WHERE WE MEET: Unitarian Universalist Church, 4444 Arlington Blvd. (at George Mason Dr.), Arlington, VA 22204

Kol Ami

The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community

Welcome to Kol Ami

We are a growing and caring group of progressive Jews who believe in the continuity of Jewish spirituality in an egalitarian and interactive atmosphere that respects both the traditional and the modern. We meet in Arlington, and our members come from throughout Northern Virginia and the greater Washington, DC area.

Kol Ami is an affiliate of the Jewish Reconstructionist movement.

Celebrate our Jewish souls. Expand our Jewish minds. Reconstruct our Jewish hearts.

Upcoming Events

  • Sun23
    Simchat Torah led by Rabbi Gilah Langner
    October 23, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
    Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington

    We’ll have some prayers and songs, make some crafts, unfurl a Torah, and have a “Torah Treasure Hunt.” We’ll be in the Activity Room.

  • Thu27
    Steering Committee conference call
    October 27, 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm

    Please contact Herb Cooper-Levy if you’d like to listen in on the call.

  • Sat29
    Nicholas Lower-Basch Bar Mitzvah led by Rabbi Gilah Langner, Richard Ruth and Nicholas Lower-Basch
    October 29, 10:00 am - 12:15 pm
    Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington


  • Sun30
    October 30, 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
    Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington

    Highlights and Homework from Sunday October 16, 2016

    Morah Erin’s Hebrew Class: This week we practiced saying the phrase “Hello, I’m here. Today is Sunday” and “have a good week.” We also learned some body parts, which coincidentally are found in the prayers we’re working on! We did head (rosh), eye (ayin), heart (lev), hand (yod), and knee (berech). Then we noted on page 5 of our new book, Journey through the Siddur, that the root for baruch is the same as for knee, which is not a coincidence! I’m pretty sure I was more excited about this than the girls. They took turns being the leader for the barchu and translated it. On page 24 they read the Sh’ma and studied the vocabulary. Then we had a rousing game of get the pine cone into the trash can if you can decode and translate a word.
    Homework: Ask your child how to say the phrases we’ve learned in Hebrew. Read and do pages 4 and 5. Read and do pages 23 and 24. Make sure you can read the barchu and the sh’ma smoothly. Memorize the vocabulary words on page 24.

    Morah Jen’s Hebrew class: In honor of Sukkot, we conducted class amidst the trees outside of the UU. We reviewed the Hebrew numbers up to 100, so we could keep track of our scores in our target game. We had an actual dartboard for target practice this time, earning a throw for correctly reading lines from the V’ahavta, and a throw for correctly translating words from it, including elohainu (our God), l’olam vaed (forever), v’ahavta (and you shall love), elohecha (your God), v’chol l’vavecha (with all your heart), oov’chol nafshecha (and with all your soul), and oov’chol m’odecha (and with all your might).
    Homework: Read the Shehecheyanu again and see which words, root words and grammar you can recognize: http://www.reformjudaism.org/sites/default/files/shechiyanu.jpg Please also review the V’ahavta (p. 76 in Vol 1of S’fatai Tiftah) and the Avot v’Imahot (p. 20 in vol 2). Look for words and roots that you know. Review the meanings of ha/the, shel/of, -nu/our, l’/to, -cha/your, v’ or oo/and, b’/in or with, and roots baruch (bless), zochar (remember), sh’ma (listen), melech (king), b’rei (create), kadosh (holy), or (light), ahav (love), tzivah (command), and chai (life). PARENTS: If you haven’t already, please read and sign have your student read and sign the class commandments (sent via email last Sunday).

    Moreh Steve’s Hebrew class. We read and translated “Elohai neshama,” a favorite Reconstructionist morning prayer (which starts, “My God, the soul you have planted in me is pure”). As usual we considered the theology and religious intention behind the prayer, and worked on vocabulary like tehor (pure), neshama (soul or spirit), noteh (plant), boreh (create), barah (created), the pronoun suffix “ee” (me), the proposition prefixes v’ (and), sh’ (that) and so on. Then we tried to recite the first verse of the first chapter of Genesis.
    Homework: Be able to read the first four verses of Genesis in Hebrew, see www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0101.htm, and know the meaning of each word. We are going to read at least the first chapter or two of Genesis in the original, in addition to our prayer study.

    Morah Jen’s Jewish studies class: We discussed the holiday of Sukkot, which started this evening. Students recalled the meaning of Sukkot: “booths,” and we discussed two reasons why the holiday has this name. We noted that sukkot is the plural of sukkah. We discussed the lulav and etrog, and how they are thought to represent different parts of the body. We ended by drawing pictures of harvest images to hang in the sukkah. Drawings included some exotic fruits: dragonfruit, rutabaga, pineapple, broccoli, star fruit, pumpkin, and winter melon, as well as harvest tools and a few livestock…
    Homework: Think about which of the T’s might apply to Sukkot. PARENTS: If you haven’t already, please read and sign have your student read and sign the class commandments (sent via email last Sunday).

    Morah Erin’s and Moreh Zach’s Jewish studies: We started off talking about Sukkot, which is a harvest holiday. We learned that farmers in Israel stayed out in fields during the grape and olive harvest in booths, and that this is one of the places some Sukkot traditions come from. We also learned that the Israelites stayed in wooden booths as they crossed the desert after leaving Egypt. Students wondered where the wood came from to build the sukkahs in the desert. We also talked about some traditions associated with Sukkot, like sharing meals with friends and family in a sukkah, waving the lulav, possibly sleeping in the sukkah. There were some questions about how Jews who live in cities celebrate Sukkot, and we talked about synagogues putting up sukkahs, putting them on roofs, and putting them on very small plots of land. Then we read a chapter from All of a Kind Family, by Sydney Taylor, about the family celebrating sukkot. There were many similarities between the traditions we’d talked about and the family in the story. Next we turned to the middot nedivut, or generosity. We reflected on how the idea of generosity is distinct from the mitzvahs of tzedakah and gemilut chasadim, looking at Exodus 25 in which God tells Moses to have the Israelites bring gifts if their hearts moved them to. We thought about mitvot being things that we are commanded to do and generosity more as giving because we want to. Then we spent a little time learning about Jacob Schiff, a Jewish banker and philanthropist of the early twentieth century. We learned that he considered 10 percent of his earnings as a tithe, and not his at all. He only considered that he was acting philanthropically when he gave over the 10 percent. He also often gave anonymously and looked for opportunities to set people up with their own businesses rather than just giving money out. We thought about why the various ways he gave could be considered the middot nedivut rather than tzedakah.
    Homework: See if you can find someone either famous or that you know who exemplifies the value of generosity.

    Moreh Steve’s Jewish studies. We pulled a question from the question box, which was whether there were any toys that Jewish law forbade playing with. Someone guessed violent toys, and that led to an interesting conversation about mock violence. But none of us knew what Jewish law had to say about this specifically, so Tess volunteered to research it and report next week. Then we pulled another question from the box: if given a choice between a large leaf made of gold, and a small leaf of unknown composition that would guarantee endless happiness, which would you choose? (Remember, all questions were put anonymously in the box by students.) So we talked (after bantering on how big the golden leaf was, and so on) about whether ornaments or money can buy happiness, and whether nonstop happiness might suppress other equally important emotions and impoverish our experience. Then I gave out our young people’s history book, “The Amazing Adventures of the Jewish People,” by Max Dimont, and we looked at the chronology of Jewish and world history on the front pages. We also had a stern moment after a student threw a book across the tables. We are the people of the book! Never throw books! So we talked a little about what purpose books serve, and scrolls before them, in communicating with our ancestors and with people not yet born. It’s all part of growing up.
    Homework: Read Amazing Adventures pp. 8-10 (Abraham to Moses). Read it to yourself or to or with a family member. Ask yourself, was Abraham’s rebellion against his father’s idol culture courageous, or foolish, and why?

    Highlights and Homework from Sunday, Sept. 25, 2016

    Morah Erin’s Hebrew class: We started off class this week learning to sing “yom huledet sameach” (happy birthday to you) in Hebrew so that we could sing to Moreh Steve. We also reviewed the phrase “shalom ani po hayom yom reeshone (hello, I’m here, today is Sunday). This was followed by a review of some of the trickier letters and vowels that I’ve noticed the students tend to forget when decoding. Then we reviewed vocabulary from the sh’ma and v’ahavta including echad (one), the suffix cha (your), elohecha (your god), yom (day), ahav (love), tov (good), sh’ma (listen), baruch (blessed), olam (universe), va’ed (and more), shem (name). Once we felt comfortable with the words we played a game with them. Finally we read the sh’ma noticing the many words we could now recognize and understand. Next time we meet we will get our new books we’ll be using this year.
    Homework: Review the vocabulary from the Sh’ma and read through it. Review the phrases we’ve learned.

    Morah Jen’s Hebrew class: To get in the spirit for Rosh Hashanah, we did some apple-themed target practice, earning two throws of an apple toy at apple-shaped targets for correctly reading longer lines from the Avot v’Imahot, and one throw for correctly reading shorter lines. Reading and target aim both improved! We also discussed the Shehecheyanu –the blessing for doing something new –, listening for grammar and words we know. The students observed that remembering when to use this blessing is easy, given all of the “nus” that appear in it. We ended with apples and honey.
    Homework: Read the Shehecheyanu and see which words, root words and grammar you can recognize: www.reformjudaism.org/sites/default/files/shechiyanu.jpg. If you’re able to look at a copy of the Avinu Malkeinu during Yom Kippur, see how many words and grammar parts you can recognize. Please also review the V’ahavta (p. 76 in Vol 1of S’fatai Tiftah) and the Avot v’Imahot (p. 20 in vol 2). Review the meanings of ha/the, shel/of, -nu/our, l’/to, -cha/your, v’ or oo/and, b’/in or with, and roots baruch (bless), zochar (remember), sh’ma (listen), melech (king), b’rei (create), kadosh (holy), or (light), ahav (love), tzivah (command), and chai (life). PARENTS: If you haven’t already, please read and sign have your student read and sign the class commandments (sent via email last Sunday).

    Moreh Steve’s Hebrew class: We read the end of the Aleinu, carefully, with vocabulary.
    Homework: This is a repeat of the homework for our Sept. 25 class. Look again at the first verse of Genesis chapter 1 in Hebrew (“B’reishit bara elohim”) and see how much you can memorize and translate. One Hebrew sentence at least. Here is a link to the English and Hebrew text: www.mechon-mamre.org/p/pt/pt0101.htm.

    Morah Erin’s and Moreh Zach’s Jewish studies: We took the opportunity to do a special high holidays review. We discussed why Jewish holidays begin in the evening, some traditions associated with Rosh Hashana (shofar, round challah with raisins, going to synagogue) as well as the Torah portion traditionally read on Rosh Hashana, which we read from the Tanakh. The students grappled with the story of Abraham going to sacrifice Isaac–why God would have asked this and why Abraham would have agreed to it. They wondered what the conversation between Abraham and Isaac would have been as they climbed the mountain together. Then we talked about the 10 days of repentance and the concept of t’shuvah–returning to your best self, which includes seeking forgiveness from others for wrongs committed. Finally we talked about yom kippur and some of the traditions associated with it (fasting, getting together to break the fast, shofar). We ate apples and honey and chile (some prefer a spicy new year to a sweet one) at the end of class.
    Homework: Have your child remember that Rosh Hashana and the days leading up to Yom Kippur is a time to reflect on the past year, seeking forgiveness for those they may have harmed, and set goals for the future.

    Morah Jen’s Jewish studies class: Jerry Achtermann made a guest appearance to discuss his mitzvah project for his Bar Mitzvah, explaining the Tikkun Olam and mitzvah aspects. We then identified all of the T’s associated with Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. The class decided that the following applied: Tikkun olam, tashlich, Torah, tshuvah, tzedek, tzedakah, thank you/todah, and tovim (good things). We discussed the meaning of the two holidays and added tishre (the first month of the Jewish calendar), and the shofar sounds t’kiyah and t’ruah to our list of T’s. After reading “When the Chickens Went on Strike: A Rosh Hashanah Tale” while eating apples and honey, we discussed the roles of these T’s in the story, as well as another one: tradition. We talked about whether traditions that cause problems for the other T’s should be upheld, and the students unanimously agreed that they shouldn’t.
    Homework: Think about which of the T’s you helped in the past year. Which ones would you like to help in the coming year? Are there times when you helped one T and it caused problems for another T? PARENTS: If you haven’t already, please read and sign have your student read and sign the class commandments (sent via email last Sunday).

    Moreh Steve’s Jewish studies. We had another great discussion, this time starting with the Six-Day War in 1967 and proceeding to the significance of Jerusalem to all three monotheistic religions: the site of Judaism’s First and Second Temples is the same site where Islam holds that Mohammed stepped off the rock into heaven; the Dome of the Rock and the Western Wall; the crucifixion and burial of Jesus; the discoveries of modern archaeology in the area; and a little of the reality of the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza, both for Israelis and for Palestinians. We also briefly touched on the High Holidays and their significance in Jewish tradition; that conversation will continue.
    Homework: Be ready to tell something about your experience of the High Holidays. What did your family do, and what were your impressions?

  • Fri4
    Kabbalat Shabbat led by Rabbi Gilah Langner
    November 4, 7:30 pm - 8:30 pm
    Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington

    Pre-Election Prayers! Join us on the Friday night before the election to reflect on how we have coped with this year’s election process on a spiritual level, and what happens next, in the aftermath of this divisive campaign season. We’ll be in the Activity Room. Please bring a dessert to share.

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P.O. Box 1801, Annandale, VA 22003
Phone: 571-271-8387
Rabbi's Study: 202-364-3006

Where We Meet

The Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington
4444 Arlington Blvd.
Arlington Blvd. (Route 50) & George Mason Dr.
Arlington, VA 22204
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