Finding the voices that call us ino Jewish Life
When God gave the Torah on Mount Sinai, the Israelites perceived God’s Voice as Kolot, or “Voices” (in the plural!). The Midrash explains that each Israelite heard the One Voice of God in a way that he or she could uniquely hear. The Torah was not given in one language alone, but in all 70 languages of the world. Moreover, each person heard the Voice according to her or his capacity: a child heard it in a way a child could understand, and an adult heard it in the way that most deeply spoke to her or to him.
Our name is Kol Shalom. Our very identity hearkens to that original Voice at Mount Sinai. In this New Year, we embark to fulfill this vision of One Voice that speaks to each human being in our community in the myriad of voices that speak to each one of us. Our journey through this year will be filled with opportunities to engage and connect with Jewish life and community in multiple ways. Our programs will reflect the voices of multiple generations, backgrounds, yearnings, expectations and needs. We hope that you will join us by listening for the Voice at Kol Shalom that calls to you! And, we look forward to your adding your voice to the on-going Torah that we will discover together.
At Kol Shalom, we understand Judaism to be a “technology” or toolkit that is here for you to find your deepest connection and meaning as a human being. Like all technologies, we need some guidance on how best to use the software and the hardware. Jewish Life University is here not only to provide the basics of the Jewish operating system, but also to inspire us to take the tools we are given to the next level of engagement, inspiration and leadership.
The spiritual question of our time is not simply “What is Judaism?” It’s “Why am I Jewish?” We live in complex times with many richly textured, overlapping–and sometimes competing–identities that make up who we are. No matter how knowledgeable or not we are about Judaism, we are all equally Jewish. We each have an inner spark of Jewishness that calls to us to do something meaningful and powerful with our lives as Jews. The Jewish Identity Institute is more than just a think tank to explore profound Jewish ideas. It’s an incubator of meaning, connection and purpose for our lives. Together we will learn from leaders and scholars about WHY we are Jewish, and what our Jewishness means in the world today.
In the Talmud, we learn that the ancient pious ones would “wait” for an hour before they began their prayers. What does it mean that they ‘waited’? It means they sat silently in meditation. Our ancestors may not have used words like “mindfulness” or “spiritual practice”, but all of the great ancient pious ones were meditators. In fact, all of the profound insights of Jewish prayer–the very prayers that eventually were written down and codified in our prayer books– emerged directly from the insights they achieved from their daily sittings in silence. Join Rabbi Gil Steinlauf, an experienced Jewish meditation instructor and founder of the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington, as he shows us how to enter mindfulness meditation from an authentically Jewish perspective.
One of the greatest gifts that God has given to us is Shabbat. In our deeply stressful and often spiritually depleting world, Shabbat is not just a Jewish ritual from our past. It’s an essential tool to engage us in exactly what we need to find strength, connection, meaning, and most importantly, joy–no matter what else is going on in our lives and in our world. Join with Sally Heckelman and Rabbi Gil Steinlauf for a musical Kabbalat Shabbat experience that is about far more than prayer and synagogue. It’s about coming home to what matters, and reconnecting to why life is beautiful, filled with potential, and so worth living.
Shabbat is a homecoming. It’s a return to our people, to our tradition, and most importantly, to a joyful connection with one another. In our fast-paced 21st century world, we are always on the go. Our world has shrunk in so many ways because of cars and technology. But that also means that, while we are one community, we often live across vastly spread-out distances in ways that our ancestors never imagined. Sometimes, in our day and age, Shabbat has to catch up to us ‘baderech’ (on the go) if we are ever to find it. And so, a few times a year, Shabbat will come to your neighborhood. We will organize a potluck Shabbat dinner in your neighbor’s home. And a joyful Kabbalat Shabbat service and dinner of singing and gratitude–led by the rabbi–will appear in your neck of the woods.
Jewish life is a celebration of families and Jewish tradition through the generations. But it’s also true that so many of us do not fit into the conventional models of American nuclear families. Our version of family might be something very different than what some might call the “norm”. For many of us, our life path in some way departs from the conventional expectations of marriage or children, or other “standard” roles. Panim El Panim (Face to Face) is a Shabbat experience where the Kol Shalom community celebrates the diversity of our people, where singles and all others are welcome to celebrate the value of truly seeing one another, and seeing the sacred path that each of us is on in our lives.
Sunday mornings! A time to catch our breath for a few hours when the kids are dropped off at religious school. We know how important ‘downtime’ and taking a break are to you. That’s why we are developing the KSTT Cafe right here at Kol Shalom. Every Sunday morning, we will provide you with good (high-test!) coffee and delicious refreshments–all in a lobby that will transform into a welcoming place to come and just be: no obligations, just comfortable seating, a place to hang out, or to take time to be with friends, or just to read the paper or be on your laptop. It’s your time, at your shul, with your people.