Plain and simple, interfaith families are welcome here, and we have put into place the structure to support their unique needs. Members of interfaith families are leaders on our Board, chair our committees and help shape our policy. We learn from our interfaith families new ways to embrace our Judaism, celebrate life cycle events and honor our diverse community.
“Kol Ami has given us a friendly and welcoming religious home, along with friends and a sense of community.” – Roz Holtzman
Religion was not an easy thing for Eric Gonzalez, and certainly not a priority. Long before he met his Jewish bride, Rosalind Holtzman, in college, Eric had parted ways with his Catholic upbringing. While Eric’s personal journey had taken him away from religion, Roz’s journey continues to build her spirituality and her joy in Judaism.
When they decided to marry, Eric and Roz agreed: The children would get Eric’s last name and Roz’s religion. Says Eric, “Judaism bothered me a lot less than other religions.”
Roz was raised in a Jewish household (her parents, who reside in Wilmington, are also members of Congregation Kol Ami), but felt unprepared for her role as the sole parent responsible for her children’s Jewish education. Creating and nurturing a Jewish household, belonging to a synagogue and raising Jewish children were priorities to Roz, but her Hebrew skills were rusty and her knowledge of rituals sketchy.
Over the years, Kol Ami has not only helped the family to accomplish Roz’s goals, but has helped Eric to feel more at home with these choices, and even to enjoy rituals and celebrations such as Shabbat dinners, Passover seders, andHanukkah candle lighting.
As Roz explored her Judaism, the education she began for her children quickly grew into a personal passion. In 1998, she was called to the Torah as one of Kol Ami’s first adult Bat Mitzvahs. Her vast knowledge and her sense of fun and creativity make her one of our most popular Religious School teachers and B’nai Mitzvah tutors.
Roz also scripted, directed and appeared in Kol Ami’s annual Purim shpiel for over a decade, with particular fondness for her roles as Dame Esther Middleage and Edie Blizzard. Eric, a good sport indeed, has also appeared in the shpiel, perhaps most memorably as a Miss Queen of Persia beauty contestant. Eric is also a talented member of the Kol Ami softball team, along with daughter, Marina.
Both daughters attended Kol Ami’s Religious School, became B’not Mitzvah and were confirmed at Kol Ami. Marina went on to earn a teaching certificate through the Isaac Meyer Wise two-year course of Jewish studies at Gratz College, which included observing and student teaching at Kol Ami’s Religious School.
“Living far from our families in New York and Chicago, Kol Ami is our home away from home.” – Kenny Moss
Despite 16 years of Catholic education (eight of them in the Chicago seminary system), Kenny met a nice Jewish girl from New York and they started dating. Three years later, the two married in a Jewish ceremony. They joined Congregation Kol Ami in 2008, shortly after moving to Wyncote from Pittsburgh. Today Kenny, a stay at home father and freelance photographer, is a constant at Kol Ami, serving as co-chair of the Religious School PTO and unofficial Kol Ami photographer; while Sandy, the strength and foundation of the family, works and travels for The Fresh Market Inc.
The family discovered Kol Ami serendipitously through one of Sandy’s clients. After “doing the whole Old York Road synagogue tour,” Sandy quickly concluded that Kol Ami was the community that warmly, sincerely welcomed Kenny, regardless of his religious background, and where it felt like the congregants could truly be their friends.
Benjamin celebrated his Bar Mitzvah at Kol Ami in 2012, with a second ceremony atop Masada in Israel that summer. Ben’s younger brother, Abraham is a student in the Religious School. Both boys have made numerous friends and thrive at Religious School. The couple attends many of the synagogue’s ISH (young married-ish social club) events.
One of the family’s philosophies stems from a straightforward, sincere message from Kenny’s father’s stated years ago: “Live a good life, try not to hurt anybody, maybe you’ll fall in love, and the rest should take care of itself.”
“Kol Ami has become our religious, spiritual and social anchor in the community. The community is down to earth and inclusive, and new members are welcomed without pretense.” – Janine Pratt and Bill Hyman
Janine Pratt and Bill Hyman were married in May 1992, several years before Congregation Kol Ami was conceived. Janine had been raised Catholic, and Bill had grown up in a Conservative Jewish synagogue. Finding an officiant who would be respectful of both Janine’s and Bill’s beliefs and traditions posed a challenge for them — until they found Rabbi Elliot Holin, who exceeded their expectations.
Just two short years later, the young couple found themselves together again with Rabbi Holin, hosting meetings that were instrumental in the creation of Kol Ami. They were completely confident that Rabbi Holin would be sensitive to interfaith families and that the proposed Reform congregation would become a community in which they could comfortably raise their Jewish family.
As the vision for Kol Ami turned into reality, Janine and Bill recognized they could make a difference for other families, and became the first co-chairs of Kol Ami’s Interfaith Relationship Dialogue, plotting the course for this vital committee.
Today, with two children in Kol Ami’s Religious School, Bill and Janine remain leaders within the synagogue community. Janine is an active member of the Religious School Vision Committee, has chaired the Second Seder and Oneg committees, and edited the synagogue newsletter. Despite Bill’s performance on Kol Ami’s softball team, he has served on the Board of Trustees and consults with the congregation about human resources issues. Maya, a student in the Confirmation Academy, became a Bat Mitzvah in 2009 and is a volunteer at the Nursery School’s summer camp. Lia, a student in the Religious School, lends her beautiful voice to the Student Choir.