Click to learn more about each Board member.
“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).”
Shelley can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
“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.
“When you think of a neighborhood, you picture a place where you can walk next door for a cup of sugar, unannounced. Congregation Kol Ami is like a small neighborhood, with that same communal feeling. Robynn and I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s available to us socially, and we already feel this sense of community.”
Jeffrey Margasak believes in community and understands the responsibilities that come with being part of one. “If you want to be part of the community,” says Jeff, “you need to work within it.” Thus, Jeff was excited when, shortly after joining Kol Ami, he received a phone call from Past President Jennifer Streitwieser inviting him to join the synagogue’s Finance Committee. Jennifer explained that the committee could use Jeff’s perspective as a new member of Kol Ami and a banker (Jeff is marketing director for new account acquisitions at JP Morgan Chase & Company).
Two years later, in 2011, just as Jeff was wondering if he was adding enough value to the committee, Jennifer again reached out to him, this time inviting him to join the board of trustees. The synagogue leadership’s sincere outreach impressed Jeff as a sign of the community’s investment in representing the voice of all of its people (in Hebrew, Kol Ami means Voice of My People).
“There was a concerted effort to get a diversity of opinions from people of differing backgrounds with varied levels of engagement and tenure within the congregation,” explains Jeff.
Jeff joined Kol Ami in 2009 with his wife Robynn and their two children, Jacob and Jenna. Their primary goal was to find acceptance for their interfaith marriage and a spiritual home where Robynn would be comfortable.
It was actually Robynn who found Kol Ami for the family. She had come to know Rabbi Holin through his involvement with her children’s day care facility, Mary Bert Guttman Early Learning Center. Robynn was drawn to Rabbi Holin’s easygoing nature, and suggested to Jeff that they meet with him. “He was the one Rabbi we spoke to who embraced interfaith marriage,” says Jeff. “He embraced community and made it clear that what was important wasn’t your background, but your desire to make a commitment to this community.”
“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.
“When we were first synagogue shopping, some of our friends were bothered that Kol Ami didn’t have a building, but a building is just a structure. The people within the walls, the music and the warmth are what make Kol Ami the perfect spiritual home and community for our family.”
Lisa Landau initially joined Kol Ami to have a place to send her kids to Religious School. “As a new member, I was approached to volunteer. As a relatively quiet, reserved person, I needed the invitation to become involved,” says Lisa. “As I became more involved, my connection to Judaism, Jewish tradition and Kol Ami deepened.”
Over time Lisa emerged as a leader, co-chairing Second Seder, the Gil Morgenstern concert series and Bingo Night, and founding and co-chairing ISH (social group). Several years ago, Landau stepped down after three years as co-chair of the Religious School Committee to take a hiatus from her active volunteer schedule. Her recess didn’t last long.
“With (son) Noah old enough to walk or be dropped off at Religious School, all of a sudden, I had no reason to enter the building. After being involved in the Kol Ami community for so many years, I felt disconnected and wanted a way to become involved again,” says Lisa. “When past president Ilene Schafer asked me to serve on the board, I was honored and the timing was perfect. Kol Ami has a way of doing that. No sooner had I joined the board than I was asked to co-chair the Fine Arts and Craft show. Kol Ami has enriched my life in so many ways. These are my ways to give back.”
Lisa and her husband, Adam Hoffman, joined Kol Ami when their daughter Ricki turned five. It was an easy choice after attending a family service with a friend. “Rabbi Holin approached us immediately after that first service, making a point to connect with Ricki. He made us feel right at home,” remembers Lisa.
Both of Lisa’s children became B’nai Mitzvahs at Kol Ami.
Despite her heavy schedule at Kol Ami, Lisa holds down a full time job as a risk manager at Ditech Financial. She also enjoys hiking and competes with an all-female dragon boat team with several other fierce, fit Kol Ami women.
Lisa and her family reside in Elkins Park with their dog.
“Kol Ami is my home away from home. It has nurtured me and my family.”
The nurturing that Board of Trustees Vice-President Guy Appel receives from Congregation Kol Ami is very much reciprocated. As chair of the Building Committee, Guy was central in helping Kol Ami make the transition to its long-awaited home on High School Road in 2006, and he continues to oversee building operations. Guy is also a member of Kol Ami’s Finance Committee.
When the Appel family was looking for a synagogue to join, the quality of the religious education was a primary consideration. With son Bryan, now a University of Miami graduate, and daughter Taylor, a Syracuse University student, both alumni of the Isaac Mayer Wise Reform Teaching Certificate Program, Guy is thrilled with the religious education his two children received. “The percentage of kids going on to Isaac Mayer Wise at Gratz is huge compared to many other synagogues.”
The Appels’ religious education didn’t stop with their children. Guy, who was raised in a family where Judaism barely played a role, became a Bar Mitzvah at Kol Ami at the age of 45. Says Guy, “This is what Kol Ami brings out in everyone.”
Guy is managing director and owner of Interphase Medical Equipment, which distributes home health care equipment throughout the Delaware Valley and specializes in supplying medical equipment to the most needy and high-risk populations. He has always been interested in the business side of organizations, and he brings many years of expertise to the Board.
Guy’s wife Karol teaches art in the Westchester School District. She is the artist responsible for the beautiful blue and purple Torah cover that adorns one of Kol Ami’s three Torahs, and many congregants have worked with Karol to create one-of-a-kind tallit for their children’s B’nai Mitzvah.
Guy, who describes himself as a workaholic, is very active in community life outside of Kol Ami. He has coached travel soccer in Cheltenham for many years and was a long-time member of the Board of the Cheltenham Athletic Association. Guy and Karol are passionate about preserving open space. They were active in transforming a polluted tract of land in Abington Township into the Meadowbrook Bird Sanctuary, of which Guy became chair.
“Congregation Kol Ami truly is a spiritual home. Rabbi Holin excels at meeting people wherever they are in their spiritual journey, whether they are seeking spiritual exploration or comfortable exactly where they are.”
When board of trustee member David Baker and his wife, Irene Levy Baker, first moved to Philadelphia in 1991, they joined a large synagogue and spent several years trying to become active there. With few friends and no family in the region, they felt anonymous and lost in the large congregation. Yet initially they resisted when their next-door neighbor invited them to Kol Ami for a service, telling the neighbor they already had a synagogue. When they finally relented and attended a family service at Kol Ami, they fell in love. Close to two decades later, Kol Ami and its members have become the Bakers’ Philadelphia family.
For years, Irene was very active in the congregation, first through the religious school when her two children were students, and from 2005 to 2013, as chair of the synagogue’s membership committee, and a member of the board of trustees from 2006 to 2012. David dipped his toe in, attending family events, participating in the marketing committee and as a solicitor for the capital campaign, but was not yet ready to take the leap onto the board.
“I never felt like the time was right to make that kind of commitment, and then recently, I reflected upon what Irene, and even my kids, have been able to accomplish at Kol Ami, and realized I wanted to contribute more,” explains David.
As chief commercial officer for Alcobra Pharma, headquartered in Israel, David brings decades of experience in marketing to the board. He’s using his business acumen to ensure that Kol Ami is sustainable in what it offers people spiritually and maintains its financial viability. In addition to sitting on the marketing committee, David has joined the finance and planned giving campaign committees.
David is also chairman of the board of directors of The Philadelphia Education Fund and a member of the healthcare advisory board of the Fuqua School of Business at Duke University, from which he earned an MBA. In 2011, David launched a mentorship program that pairs professionals with first generation college students. He is currently bringing that program to Kol Ami through the synagogue’s social action committee.
Both of the Baker children, Adam and Rachel, started their Jewish education at Congregation Kol Ami in kindergarten. Each became a B’nai Mitzvah here and continued on through Confirmation Academy and the Isaac Mayer Wise Reform Teaching Certificate program at Gratz College.
The Bakers reside in Center City Philadelphia.
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.
“Over the last 16 years, I have been drawn deeper and deeper into this wonderful community. It started with the softball team accepting a no-hit catcher, and the feeling of belonging and purpose has been growing ever since.”
Board of Trustees and Executive Committee member Jeff Cohen has been a member of Congregation Kol Ami since its inception, yet it is only in the past five years that he has become much more involved in leadership roles. In 2007, at the urging of his wife, former Board member Ellen Friedman, and Rabbi Holin, Jeff took on the co-chairmanship of the newly formed Worship Enhancement Committee. Since then, he has served as a member/facilitator of the Strategic Planning Committee and is a member of the Fund Development Committee and the Social Action Committee and is co-chair of the Golf & Tennis Outing and of the Operations Committee.
Jeff joined Kol Ami’s Board in 2010. He has strong interests in youth education and programming, operations, and creating a vibrant and sustainable future for Kol Ami.
Jeff and Ellen have two daughters who have grown up at Kol Ami. Hannah, a college graduate, is a graduate of the I. M. Wise Reform Teaching Certificate Program at Gratz College. Leah is a sophomore at George Washington University. Both girls became Bat Mitzvah and were confirmed at Kol Ami and are long-time campers at URJ Camp Harlam in the Poconos.
Jeff is the principal of Performance Leaders, LLC, a consulting firm focused on executive coaching, business team development and complex meeting design and facilitation. Jeff is learning to scuba dive with several other Kol Ami friends, enjoys collecting and drinking interesting wine, cooking and traveling, and being an active member of and enthusiast for sustainable agriculture in the Hazon CSA at Kol Ami.
“My son Adam was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome in 2005. The world can be cruel to children with differences and their families, making us feel ‘other’. Adam found solace at Kol Ami — in the warm embrace of our members, his nurturing relationship with Rabbi Holin and the flexibility of our Religious School program which adapted to meet his needs. At his Bar Mitzvah, he talked about the peace he found here. Five years later, Rabbi Holin invited him to travel home from college to speak about his Jewish journey during Jewish Disabilities and Inclusion Shabbat. The sanctuary was filled and few eyes were dry as Adam related his story. Central to his story was the sense of acceptance and respect Adam received at Kol Ami. Adam is the most courageous person I’ve ever met and Kol Ami nurtured that.”
The daughter of a Holocaust survivor, Board of Trustees member Rachel Ezekiel-Fishbein grew up in a household that valued tikun olam over religious observance. Her family equated Judaism with social activism. It was only after Rachel joined Congregation Kol Ami that her concept of Judaism expanded beyond social justice to encompass spirituality.
One of the things Rachel values most about membership at Kol Ami is the opportunity to have an impact on the growth and direction of the congregation. “When you have a suggestion, people want to hear it. Your level of influence is not based upon how much money you contribute or how many years you’ve been a member. Everyone is in on the ground floor here.”
Rachel, however, did not remain on the ground floor for long. She chairs the Membership Committee, participates in the Religious School Committee, and is past co-chair of the Family Education Committee. Rachel co-founded ISH as a means of providing additional social interaction for young-ish Kol Ami members. She first joined the Board of Trustees in 2007, and began her second stint on the board in 2015.
Rachel’s impressive record at Kol Ami mirrors her considerable accomplishments outside of the synagogue. She is an adjunct communications instructor at Temple University and the principal at Making Headlines, the communications and public relations consultancy she founded in 1995. She is also a freelance writer whose work has appeared in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Magazine and The Jewish Exponent. She has been featured in Working Mother Magazine, The Philadelphia Inquirer and on ABC World News as a role model for women entrepreneurs who balance home and work. She and her husband, Joel, a partner at Litchfield Cavo, co-authored a section of Chicken Soup for the Soul: Special Needs Edition.
An advocate for progressive education, Rachel helped found the Special Needs Advocacy Group of Cheltenham Township. She is a member of the National Museum of American Jewish History’s Marketing Committee, and past Chair of the Public Relations Committee of Share Our Strength’s 20th Anniversary Taste of the Nation. She is a past member of the Marketing committees of Philabundance and of the Linda Creed Breast Cancer Foundation, and a former Board member of The Quaker School at Horsham.
All three of the Fishbein children –Danny, Adam and Emma—became B’not Mitzvah at Kol Ami. Emma is a student in the Confirmation Academy and Adam is a graduate in the I.M. Wise Reform Teaching Certification program. After working to build an educational program to meet Adam’s needs, the Fishbeins were instrumental in creating Kol Ami’s Inclusion Committee for Special Needs, which Joel co-chairs.
Rachel lives in Elkins Park, a short walk from Kol Ami, with her family and Yorkie-poo, Chase Muttley. In her spare time, Rachel enjoys yoga, swimming, Pilates, excessive Facebook posting, and, much to her husband’s chagrin, shopping.
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.
“I really like the intimacy of such a small synagogue. The leadership is down to earth and approachable, and everyone is committed to being part of a community that is different, special, and uniquely Kol Ami.”
Like many synagogue members, Deborah Poppel joined Congregation Kol Ami with her family when she and her husband were looking for a religious school for their daughter. That was in 2012; three years later, Deb was invited to join the board of trustees.
Deborah is Jewish and grew up with interfaith parents. Her husband, Stu, is also Jewish. Says Deb, “I have never been a member of a synagogue before and I couldn’t imagine a better fit for me or my family.” Deb is particularly sensitive to and appreciative of Kol Ami’s outreach to the interfaith community.
Deb and Stu learned about Kol Ami from a Rydal Elementary School classmate of their daughter, Melanie. They were sold when Rabbi Holin spent several weeks bringing Melanie up to speed on Hebrew their first summer, so she would be caught up for classes in the fall. Melanie will celebrate her Bat Mitzvah at Kol Ami this October.
Deb first dipped her toe into Kol Ami volunteerism by joining the Religious School PTO, and immediately appreciated the warm welcome she received from its members. Deb quickly got more involved. She currently chairs the Religious School PTO and participates in Kol Ami’s community service with SHARE and Stop Hunger Now.
As a member of the board, Deb hopes to develop innovative ways to increase membership, enhance the visibility of the Religious School, and develop creative fundraising sources to ensure the future health and stability of the congregation.
Deb is an environmental scientist at AECOM, a large civil engineering firm. As an environmental consultant she has served as president of the Pennsylvania Chapter of the Wildlife Society.
Deb earned a Bachelor of Science, cum laude, from the University of Delaware, and a Masters of Science from Frostburg State University.
She enjoys outdoor recreational activities such as hiking, cycling, kayaking and bird watching. She pursues kickboxing for fitness.
“When I think about Kol Ami and what it means to me, I think of Rabbi Holin’s kind, caring demeanor, Cantorial Soloist Rebecca Schwartz’s music and singing which makes services unique, Religious School Director David Monblatt’s enthusiasm and creativity, and Executive Director Elaine Stevens, who keeps everything running smoothly.”
“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.
“When we returned to Philadelphia from the Jersey shore, we were looking for a place that would make us feel nurtured and spiritually fed. From the very first minute of our first Friday night Shabbat service, we knew that Kol Ami would be our home.”
Bob and his wife Susan have strong Jewish backgrounds. Bob grew up in the Conservative tradition, while Susan’ s family was Reform, and they doubted they’d be able to find a spiritual home that would work for both of them. “But once we heard Rabbi Holin’s words and Rebecca Schwartz’s voice,” says Bob, “we knew we’d bridged the gap.”
When they joined Kol Ami, Bob and Susan were not looking to become active. “We just wanted to be members, stay under the radar, enjoy Shabbat, and not take responsibility. But when Elliot Holin and Shelley Chamberlain ask you to serve, it’s hard to resist.” For Bob, getting involved in the day-to-day operations of an organization is a labor of love and adds to a sense of belonging. He brings years of fundraising expertise to the board, having conducted fundraising campaigns for a number of Jewish organizations. He serves as Senior Director of Major Gifts at Jewish Federation.
Bob practiced law in Philadelphia for fifteen years before having what he called a “midlife Jewish crisis.” As a result, he left his practice thirty years ago to devote his energies to Jewish welfare. He started by applying his legal expertise to civil rights issues at the American Jewish Committee, before moving on to business development and fundraising, and eventually becoming chief executive. He established a Philadelphia-Israel Chamber of Commerce, serving as its first director, and went on to start a Florida-Israel Chamber of Commerce.
During his off hours, Bob enjoys spending time with his children and grandchildren, composing music (he is a classically trained pianist and guitarist), and writing. His is the author of “Techelet” a collection of short stories about faith and love rooted in Jewish culture and tradition.
Bob and Susan live in Huntingdon Valley.
“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.