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Welcoming the Stranger


Kol Emeth has been fortunate to be thriving the last few years. The pandemic, for all the damage it did, also reminded people how much they need Shabbat and a spiritual community. Further, our new building appeals in a new way that complements our amazing team and congregation. I want to share with you a few ideas that have been powering that growth.

First: Kol Emeth is a serious community dedicated to Torah and Halakhah. The main Sanctuary is a destination, Shabbat morning is our center, and caring for others is essential to what we do. Everyone drawn to us is articulating those values and drawn to some or all of them. Related, we are committed to a lay-led congregation where our members lead us in prayer and in so many other ways.

Second: Reaching new people requires new approaches. We have worked hard to make Kol Emeth the most traditional and the most fun congregation in the Conservative Jewish world. For one, we have put an added emphasis on moments for the whole community that invite joy and celebration. That includes the butterfly release on Rosh Hashanah, our Purim carnival, and Shabbat kiddush. In addition, it means we offer Friday night and some holiday programming aimed at people who are just putting their foot into Judaism or getting to know our community. The family and children’s services at the High Holidays are oriented towards fun, accessibility, and joy. Many of the people who attend have never been to KE before, and we want to help them find a place in our community. That is why we had a bird show at Rosh Hashanah. This inspired a lot of families to then register for Kol Shabbat and for our Family Fridays and see what else the KE community could offer.

Three: Have movement from those entry or seeker services into more content, learning and meaning. As one example, our Family Fridays have changed and grown over the last three years. When we started them, the “fun” element was central, with the service being part of the draw but honestly secondary. Our most recent such event, by contrast, had the service at the center. The students led Lcha Dodi,
Barkhu, Shma, and a final song. Many people came only for the service and dinner and left before Comedy Sports because the key part was being in services and having their children lead us.

Related, as new families have joined Kol Emeth, we have offered classes like Judaism 101 and Mussar groups to help people learn the community and to grow in their own Jewish and spiritual life. While this may be less visible, it is core to our belief that people can find their place at Kol Emeth as our community offers them a path for their personal and spiritual growth.

At the same time, we must always endeavor to remember and celebrate our existing membership. The Cornerstone Friday night service this week celebrates members who joined before 1990- the people who held and built the Synagogue from 1960 to 1990. We offer programs like the KE Institute, serious learning during the day aimed at people who are looking for more ways to learn and grow. Talmud
class, the women’s study group, Shabbat morning, and so much more are aimed at offering great programs and services for those who have already decided Kol Emeth is their community and are looking for new ways to grow, to learn, to deepen their Jewish experience.

We are thriving because we are ready to experiment, to try new things, to look for new ways of engaging. We are thriving because we trust each other to take risks, knowing that our core values remain. We are thriving because people realize that a community like ours is sustaining, joyous, and fun. One of our new members, a person who thought a Conservative Synagogue could never be her home,

has started coming almost every week. She said that she realizes our Shabbat community and all our programs create so much room and life for everyone. In those moments she wants to pray (and she is in the service more and more), there is a community to welcome her. In those moments, she wants to connect with others; there is a parent’s group and other people with whom to relate and engage.

Thank you for your openness, and I welcome your offer. I feel so fortunate to be part of the Kol Emeth community!

Shabbat Shalom
 Rabbi David Booth

Thu, May 30 2024 22 Iyyar 5784