Koli Kulanu Journal Entry 10-2-19
Peaceful, Easy Feeling
I’m writing as our Rosh Hashanah celebration and observance have come to an end. It would be hard for me to imagine a more uplifting and fulfilling Rosh Hashanah than the one we just celebrated at Kol Shalom. I want my new year celebration to be filled with friends and family, to connect with my Jewish heritage, to be moved as I pray the same prayers as my ancestors, and to be inspired by beautiful hazzanut and our Rabbi’s thought-provoking words that touch my heart. All of this is what we just experienced, and I am profoundly grateful. Many thanks to Rabbi Steinlauf and Hazzan Sally Heckelman for their first-rate leadership and inspiration, and of course thanks to Deb, Maria, Mindy and Gaston for making this holiday so special.
Apologies for returning to a thought that I have expressed many times to our congregation: I am so thankful to be part of Kol Shalom, and so thankful for the tremendous richness of my Jewish life that informs and enhances all other aspects of my life.
Growing up at Temple Menorah in Redondo Beach California, my family celebrated erev Shabbat weekly and attended services every Friday evening (after dinner). I loved Shabbat, the family time, the food and good cheer, and kinda liked the services’ music and repetition. As I grew, I realized how sterile and unfulfilling these Jewish prayer sessions were, and didn’t question it.
At Camp Ramah in Ojai CA I got a happy awakening. We prayed every morning, outside under the trees. Campers my age led services. The ‘grown-ups’ were all of 19 years old. The singing was spirited, and the fact that we all could participate made a huge difference: it was fun, and it was mine. I was not a spectator, I owned the prayer, I owned the connection with my Jewish heritage. As I learned more and more about my heritage over the years, it all became even more meaningful. And I wondered why, if people could connect with Jewish heritage in a vibrant, meaningful way, people would choose rote, superficial connections.
That experience set the course for the rest of my Jewish life. I wound up deciding to keep kosher freshman year of college, attended Hebrew University in Jerusalem sophomore year, attended synagogue regularly as a young professional in DC, and have continued to explore and grow in my Jewish observance ever since.
When we had the opportunity in 2001 to be part of a new congregation, Kol Shalom, Annette and I jumped at the opportunity to chart a new course. Our intention was not merely to be part of a breakaway congregation. The congregation’s founders had a vision to build a congregation to be a kehillah k’doshah, a sacred community. Thinking back to my youth, we wanted campers to lead services. We wanted joy and depth, inspiration, thought, learning, and deep connections among people. We wanted a warm, welcoming community. A sacred community.
Somehow, with God’s help, we experience Kol Shalom today embodying what we had hoped for. Quoting the Eagles’ song, I get a peaceful, easy feeling being part of this congregation.
There is still work to do, liberal Judaism is evolving and our general society is evolving. Change is everywhere, and we will continue to evolve. I am ever thankful to be part of this kehillah k’doshah.
I want to be in dialogue with you. You can click here to send me a message, or you can email me at [email protected]. I am thrilled to hear from you, to get to know you better, and to hear your suggestions on continuing Kol Shalom’s growth and value to you.
Thank you for your help and for your part in our kehillah k’doshah, our sacred community!
Marc Lieber, President