Today is December 17, 2017 /

Main Office: 215-635-3110

Find Us: 8201 High School Road, Elkins Park, PA 19027

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History

History

20yr-quiltIn the Beginning . . .

Rabbi Elliot Holin helped found Kol Ami in 1994, seeking to create a Jewish home where members could explore their beliefs, and pray, celebrate and learn together. His commitment to making each member feel noticed and important is fundamental to our sense of intimacy and community.

From then, we’ve grown from a seedling to a large and many-branched tree.

Milestones

1994

  • We celebrated our first High Holy Days services at a nearby Quaker School.

1995

  • This was an important year, with many “firsts” such as formation of our Interfaith Relationship Dialogue Committee; our first Children’s Family Services; our first Adult Education programs, exploring the format of the Shabbat service; formation of the Kol Ami softball team; and our first Hanukkah Week of Giving.
  • We also held our first Second Seder and gave our first Tikun Olam Award to the founder of a program designed to build bridges between African-American and Jewish teenagers.
  • Our Religious School began, meeting in a local synagogue that housed it until we obtained our building in 2006.
  • At Rosh Hashanah services, we used our newly dedicated Torah, a generous gift from founding members.  We also celebrated our first Bar Mitzvah, and members journeyed to Camaguey, Cuba to meet our sister synagogue, Tefereth Israel.

1996

  • We continue to evolve, initiating our unique Fair Share Dues Policy, under which dues are based on earnings, not age.  We also celebrated our first Bat Mitzvah, and the Director of Education at our Cuban sister synagogue celebrated her Bat Mitzvah here with her Kol Ami family.

1997

  • This year we called our first adult Bat Mitzvah, to the Torah, and celebrated our first confirmands.  To our traditional Hanukkah Week of Giving we added a Mitzvah Day in the spring.

1998

  • Kol Ami joined other members of our regional community on a flight to Israel to celebrate its Jubilee Year.

1999

  • We held our first Family Camp Weekend, and our first adult B’nai Mitzvah class was called to the Torah.

2001

  • Our second adult B’nai Mitzvah class was called to the Torah.

2003

  • We kicked off our Second Tuesday program, in which congregants join Rabbi Holin at a local restaurant for breakfast and dialogue.

2004

  • Rabbi Holin led our second trip to Israel.  We also celebrated our second Torah scroll, a gift from a local synagogue, its exquisite mantle created by a member.

2005

  • We introduced ISH, a social group for Young and Young-ish Couples and Families.  Additionally,  we were welcomed as a full member of our neighborhood Kehillah.

2006

  • A memorable year for two big reasons:  First, award-winning songwriter and nationally acclaimed singer/guitarist Rebecca Schwartz became our Musical Director. A seasoned Jewish songleader, Rebecca developed our Student and Adult Choirs, and created a musical program for our Religious School.
  • Second, We evolved from wandering Jews into homeowners with our move into our spiritual home on High School Road. We could now become a dynamic part of our community, hosting open-air erev Shabbat services in summer, community meetings and classes.
  • With space to share, we also opened a Nursery School (the following year we partnered with Federation Early Learning Services {FELS} to jointly administer the Kol Ami Nursery School).

2007

  • We received our third Torah scroll from a neighboring synagogue and used it to celebrate our congregation’s Bat Mitzvah.
  • We also formed our Worship Enhancement Committee; and launched the region’s first Jewish CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), created in concert with Hazon and now a model for new Jewish CSAs in our region.
  • Late in the summer, Rabbi Holin and members embarked on our first family trip to Israel.

2008

  • Rabbi Selilah Kalev became the director of our Religious School, helping our children discover the joy of living a Jewish life by introducing fun programs and learning opportunities.
  • Our beloved Rebecca Schwartz became our full-time Cantorial Soloist (and the next year produced Shir Shabbat, a CD of songs of Shabbat at Kol Ami with music by Rebecca and our Adult and Student choirs).
  • We also created our first annual Tu B’Shvat Seder, a celebration of the fruit of the earth; held our first erev Shabbat service on the meadow; and initiated regular Healing services.

2009

  • We joined the Union of Reform Judaism, which provided us with access to the best program ideas from congregations across the country, and broadening opportunities for our youth through NFTY (North American Federation of Temple Youth).
  • For the first time, an adult B’nai Mitzvah class was called to theTorah in our new home.
  • We also instituted a new tradition — Chow Mein Shabbat on Christmas, consisting of a family Chinese dinner, musical service and movie.

2010

  • As we grow, we can do more and stretch in many directions.  For instance, this year we strengthened our commitment to the earth in numerous ways, including becoming the first Organizational Partner of the Jewish Climate Change Campaign in the Delaware Valley, kicking off our pilot paper recycling program and forming our Sustainability/Green Committee.
  • As our youth became active in NFTY, our own KATY (Kol Ami Temple Youth) elected its first Board.
  • It was a busy year.  We initiated our “Adult Only” Martini Havdalah service; dedicated our new donor recognition wall; initiated our Reduced Dues for members under the age of 30; built our Meditation Garden; and held our first Craft & Fine Arts Show @ Kol Ami show.
  • Additionally, we kicked off our “Faith in our Future” capital campaign with a community-wide celebration.
  • We took pride as our Nursery School was voted Best Preschool by the readers of a local newspaper chain, and the first Kol Ami student to complete our Religious School and Confirmation Academy, and the I.M. Wise Program at Gratz, returned as our Kindergarten teacher.

2011

  • We introduced a series of innovative and unique Shabbat experiences, including a tour of the National Museum of American Jewish History and a “Jews in Sports” presentation. We also kicked of our first Shabbat in the Fields, partnering with the Elkins Park Hazon CSA, and visited an organic farm in Lancaster County.
  • At this year’s our erev Simchat Torah service, we unrolled our three Torah scrolls and held them aloft as our students and adults read their way through the Torah by chanting verses from their Bar or Bat Mitzvah Torah parsha.  Also, we held a special service in memory of those who died ten years ago on the September 11 attacks.
  • Our Social Action Committee launched its partnership with a local non-profit dedicated to enhancing the social, emotional, and educational welfare of underprivileged children in Philadelphia.
  • We were chosen as one of the four synagogues to participate in the “Lasko Synagogue Inclusion Network for People with Special Needs and Their Families” which resulted in a grant to develop a comprehensive inclusion program.
  • We shared our home to host both a Community Israel Celebration with a neighboring synagogue, and the Women Cantors’ Network 2011 Conference.
  • And Member-to-Member Conversations under the auspices of our Adult Education Committee were offered to enable us to know each other better by hearing from fellow members about interesting avocations, experiences, and studies.

2012

  • We kicked off a multi-year, synagogue-wide, social action program, using the words of the prophet Isaiah, “Sh’lah’chaynee,” which translates to “Send me.”
  • We also introduced our membership drive, “Strive for 225,” an effort to attract new members to our congregation by offering a six-month free membership from January through June.
  • We welcomed David Monblatt as director of our Religious School.
  • Much more:  We celebrated our first “Shir Shabbat: A Shabbat in Song – A Weekend of Female-Led Services.”
  • And speaking of song, we released our second CD, “Chai-Lights from the Voices of Kol Ami, Eighteenth Anniversary Edition,” music by our Adult and Student choirs and Cantorial Soloist Rebecca Schwartz.
  • Our Interfaith Relationship Dialogue group presented a community-wide symposium, “The Interfaith Roller Coaster: Navigating the Challenges, Enjoying the Ride”.  Participants engaged in workshops and heard from speakers of all ages, including a keynote address by author Anita Diamant.
  • We hosted a variety of other intriguing speakers, including the president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, who spoke about how to support progressive synagogues throughout the world; and congregants’ brother talked about his new book,“The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today’s Families”.
  • Also a member spoke about his new book, “Tales of a Broadway Flack: The Charmed Life of Press Agent Sol Jacobson,” at an erev Shabbat service.
  • We honored a local bank president at our Golf and Tennis Invitational, and presented our Tikun Olam award to two highly involved members at a celebratory brunch.

2013

  • We celebrated alongside our third adult B’nai Mitzvah class, as they were called to the Torah — and we mourned the death of our founding president, Stuart D. Appel, at an erev Shabbat service.
  • We were honored that The Central Conference of American Rabbis chose us as to be one of 300 pilot congregations to introduce draft copies of the new Machzor during Selichot and Kol Nidrei services.  And the Union for Reform Judaism awarded us the Belin Outreach and Membership Award “Honorable Mention” for congregational outreach and membership programs of creativity and distinction for our Membership Drive: “Strive for 225”.
  • We celebrated our Chai (18) anniversary with a special erev Shabbat service, and a variety of festivities throughout that weekend.
  • We also hosted a wide range of speakers, from the Deputy Consul General of Israel to the General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies.

2014

  • Many Holocaust programs:  We heard from a proponent of legislation to mandate holocaust and genocide education in Pennsylvania and elsewhere; a congregant performed in “The Diary of Anne Frank” on our bimah, produced by the Holocaust Awareness Museum; and at our communal Yom HaShoah-Holocaust Remembrance Service we heard from founder and executive director of the Jewish Partisan Foundation in San Francisco, about Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis and Their Collaborators.
  • At an erev Shabbat service we celebrated National Coming Out Day, welcoming a member to the bimah to speak about this anniversary and its meaning for our congregation and the Jewish community.  Later in the year, we hosted a community-wide conference, Kindness Counts: Welcoming LGBTQ Jews and Their Loved Ones into the Mishkan, the keynote speaker from Keshet, an organization dedicated to working for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in all aspects of Jewish life.
  • A highly esteemed Cantor — who is also a composer, conductor, guitarist and pianist — joined us for our first annual service led by the men of our congregation.
  • Rabbi Holin led our third adult trip to Israel.  We also honored a neighboring rabbi on his retirement.
  • On a light note, we held our first Dog-A-Thon. Our furry friends won prizes for best costume, best dog tricks and more.

2015

  • Something thrilling:  Two years after being part of the process of evaluating the new CCAR High Holy Day Machzor, we introduced draft copies of the new Machzor during Selichot and Kol Nidrei services this year.
  • And eight years after we started, our CSA — Elkins Park Hazon Community-Supported Agriculture of Kol Ami — received an award for outstanding contributions to sustainability in our local township to promote a more resilient and environmentally friendly community.
  • We dedicated our beautiful Yahrzeit Wall at erev Shabbat services.
  • Through the Parents Circle Families Forum, we hosted a public dialogue with Jewish and Palestinian parents who had lost children in the Middle East conflict and learned about their hopes for peace in Israel.
  • We also launched “Torah Home Talks”, a new program in which Rabbi Holin brings the Torah to members’ homes for a hands-on, multisensory lesson about how the Torah talks to us and how we can find ourselves — our values, dreams, and master stories — on its parchment.
  • The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center performed the show, “Lida Stein and the Righteous Gentile,” at Kol Ami, starring a Kol Ami member.
  • This year, our energetic Social Action Committee invited members to participate in two new programs.  In the first, our members mentor college freshman, supporting them in navigating college.  The second — an interfaith non-profit organization that provides housing and supportive services for families — paired our congregation with a nearby church, and our members assist with dinner, transportation, and overnight company for homeless families who are being hosted at that church.

2016

  • Through the generosity of a donor, a new ark was installed in our chapel to house our Torahs.
  • Our Kol Ami Konnector program was launched under the auspices of our Membership Committee.  It assists new members through their first one-to-two years of membership with the support and involvement of our current members.
  • The LAMED Program was introduced with the first class of nine 11th graders from both Kol Am and a neighboring synagogue.  The students work with master experiential educators on how to envision, structure, and produce 21st-century religious school programs, earning a Certification in Experiential Jewish Education at the completion of 12th grade.
  • We had our first two “House Concerts” featuring talented members; hosted our second program about inclusion; and honored our Vatikim  — those esteemed elders who attained the age of 80+ years — at a special dinner and concert.
  • Also, our Social Action Committee coordinated with CeaseFirePA to present an interesting evening about gun-violence protection.

2017

  • In January, we started the year off in a big way.  First, we launched our new website with its many up-to-date features, making it easier to find and interact with — and within — our congregation.
  • Similarly important we launched a sustainability initiative, partnering with Hazon to receive the Hazon Seal of Sustainability.  The seal certifies that a Jewish organization has committed to meet a set of criteria making it a good world citizen regarding its food and environmental practices, treatment of animals, and impact on climate change.
  • With a new and controversial President in the White House, we’re continuing to puzzle out our role in the United States and the world.  A local congressman spoke to us about the United States-Israel relationship, the healthcare crisis, and the implications of budget slashing.  Three Kol Ami teens attended the L’Taken Social Justice Seminar in Washington, D.C.
  • And we hosted a panel, “Immigration Rights 2017: Community Challenges and Opportunities”.  Sponsored by the American Civil Liberties Union through the People Power grassroots platform, the forum drew 170 community residents and was moderated by the chair of local Board of Commissioners.
  • On the spiritual side, we received a new Torah table for our chapel, donated  by a local company to honor a member’s retirement, and we enjoyed a Shabbat service featuring a well-regarded Cantor through our Artist-in-Residence program.
  • LAMED’s first graduation was truly moving, at which the young people who also created the program spoke about how it had deepened their commitment to serving their community.  They described the experiential education programs they had created for their religious school to inspire younger students to build positive Jewish identities, increase their knowledge, and do Tikun Olam.
  • We’re delighted that the Belin Award Selection Committee chose Kol Ami as one of the 2017 award winners.  The award recognizes Audacious Hospitality from URJ congregations in North America that demonstrate a high level of inclusion, impact, innovation, and replicability.  Our program, Kindness Counts Bet: Moving Beyond the Gender Boxes, Embracing Transgender and Non-Binary Jews, their Loved Ones and Allies in the Mishkan showed how a community can engage and welcome people in thoughtful, creative ways.