In August of 2001, a small group of families decided to form an egalitarian, participatory, synagogue which they aspired to reflect the highest of Jewish values, and a deep sense of friendship and common purpose among its members. Tasks were assigned to those present to locate a meeting space and secure what was necessary to hold weekly services. Siddurim and Tallitot were purchased, a set of Chumashim were donated from a synagogue in Iowa, and a Sefer Torah was borrowed from a synagogue in Virginia.
Intent on creating a place where there was a priority on shalom bayit, at an early meeting, the founding families chose the name Kol Shalom for their new congregation. Kol Shalom’s first service would be held on Shabbat Lech Lecha at the National 4-H Conference Center in Chevy Chase, Maryland. Weekly services began and though the congregation lacked regular meeting space, within a few weeks, several b’nai mitzvah were scheduled.
At the beginning of 2002 we moved to the JCC of Greater Washington, and joined the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. Rabbi Jonathan Maltzman was selected as our Rabbi and he began his tenure in May 2002. He was joined by Deb Finkelstein who became our founding Executive Director at the same time. For the next ten years we held Shabbat and holiday services at the JCC while we planned and eventually built our own facility in Rockville. During those years we grew from 15-270 families. We held High Holiday services in a hotel ballroom, rented an office in North Bethesda, and used the facilities of a local elementary school for our Talmud Torah.
After a year-long and extensive search for land in the Bethesda area, we widened our search to include Rockville and the surrounding areas. A plot of land several acres large was purchased on Darnestown Road and the process of designing and building a structure began in earnest. Following a year-long delay due to our local jurisdiction’s moratorium on new construction, we began our building project in early 2011 and dedicated our beautiful facility in April 2012. During the next few years we consolidated all of our programming and activities in the building, built a staff, and began the next chapter of our history.
Upon the retirement of Rabbi Maltzman in June 2019, Rabbi Gil Steinlauf led Kol Shalom through June 2022. In July 2023, we welcomed Rabbi Fabián Werbin as our spiritual leader.
We are an egalitarian community of Jews committed to the continuity of the Jewish people and Jewish traditional observance as a guide to full participation in American society and the modern world. We strive for spiritual growth through prayer, Torah study, and observance of Mitzvot.
We take personal responsibility for Tikkun Olam (repair and improvement of our world) through our individual paths of halakha (traditional ethical and ritual guide for thought and action), family life, and social action to help others. We value our community and look for ways to reach out to other members of the community to share joy and sorrow, mark lifecycle events, and help in times of need.
Our membership is drawn from Montgomery County and beyond because of the unique nature, character, and culture of our congregation.
We are young; we are old. We may be rediscovering our heritage or may have lived according to Jewish values for many years. We are single; we are married. We may be learning to read Hebrew or brushing up on old skills; we may be developing the skills to read Torah or lead our services, or we may have already acquired this proficiency. No matter our background and individual lifestyles, we are a community of people who come together on Shabbatot and Chagim in joyful celebration and song and who come together in time of need offering support and friendship.
As an egalitarian congregation, we welcome members with diverse needs and interests and benefit from the expertise and talent of both the women and men of Kol Shalom. In 2018 we warmly welcomed the non-Jewish spouses or life partners of our Jewish member to become a member of our congregation.
We recognize the centrality of the State of Israel as the homeland for the Jewish people. We support Israel to ensure its continued survival, prosperity, and moral character. We advocate for the affirmation of all streams of recognized Jewish thought and observance within Israeli society and seek to support and assist the Masorti movement.
We affirm the Torah as the source of law and teaching for the Jewish people and commit to study of Torah as a guide for thought and action. We value the mitzvot (commandments) and strive to act in accordance with mitzvot in our daily lives. We commit to the continuing study and interpretation of Torah, as has been studied throughout Jewish history, as essential for adapting Jewish observance to historical and social circumstance. In this way we affirm our identity as a Conservative congregation. We embrace Jews regardless of their level of observance of mitzvot or knowledge of Torah.
We affirm the place of prayer and spiritual connection with God in our lives as individuals and as a congregation. We strive to make avodah (worship) meaningful through traditional texts, song and melody, private thought, and connection with the world’s beauty.
We strive to demonstrate our commitment to Torah and prayer through actions to help the poor, the sick, and the unfortunate. We perform g’milut hasadim (acts of kindness) through social and political action, direct service to those in need, and financial support.