In 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.
- Our first High Holy Days services were held at Abington Friends School.
- Our second year was filled with new programs, ideas, activities and events, including the 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 and the meaning of Shabbat; formation of the formidable Kol Ami softball team (season opener: April 10, 1995); and our first Hanukkah Week of Giving.
- This year also saw our first Second Seder and our first Tikun Olam Award. The recipient was George R. Burrell, Jr., co-founder and treasurer of Operation Understanding, a program designed to build bridges between African-American and Jewish teenagers.
- In September, our Religious School opened with 74 children in attendance. Congregation Melrose B’nai Israel in Melrose Park was our host for Religious School until we obtained our building in 2006.
- At Rosh Hashanah services, our newly dedicated Torah was carried proudly around the Keswick Theatre. The Torah was a generous gift from founding members Byron and Gay Schader.
- We celebrated our first Bar Mitzvah at Kol Ami when Wes Myers was called to the Torah on October 14.
- Late in the year, members journeyed to Cuba to meet our sister synagogue, Tefereth Israel in the town of Camagüey.
- We initiated our unique Fair Share Dues Policy, under which dues are based on earnings, not age.
- We celebrated our first Bat Mitzvah, that of Carrie Ellis, on October 4.
- That spring, Reina Roffe, the Director of Education at our Cuban sister synagogue, celebrated her Bat Mitzvah here with her Kol Ami family.
- We called our first adult Bat Mitzvah, Elaine Alexander, to the Torah in November.
- To our traditional Hanukkah Week of Giving we added a Mitzvah Day in the spring.
- In June, we celebrated our first confirmands, Sarah Ellis and Kate Lowe.
- Our congregation joined other members of our regional community on a specially chartered El Al flight to Israel to celebrate her Jubilee Year.
- We traveled to Spring Mountain Camp for our first Family Camp Weekend.
- After two years of study together, our first adult B’nai Mitzvah class was called to the Torah on June 2
- Our second adult B’nai Mitzvah class was called to the Torah.
- We kicked off our Second Tuesday program, in which congregants join Rabbi Holin at West Avenue Grille in Jenkintown for breakfast and dialogue.
- Rabbi Holin led our second trip to Israel, taking ten adult members on a unique tour of the Holy Land.
- We obtained our second Torah scroll, a gift from Congregation Ohev Shalom. During a special service, we celebrated this gift and its beautiful, hand-made mantle, created by member Karol Appel.
- We introduced ISH, a social group for Young and Young-ish Couples and Families.
- Later that year, we were welcomed as a full member of the Kehillah of Old York Road.
- 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.
- We evolved from wandering Jews into homeowners with our move into our spiritual home on High School Road. That move provided us the opportunity to become a dynamic part of the community in which we reside, hosting open-air erev Shabbat services during the summer, community meetings and classes.
- Another perk of owning our campus was the ability to open our Nursery School that year.
- We celebrated our new home by walking our Torahs from Gratz College, where we had celebrated many holidays, to our new home on High School Road for our first Shabbat service in our new building.
- In March, neighboring synagogue Old York Road Temple – Beth Am presented us with a beautiful Torah scroll – our third.
- The following month, our Worship Enhancement Committee was formed. This innovative committee, open to all, works to make services more meaningful and accessible to all members.
- Our spacious property also provided a site for us to launch the region’s first Jewish CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) in late spring, created in concert with Hazon and now a model for new Jewish CSAs in the Delaware Valley.
- We celebrated our congregation’s Bat Mitzvah in our new home.
- Late in the summer, Rabbi Holin and members embarked on our first family trip to Israel.
- As the school year began, we formed a partnership with Federation Early Learning Services (FELS) to jointly administer the Kol Ami Nursery School.
- Rabbi Selilah Kalev became the director of our Religious School. Rabbi Kalev endeavors to help our children discover the joy of living a Jewish life. Besides encouraging academic debate, she has added fun programs to our curriculum such as Color War and Torah War – spirited, team-building games, reminiscent of summer camp, that combine children from every grade into teams to work together and cheer each other on.
- Rebecca Schwartz became our full-time Cantorial Soloist, enhancing our services to bring a more powerful musical element to the mix.
- We created and hosted our first annual Tu B’Shvat Seder, a celebration of the fruit of the earth and a learning experience for members of our CSA and congregants.
- Our first erev Shabbat service was held on the meadow, starting a tradition of summer erev Shabbat services outdoors.
- In December, Rabbi Holin and Cantorial Soloist Rebecca Schwartz initiated our Healing services.
- We joined the Union of Reform Judaism, providing 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).
- Also in 2009, Cantorial Soloist Rebecca Schwartz worked with our Adult and Student Choirs and our Worship Enhancement Committee to produce Shir Shabbat, a CD of songs of Shabbat at Kol Ami.
- For the first time, an adult B’nai Mitzvah class was called to theTorah in our new home.
- We finished the year by creating a new tradition, Chow Mein Shabbat, a family Chinese dinner, musical service and movie. Attended by over 100 members, this event, intended to give members a fun place to go on Christmas, is being planned as an annual holiday get-together.
- As our youth became active in NFTY, our own KATY (Kol Ami Temple Youth) elected its first Board.
- 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.
- In January we initiated our “Adult Only” Martini Havdalah service .
- Dedication of our new donor recognition wall on Friday, January 22.
- Our Nursery School was voted Best Preschool by the readers of Montgomery Newspapers.
- Deputy Consul General of Israel, Raslan Abu Rukin, joined our congregation for erev Shabbat service on May 7.
- Our Reduced Dues Policy was initiated for members under the age of 30.
- Our Meditation Garden was created and completed by members, offering members a sacred space to sit and enjoy the flowers and beauty.
- The Craft & Fine Arts Show @ Kol Ami was initiated with over 40 local and regional artists participating. This has now become a yearly event due to the success of this first show.
- On December 12, we kicked off our “Faith in our Future” capital campaign with a community-wide celebration.
- Hannah Cohen – the first student to complete our Religious School and Confirmation Academy, and the I.M. Wise Program at Gratz College — returned to our Religious School as our Kindergarten teacher for September through May 2010.
- On March 13, we celebrated David Botwinik’s new book, “From Holocaust to Life,” by hosting a concert of his Yiddish music, performed by acclaimed tenor Richard Lenatsky, soprano Lisa Willson, and pianist Elena Berman-Gantard.
- Our Social Action Committee launched its partnership with Rubye’s Kids, a Jenkintown-based, non-profit organization dedicated to enhancing the social, emotional, and educational welfare of underprivileged children in Philadelphia.
- We hosted a Community Israel Celebration hosted with Congregation Melrose B’nai Israel Emanu-El on May 15.
- The best in Jewish children’s music, famed artists Peter and Ellen Allard, performed for our families on June 12.
- June 12-15, we hosted the Women Cantors’ Network 2011 Conference.
- A special service in memory of those who fell ten years ago on the “Attack Upon America” was held on September 11.
- We introduced a series of Innovative and unique Shabbat experiences, including: a docent-led tour of the National Museum of American Jewish History and a “Jews in Sports” presentation by Robert Katz.
- We kicked off our first Shabbat in the Fields, in partnership with the Elkins Park Hazon CSA at Congregation Kol Ami, on October 15. Our members visited and learned about a working organic farm from Amish and Mennonite farmers and their families, at Life-Enhancing Acres Farm in Bird in Hand, Pennsylvania.
- At 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.
- Kol Ami chosen as one of the four synagogues to participate in the “Lasko Synagogue Inclusion Network for People with Special Needs and Their Families”. This resulted in a grant to develop a comprehensive inclusion program.
- 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.
- 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.” Through our 7th grade Family Education Program, parents and students created a magnificent banner on which congregants of all ages have been asked to affix notes about their own social justice experiences.
- On January 12, we welcomed the new president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism, Rabbi Stephen Fuchs, to address our congregation about Jewish communities in Argentia, Austria and Ukraine, and what we can do to support progressive synagogues throughout the world.
- On Friday, February 3 and Saturday, February 4, we celebrated our first “Shir Shabbat: A Shabbat in Song – A Weekend of Female-Led Services.”
- Guest speaker Robert Alan Katz, spoke at our Havdalah service on March 17 about “Jews in Sports”. Robert is a Jewish Sports Review correspondent and former sports columnist for B’nai B’rithpublications and The Jewish Times.
- Jay Goldstein, president and CEO of Valley Green Bank, was honored for his support of Kol Ami at our Golf and Tennis Invitational on April 24.
- Author Mark Hyman – brother of past president David Hyman and board of trustees member William Hyman — joined us in May to talk about his new book,“The Most Expensive Game in Town: The Rising Cost of Youth Sports and the Toll on Today’s Families.”
- In May, member David Long spoke about his new book, “Tales of a Broadway Flack: The Charmed Life of Press Agent Sol Jacobson,” at our erev Shabbat service.
- We welcomed David Monblatt as director of our Religious School.
- The release of our second CD, “Chai-Lights from the Voices of Kol Ami, Eighteenth Anniversary Edition,” was celebrated at our September 7 erev Shabbat service. Each member family received a copy of the CD of music by our adult and student choirs and Cantorial Soloist Rebecca Schwartz.
- Our membership drive, “Strive for 225,” was launched in November. This is an effort to attract new members to our congregation by offering a six-month free membership from January through June.
- On Sunday, October 21, 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.
- Members Stewart and Sally Eisenberg were honored at a brunch in November and presented with our Tikun Olam award.
- On February 1, a memorial service was held in honor of our founding president, Stuart D. Appel, at an erev Shabbat service.
- On March 9, we celebrated alongside our third adult Bnai Mitzvah class, as they were called to the Torah.
- Deputy Consul General of Israel Elad Strohmayer addressed our congregation on March 22.
- 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.
- Congregants Paul and Mindy Levy presented us with a Megillah in honor of their daughter Stephanie Jacobson and her “gift” of bringing joy to those around her and raising research money for curing cancer.
- On May 4, we celebrated our Chai (18) anniversary with a special erev Shabbat service. Our congregation was presented with a superbly crafted commemorative wall hanging created by our members and with the signature of every member family, which now graces the walls of our chapel. That Saturday evening, we were entertained by our talented members. On Sunday the celebration continued with a sing-a-long and pizza gathering for our youngest members.
- On May 6, we honored Jonathan H. Spergel, Esq. of Manko, Gold, Katcher & Fox, LLP for his many civic activities at our annual Golf and Tennis Outing at Philmont Country Club.
- 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 to 225 in May 2013.
- Yediday Kol Ami (Friends of Kol Ami) enjoyed a private talk and Q&A session with Ruben Amaro, Jr., the General Manager of the Philadelphia Phillies, on June 17.
- Rhonda Fink-Whitman, author of “94 Maidens” joined our congregation on March 9 to discuss her powerful story about heroism, resistance, martyrdom, and survival. As director, producer, and host of “The Mandate Video,” Rhonda is a key proponent of legislation to mandate holocaust and genocide education in the commonwealth and other states.
- On April 4, we honored Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom of our neighbor, Congregation Adath Jeshurun, for his leadership in the community and his friendship, as he prepares to retire from the pulpit.
- Our very own Arin Edelstein performed the title role in “The Diary of Anne Frank” on our bimah on April 2. The 45-minute show is produced by the Holocaust Awareness Museum and travels throughout the region to raise awareness.
- Our communal Yom HaShoah-Holocaust Remembrance Service on April 27 featured a presentation by guest speaker Mitch Braff, founder and executive director of the Jewish Partisan Foundation in San Francisco, about Teenagers Who Resisted the Nazis and Their Collaborators.
- We honored Jeff Jubelirer, vice president of Bellevue Communications and brother of member Laurie Jubelirer Langman, with our Tikun Olam Award on Sunday, June 8 for his meaningful contributions to repairing the world. Jeff is a leader on the boards of numerous boards in the region, including the Anti-Defamation League.
- September 21 was a beautiful day for our first Dog-A-Thon. Our furry friends won prizes for best costume, best dog tricks and more. A special thanks to the Cheltenham Township K9 Unit for their participation in this successful, family-friendly event.
- On October 10 at our erev Shabbat service we celebrated National Coming Out Day, the anniversary of the October 11, 1987 march on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights. We welcomed member Jane Tausig to the bimah to speak about this anniversary and its meaning for our congregation and the Jewish community.
- On October 30, Rabbi Holin and 25 adult members of our congregation left on a ten-day journey to Israel, where they traveled from Tel Aviv, north to Tzefad, and then to Jerusalem, visiting numerous sites and communities along the way. This was our third adult trip to Israel.
- Cantor Leon Sher, composer, conductor, guitarist and pianist, joined us on December 5 for our first annual service led by the men of our congregation.
- On December 7, we hosted a community-wide conference, Kindness Counts: Welcoming LGBTQ Jews and Their Loved Ones into the Mishkan, with keynote speaker Joanna Ware, associate director of national programs at Keshet, a leading organization dedicated to working for the full equality and inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews in all aspects of Jewish life.
- We dedicated our beautiful Yahrzeit Wall at erev Shabbat services on January 23.
- At our annual Tikun Olam luncheon in March, we honored Steven Scott Bradley of Bradley and Bradley Associates for his outstanding contributions in supporting the region’s non-profit and business communities.
- 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.
- Yediday Kol Ami members visited the studios of WHYY in February to observe a live broadcast of “NewsWorks Tonight”.
- We launched “Torah Home Talks” on April 11, a new program in which Rabbi Holin brings the Torah to the homes of members for a hands on, multisensory lesson about how the Torah talks to us and we can find ourselves — our values, dreams, and master stories — on its parchment.
- In honor of their 50th wedding anniversary, Merle and Stanton Salkin sponsored “An Evening with Sababa!” on May 1. Sababa! (cool in Israeli vernacular) is an energetic, spirited musical group, including Steven Brodsky, Robbi Sherwin, and Scott Leader.
- On May 6, The Holocaust Awareness Museum and Education Center performed the show, “Lida Stein and the Righteous Gentile,” at Kol Ami, starring Kol Ami member Arin Edelstein.
- We honored former Kol Ami president David Hyman and his wife, Farah Jimenez, for their outstanding accomplishments in the non-profit and business worlds at our Kol Ha’Kavode (All the Honor) event, which took place on June 17 at the National Museum of American Jewish History.
- This year, our Social Action Committee invited members to participate in two new programs. Through the first, run by the Philadelphia Education Fund, our members mentor college freshman, supporting them in navigating college. The second — a program of the Inter-Faith Housing Alliance, a non-profit organization which provides housing and supportive services for families — paired our congregation with St. Matthew’s Episcopal Church in Maple Glen. Our members assist with dinner, transportation, and overnight company for homeless families who are being hosted at St. Matthew’s.
- In June, our CSA — Elkins Park Hazon Community-Supported Agriculture of Kol Ami — received the Sustainable Cheltenham Award for outstanding contributions to sustainability in Cheltenham Township to promote a more resilient and environmentally friendly community.
- High Holy Day services for 5776 were enhanced with the introduction of the new CCAR Machzor, Mishkan HaNefesh.
- On March 6, we presented our first “House Concert” featuring our own Cory Newman at the Piano playing works by Chopin, Bach, Beethoven, Brahms , Mendelssohn and more.
- On May 24, we honored our Vatikim — those esteemed elders who attained the age of 80+ years — at a special dinner and concert with violinist Gil Morgenstern.
- Becoming a Kol Ami Konnector was launched in September under the auspices of our Membership Committee. This program assists new members through their first one to two years of membership with the support and involvement of our current members.
- In October, the LAMED Program was introduced with the first class of nine 11th graders from both Kol Am and Old York Road Temple Beth Am. 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.
- “A Rare Evening” held on June 2, at the Cairnwood Estates in Bryn Athyn was a successful fundraiser featuring wine tastings, delicious butlered fare, chocolate tasting, wonderful music, along with silent and live auction.
- Our Social Action Committee coordinated with CeaseFirePA to present an interesting evening about gun-violence protection on June 16. The evening began with an hour-long movie, “3 ½ Minutes” which depicts the aftermath of the shooting death of a teenager after an argument about the volume of a car radio in Florida, followed by a Q&A session with Philadelphia area survivors and victims of gun violence.
- In June, through the generosity of an anonymous donor, a new ark was installed in our chapel to house our Torahs.
- Thanks to the generosity of Allen Tire Company, a new Torah table adorns our chapel. The gift was bestowed upon our congregation in September in honor of Sharon Myers’ retirement.
- On November 13, we co-hosted with J.Proud, Kindness Counts Bet, Moving Beyond the Gender Boxes, Embracing Transgender and Non-Binary Jews, Their Loved Ones and Allies in the Mishkan. This was our second conference on inclusion with informative workshops and an afternoon of learning and dialogue.
- On November 22, our second house concert occurred featuring Genna & Jesse who describe themselves as modern troubadours, generously offering listeners glimpses of their always-moving world with something fresh, true and genuinely independent. Jesse is the son of members, Natalie and Jim Dyen.