer with and participate in several charitable organizations and events, most of which raise money for the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, specifically for the cardiac unit, research and treatment of genetic disorder trisomy 21, and dealing with infant loss in memory of their daughter Nora.
Justin brings a diverse set of interests and skill sets to our Board, as well as a personal tradition of community service. Kol Ami is fortunate to have him in a leadership role.
This quote gets to the heart of Laurie Jubelirer Langman’s approach to life, and to her life’s work as an attorney. Laurie’s independently owned law firm (Jubelirer Law, LLC) specializes in criminal defense and civil rights cases, and her clientele is comprised of underprivileged persons who otherwise might not have the benefit of expert representation to seek justice and redress in a complicated and customarily costly criminal justice system. Laurie feels that there is nothing more satisfying than advocating for her clients and bringing positive changes to their lives, particularly when they have suffered civil rights violations at the hands of police or by prison and medical personnel during their incarceration. Laurie has practiced law for 32 years, and prior to founding her own practice she was a Deputy Attorney General in the Philadelphia Office of Attorney General for 16 years, and an Assistant District Attorney in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office for 8 years. Laurie currently serves on the board of directors of Women Owned Law, a local and national organization that connects and supports female legal entrepreneurs, and she was recently spotlighted in their organizational publication. In that feature, Laurie was quoted as saying that she endeavors “to work towards reforming our criminal justice system into a vehicle for treating, educating and supporting people as opposed to punishing them via incarceration and long periods of parole and probation.”
Laurie grew up in Altoona, PA and moved to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania as an undergraduate, where she earned her bachelor’s degree in 1984. She then attended Temple University Beasley School of Law and earned her Juris Doctor degree in 1987. With an eye toward the future and pursuing the work that best exemplifies her personal values, Laurie took on additional graduate studies, earning an LLM (Masters) in Trial Advocacy from Temple University Beasley School of Law in 1995.
Laurie lives in Ambler with her spouse of almost 32 years, Chuck Langman, who is a doctor of podiatric medicine with Rothman Orthopedics (as well as being a talented chef and biking enthusiast). They have three children – Sam, Becca, and Andy. Sam will be a senior at Penn State University, majoring in Finance. Becca will be a junior at Tulane University, majoring in Psychology, and Andy will be a junior at Wissahickon High School in Ambler. Andy is an accomplished gymnast who already has medaled in serious competitions for many years. The family also has two adopted rescue dogs. Zip is a mixed breed and Leelu is a mini australian shepherd.
Laurie and Chuck have been members of Kol Ami since its founding in 1994, before their kids were born. Laurie notes that they were looking for an intimate community where they could have a personal relationship with the rabbi. It was important to them to form meaningful friendships with other members of the congregation and to be part of a community where they could celebrate Shabbat, holidays, and life-cycle events. Laurie has been active in Kol Ami’s Social Action Committee, in which for one week each year she leads a program via the Interfaith Housing Alliance to support homeless families staying in local religious institutions. In 2019, Laurie organized and moderated a panel presentation at Kol Ami on the phenomenon and problems of Mass Incarceration in our society, an issue that more than ever is crying out for change. Laurie has also participated in the Religious School and Worship Enhancement Committees.
Outside of her professional work and societal commitments, Laurie enjoys tennis, yoga, hiking, and biking. She has greatly valued her travels with her family. Some of her favorite destinations have included a tour of Israel in 2013 to celebrate Becca’s becoming a Bat Mitzvah, and a trip to Alaska in 2019.
“More than 20 years ago I made a commitment to my husband to have a Jewish household and to raise our children in the Jewish faith, even though I wasn’t sure what that would look like. As the non-Jewish half of an interfaith couple, I needed a community where I could participate at my own comfort level without feeling like an outsider. I found that place at Congregation Kol Ami and with Rabbi Holin.”
Janine Pratt joined the board of Kol Ami in 2015 as its first non-Jewish member. Although raised as a Catholic, Janine started questioning her own religion after she and her husband, Bill Hyman, started to date and, as Janine likes to put it, the longer they dated, the more Jewish Bill became and the less Catholic she became. Shortly after they got engaged, Bill met Rabbi Holin at a conversion ceremony and he and Janine knew they had found their Rabbi. After they were married, Janine and Bill were asked to be the first interfaith representatives on the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia’s Young Leadership Council. She and Bill were among the first members of Kol Ami, serving as its first co-chairs of the Interfaith Relationship Dialogue.
Janine and Bill’s daughters, Maya and Lia, have grown up at Kol Ami, increasingly rooted in Judaism through the religious school, their B’not Mitzvah and Confirmation Academy. Their extracurricular activities beyond the synagogue have included Camp Harlam, Satell Fellowship for Teen Leadership and Social Activism, BBYO, and the Isaac Mayer Wise program at Gratz College. Lia is participating in Kol Ami’s LAMED post-confirmation program through high school and Maya is an officer in her college Hillel. Janine believes their involvement at Kol Ami has given them very strong Jewish identities; they are proud to call themselves Jews.
Janine has a Bachelors of Science in Nutrition and a Master of Education in Higher Education with a focus on Student Personnel Services. She moved to Philadelphia from Boston in the late 80‘s for a position at Philadelphia University where she became the Director of Residential Life and met Bill (good story!). After leaving higher education, she worked in two organizations that provided services for adults with developmental disabilities and is currently a free-lance writer. She also works as a community representative on Arcadia University’s Institutional Research Board.
Janine values her various volunteer opportunities, largely focused on children. When she first moved to Philadelphia, she became a Big Sister to a teenage girl living in Philadelphia. She has been “uber” involved in their many PTOs, serving as a co-president at both Cheltenham Elementary and Cedarbrook Middle School. Janine served on the Wall Park Playground Build Committee and Board, completed a Parents as Leaders Certification, and cooks several times a year with the Cheltenham Chefs for the Ronald McDonald House at St. Christopher’s Hospital.
At Kol Ami Janine has served as Kol Ami’s first Oneg Shabbat Chair, co-chair of the IRD, co-chair of the Second Seder, co-chair of the Gil Morgenstern concerts, co-chair of the Fine Arts and Craft Show, co-editor of Kol Ami’s Bulletin, and a member of the Religious School Committee. She is honored to now contribute to board leadership.
Janine lives with her family in Elkins Park.
“Kol Ami…they listen, they learn, they grow with their congregants and, more importantly, they work hard to make being a congregant work for you.”
Inclusion and values: new board member Morgan Selkirk knows exactly why she is attracted to the Kol Ami community.
Morgan and her husband, Jack, came to Congregation Kol Ami via FELS preschool, which their son, Jack, and daughter, Harper, attend. Morgan and Jack weren’t in a rush to join a congregation, but liked what they saw and heard as they got to know Kol Ami’s leadership and some of its members. In a very short time Kol Ami became a place that Morgan deeply cared about and wanted to “protect and nurture to the best of my ability.”
Born in Manhattan, Morgan grew up in the theater world of New York, where she was affiliated with Congregation Sons of Israel. She taught early Hebrew and served as a United Synagogue Youth (USY) advisor.
Morgan loves all things art related. She earned an Associates Degree in theatre arts, a Bachelor of Fine Arts in visual arts with concentrations in photography and color theory, and a second Bachelor of Arts in media, society and the arts. Her professional background is in special events and marketing coordination. She established her own business, ML2 Photography, in 2004, and is currently a freelance photographer. Previously, she worked in income development at the American Cancer Society. Morgan paints and sculpts, and enjoys crafting and creating elaborate fondant cakes for family and friends.
Although Morgan’s interests exceed the amount of time she has available to devote to them, there are two areas for which she always finds time. The first is her family and friends. She loves spending time with her kids and doing the things they love to do. Although her home team is the Yankees–she loves going to baseball games–she will never forget taking her son to his first Phillies game and witnessing the excitement he had throughout the nine innings.
Equal rights activism is a driving force in how and where Morgan chooses to spend her volunteer time. She has worked towards LGBTQ legislation and transgender rights, was an acclimation advisor for an LGBT Community Health Center and volunteered with Parents, Families, and Friends, of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG), The Bully Project, National Center for Transgender Equality (NCTE), Broadway Cares, and Moms Demand Action. Kol Ami’s commitment to inclusion and diversity, specifically in the LGBTQ arena, has strongly attracted Morgan to the congregation. She wants to raise her family in a fully inclusive environment and Kol Ami demonstrates this commitment through words and action.
Although relatively new to Kol Ami, Morgan has already been involved with membership, marketing, Casino Night and the Religious School PTO. She is honored that the congregation wants to have representation from a young family like hers and looks forward to helping in any way she can as a member to the board.
Morgan and her family live in Huntingdon Valley.
“Kol Ami is more than a synagogue. It’s a community center. It’s a place where we have met many of our greatest friends. It’s a place where people of all faiths can feel welcome and comfortable. It’s a place with people who share our values. It’s a welcoming environment where our family is happy to be.”
Growing up, Robin Shane belonged to a reform synagogue founded by her parents and 12 other families. Her husband, Jonathan Shandell, attended a secular Jewish synagogue. When the two of them moved from New York to Elkins Park in 2008, they wanted to join a congregation that would resonate with both of their religious backgrounds. Robin contacted a couple of synagogues, and Kol Ami was the only one that called her back! But after visiting, they knew they needed to look no further—Kol Ami was the perfect fit for them: intimate, warm, and supportive.
Robin grew up in Wayland, Massachusetts, outside of Boston. She majored in theater and psychology at Wesleyan University, where she intended to become be a theater performer, but after taking a technical theater class in her freshman year, she changed course. Having learned to sew at the age of seven, she gravitated to costume design. She attended NYU Tisch School of the Arts, graduating with a Master of Fine Arts in Costume Design for Theater and Film. After graduating, she worked for many years as a freelance costume designer for theaters in New York, Philadelphia, and New Jersey. Her most high-profile gig was “Brundibar,” a children’s opera that ran off-Broadway, with production design by Maurice Sendak and a libretto by Tony Kushner. She was less successful designing Halloween costumes for her children; when she made a Max (“Where the Wild Things Are”) costume, her then two-year-old daughter refused to wear it!
Robin brings a unique combination of artistic, educational, and organizational skills to the board of trustees and to Kol Ami. In addition to her work as a costume designer, Robin has served on non-profit boards for much of her adult life, recently finishing a six-year term on the board of Yes!And Collaborative Arts, an organization that works with young people to build self-confidence by working collaboratively with peers and professional artists. She was also an adjunct professor at Arcadia, Temple, and Rider Universities and has recently begun a new phase of her career as a full-time tenure-track professor of theatre and dance at Rider University in Lawrenceville, NJ.
Robin was nominated to the board in 2018. She is excited to be working with the new rabbi and being part of the next phase of the synagogue’s life. She is particularly interested in working with the LGBTQ+ Inclusion Committee, which she currently co-chairs, and the Disability Committee. In the past she served on the Rare Events and the PTO Committees.
Robin and Jonathan have two daughters, Cecily, 15 and Miranda, 11, both of whom have attended the religious school since kindergarten. Their older daughter became a bat mitzvah in 2016 and is now in the Confirmation Academy; their younger daughter is currently in sixth grade, and her bat mitzvah is scheduled for March 2020.
In addition to her many professional and volunteer activities, Robin somehow finds time to knit, do crafts, run, and tap dance.
The family resides in Elkins Park.
This concise, direct motto is at the top of new Kol Ami Board member Emily Stein’s list of personal sayings, and she has lived up to this credo. At the age of 32, only three short years after joining Kol Ami along with her husband Josh and their daughter Leah, (a student in Kol Ami’s Religious School), Emily has politely, steadfastly earned the respect of more senior, long-standing members to ascend to the Board. Emily is co-chair of the Religious School committee (along with Tamara Sniad), and she recently joined the HR committee. Emily also was co-chair of the Search Committee for the Educational Director. Emily, Josh, and Leah have lived in Cheltenham since 2015 after having resided previously in Levittown. They now also have two young cats and a German shepherd puppy. Emily wryly notes that, “Poor Josh is outnumbered by ladies, 5:1.
Growing up in West Chester and Coatesville in an interfaith family, with scarce chances to have a religious education, Emily often felt judged by others as being “too Jewish,” or “not Jewish enough,” depending on the context. Even then, Emily knew that she wanted to promote Jewish traditions in the next generation, and she is happy to say that her daughter Leah has a strong Jewish identity, nurtured greatly by Kol Ami. Emily views Kol Ami as “the place for anyone who wants to participate in Jewish life, but is concerned they don’t fit neatly in a box,” and she feels grateful that Kol Ami views her unique pathway to Jewish life as an asset. Emily feels valued by Kol Ami, and it motivates her even more to want to give back.
Emily has been a self-starter her entire life, creating opportunities for personal growth, for connectedness to a Jewish community, and for tikun olam. Dissatisfied with her educational environment growing up, Emily sought a home-schooling program (loosely managed by the private school Upattinas that is now sadly disbanded) about which she was diligent. She graduated early and began working immediately as a Kindergarten assistant at a charter school. Shortly thereafter, Emily competed in the Miss Pennsylvania USA pageant, demonstrating remarkable range and a willingness to go way outside a comfort zone. Emily met Josh in 2005, and they married in 2007. As an outgrowth of her interest in housing, design, sociology, and economics, Emily founded a non-profit organization in her early 20’s. Her goal was to use seed loans to invest in youth small business development, helping to lift teens out of disadvantaged domestic environments. With similar altruistic intent, Emily became a board member of Foyer of Philadelphia, a non-profit that facilitates LGBTQ young adults’ transition from foster care or homelessness to self-sufficiency. She also created and ran a workshop to help teach youth about small business development. Additionally, Emily led seminars for first-time homebuyers, and helped to rejuvenate a public school in Philadelphia. Emily was a member of the Philadelphia chapter of Architecture for Humanity and she was on the Housing and Finance committee of the Women’s Community Revitalization program. Further still, Emily was the co-founder of the campaign that initiated a recycling program at the largest mall in Philadelphia. During this time, Emily made good on her pledge to herself to become a competition-level ballroom dancer. Partly in jest, and partly with justifiable pride, Emily calls herself, “The Seabiscuit of the competitive ballroom scene.”
Currently, Emily is an interior designer who is freelancing and assisting established designers while she builds her own business, Design Librarian. Emily’s side goals are to become a member of the Junior League of Philadelphia, and to donate her time at the public library. This is in addition to being on Kol Ami’s Board, where she is already making valued contributions.
Dr. Ronit Sugar shared two of her favorite quotes. The first, by Amit Ray, “Strengthen your heart muscles by removing the sufferings of others,” illustrates her natural instincts as a healer. The second, by Amelia Earhart, “A single act of kindness throws out roots in all directions, and the roots spring up and make new trees,” highlights her ethic of making contributions to the world that multiply.
The daughter of Holocaust survivors, Ronit was born in Israel. When she was five years old Ronit’s family moved to Philadelphia while her father completed a pediatric neurology fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. They moved back to Israel for a couple of years and later returned to the US following the 6-Day War, settling in Springfield, Delaware County. Ronit did her pre-med undergraduate years at Muhlenberg College, and later graduated from Hahnemann University Medical School.
Ronit has lived in Elkins Park for the past 32 years with her husband Bert (Robert) Schiowitz. He is a general surgeon at Einstein Montgomery in East Norriton. Ronit and Bert met when they did their surgical residency at Albert Einstein Medical Center in Philadelphia, and subsequently Ronit and Bert were in practice together as surgeons for 25 years. A few years ago Ronit accepted a position as a breast surgeon at then Aria Hospital, now part of the Jefferson system. She is now the Director of the Breast Program, and a Cancer Program liaison physician. Taking tikun olam nearly as far as possible, Ronit and Bert have traveled to the Philippines on a medical/surgical mission for the past 5 years. They hope to be able to continue this work in the future when it becomes possible to travel and convene more safely again.
Ronit and Bert have 3 children: Amy Schiowitz, a therapist, who is married to Geoff Millner; Adam Schiowitz, an industrial engineer at Virtua Hospitals, who lives with his girlfriend Colleen Gallagher (“hopefully my future daughter-in-law,” Ronit writes); and Julie Schiowitz, who just graduated Nursing School. All of them live in South Philly, and Ronit is thrilled that her young adult children live close by!
Ronit and her family have been members of Kol Ami for 23 years. They joined for the religious school, and Ronit adds that they loved the warmth and intimacy of such a close-knit congregation, as well as the activism. Their connection to Kol Ami was amplified by their high regard and affection for Rabbi Holin. Ronit was previously on the Board many years ago and was very involved when her kids were in school. She served on several committees, including Social Action (serving as Chair for several years), Membership, Operations, Caring Congregants, and the Religious School. Perennially, Ronit has been a central participant during High Holy Days services, as she is an accomplished reader of Torah.
Ronit has a busy career, but she makes time for her hobbies, which include gardening, traveling, knitting, eating, and drinking good wine! Ronit emphasizes that she now wants to get re-involved and engaged in the congregation at this crucial time. Ronit’s commitment and dedication to Kol Ami make us stronger, and we are blessed to have her on the Board once again.