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.
“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, Janine and Bill continue to be leaders within the synagogue community. Janine became Kol Ami’s first board member of another faith, and is currently serving her second term on the Board of Trustees. She co-chairs the annual Casino Night and was a member of the Rabbi’s Search Committee. Bill is the co-chair of the HR Committee and a former Board member.
Maya and Lia, their daughters, attended Kol Ami’s religious school through their senior year in high school. Both became a Bat Mitzvah and are graduates of Confirmation Academy. In addition, Maya and Lia are graduates of the I.M. Wise Program and LAMED respectively. Maya was the President of Hillel at The College of New Jersey while Lia is currently a Social Media intern at Hillel on the campus of the University of Delaware. Although no longer living in the immediate area, Maya and Lia remain active members of the congregation.