Today is September 19, 2018 /

Main Office: 215-635-3110

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Letters to the Congregation

Letters to the Congregation

Click on each item to read the full announcement letter.

January 9, 2017

“To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven” {Ecclesiastes 3:1}. This verse came to mind a year and a half ago as the date of my 70th birthday began to approach on the not-so-distant horizon {February 21, 2017}. I began to contemplate the thought of retirement and on July 1, 2018 that new phase of my life, with the blessing of our Board of Trustees, will commence.

We have much to look forward to between now and then, given the busy calendar of congregational life, as I continue to serve as your rabbi. Beyond that date, I’ll take courses, as well as classes in photography and ceramics, and explore the world with Susan. I look forward to being part of our congregation and supporting our new rabbi in life cycle events, and continuing to build and foster the community that is Kol Ami.

Just as we enter the High Holy Days in the context of cheshbon ha’nefesh – “taking account of the soul,” a personal inventory of who we are, what we have accomplished, and what we hope to do – so too has the past year in particular given me the opportunity to ponder my many blessings: family, friends, health and our congregation. I have been privileged to be part of this dream of a synagogue-come-true. Our congregation, founded in 1994, has been sustained and nurtured through the commitment of so many people who believe in each another, in the creative power of change, and the pledge to ensure Jewish continuity through the examples of our lives and the education of our children, the next generation.

American novelist, historian and environmentalist Wallace Stegner {1909-1993} wrote about the sanctity of place and relationships that very much define Congregation Kol Ami: “A place is not a place until people have been born in it, have grown up in it, died in it – have both experienced and shaped it as individuals, families, neighborhoods and communities, over more than one generation…No place is a place until things that have happened in it are remembered in history, ballads, yarns, legends or monuments.” Together we have created sacred space and significant moments.

I have faith in our future because of you and our Board of Trustees. Shelley Chamberlain, our esteemed president, and your fellow members who serve on the Board, have long done a masterful job charting our progress and making plans for the future that touch every aspect of synagogue life. This is our opportunity to do what we do best here: embrace change and affirm our desire to celebrate our traditions, ceremonies, and connection to God and one another. What will never change is my gratitude to you for the privilege of being your rabbi.

Very truly yours,

Rabbi Elliot J. Holin

January 9, 2017

When Rabbi Holin came to me and expressed his desire to retire in July of 2018, I must say I was overwhelmed with emotion.

I have known Elliot Holin for nearly 40 years. In high school, Elliot was my rabbi in Pittsburgh when I was leading Temple Emanuel Youth Group.  He married David and me and oversaw the B’nai Mitzvah and Confirmation of our children.  He has been my rabbi, my counselor, and my friend.

As his friend, I am thrilled that he is beginning this next phase in his life. As our Founding Rabbi, he has given more than 20 years to Congregation Kol Ami.  He has made the very personal decision to retire and explore new challenges and spiritual journeys, and I am excited to hear about what those journeys bring.  I am certain that he will continue to explore Judaic teachings and travel the world as he and Susan love to do.  And he will always have a place to come home to, as Kol Ami will always be family.

As is his way, Rabbi Holin has given all of us an incredible amount of time to make this important transition. It was vital to him that Kol Ami thoughtfully, transparently and communally work together to find his successor.  Under his leadership, Kol Ami is a wonderful institution, full of love and caring with a community that has a deep set of shared values.  It is those values that define Kol Ami.  And it is those values that will guide us as we seek a new spiritual leader for our intimate and dynamic community.

Rabbi Holin’s decision to retire will naturally raise many questions for you and your family. With that in mind, the Rabbi, the Board of Trustees and I would like to invite you to come to one of three Congregational conversations where we can answer questions and update you on our efforts to engage all of you in the process to find a new rabbi.

The dates and times for the meetings are January 15, 10-11:30am; January 18, 7:00pm; and January 22, 10-11:30am.

I hope to see you at one of these conversations. We will also be providing regular updates on our efforts moving forward and the many ways we will seek your help in celebrating all the rabbi has done for us over the years.  Not only will there be a page in the Bulletin dedicated to this transition, but we are also creating a dedicated section on our new website to keep you informed. For additional questions, thoughts or concerns you might have, please email us at

Change brings uncertainty and concern – but also offers opportunity and hope. We need to be happy for our friend and spiritual leader, who has decided to take a bold step forward. I am sure all of you join me in wishing our rabbi all the best as he sets out on his new path.  And I ask all of you to join me in helping us chart Kol Ami’s path forward.


Shelley Chamberlain


Dear Members:

It was a little more than a year ago that I reached out to you – our Kol Ami community – with the announcement that Rabbi Holin had decided to retire. As I have thought about the incredible task of finding our next spiritual leader, I was moved by the words of Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, “All the world is like a narrow bridge. And the key is not to be afraid.”

Blessed with 18 months’ notice, the Board of Trustees and a Steering Committee made up of our past presidents and Trustees developed a plan to accomplish the vitally important task of finding a new rabbi. We called the effort Bridge to the Future and I am pleased to report that nearly all of you participated in this initiative over the course of the last year. With your input and the work of the Search Committee and our Board of Trustees, we are together crossing the bridge.

I am delighted to ask that you join us at a Congregational meeting on March 4th at 10:00 a.m. where we will vote on a motion brought by a unanimous Board of Trustees vote, to hire Leah Berkowitz as Kol Ami’s next rabbi (contingent on finalizing a contract).

As it says in our by-laws: “Upon approval of the Board of Trustees, the recommendation shall be presented to the Congregation at a regular or special meeting. A two-thirds vote of the members present shall be required for the election of a Rabbi.”

As a reminder, the plan for Bridge to the Future was as follows:

Phase 1 Engagement – we sought to obtain feedback from every member of our congregation and staff about our values and our hopes for a future rabbi. This culminated in the submission of an application to our national organization, the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR). We believe the application uniquely represented the Kol Ami community’s values and identity.

Phase 2 Search – the committee included a diverse cross-section of the Kol Ami community, who after an intensive process, prepared a recommendation for our Board of Trustees for a new spiritual leader. While many of you got to see the two impressive candidates for rabbi – you may not have known about the in-depth work the Search Committee did prior to that point. Hours and hours of meetings, interviews and discussions of the Search Committee led them to our final candidates, and their unanimous recommendation to the Board. We all owe this committee our thanks and appreciation.

Phase 3 Transition – Barry Boise and Ilene Schafer, our co-chairs of the Transition Committee will share more information about this vital component to our Bridge to the Future efforts at our March 4th meeting.

Electing a new rabbi is a first for Kol Ami; your attendance at this meeting is vitally important.

Throughout Bridge to the Future we continue to celebrate Rabbi Holin and his significant accomplishments over the last two decades. At the meeting on March 4th, we will also share important updates about our continued activities in honor of Rabbi Holin.



Dear Congregation –

For those of you unable to attend Sunday’s congregational meeting, I wanted to share the wonderful news that members voted to install Rabbi Leah Berkowitz as our next rabbi.

I also share with you the video thank you Rabbi Berkowitz prepared for us and was played during the meeting. This short video begins to capture why we are excited about the next chapter in “Our Story” together.

I cannot thank enough the Bridge to the Future committees that have worked so hard over the past 18 months and will continue to do so over the coming 18-24 months.

We look forward to sharing more special moments together at the upcoming Celebration and Continuity Shabbats:

  • Friday, March 9 – Choosing Judaism on Shabbat Across America and Second Friday erev Shabbat with our Adult Choir
  • Saturday, March 17 – Adult B’Nai Mitzvah, past and present, Shabbat Service
  • Friday, April 13 – Couples married by Rabbi Holin erev Shabbat service
  • Sunday, April 29 – Interfaith Family BBQ

Invitations will soon be out for our celebration on May 12th to honor Rabbi Holin.

Thank you for your past and future input and support for our congregation’s Bridge to the Future.

All the best,


Watch Rabbi Berkowitz’s introduction video