Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community
Kol Ami is a proud affiliate of the Reconstructing Judaism movement, and the only Reconstructionist congregation in Virginia. As the fourth branch of Judaism, Reconstructionism has its own rabbinical seminary and over 100 affiliated congregations and havurot. For more information about the Jewish Reconstructionist movement, see below or go to Reconstructing Judaism.
We are a growing and caring group of progressive Jews who believe in the continuity of Jewish spirituality in an egalitarian, inclusive, and interactive atmosphere that respects both the traditional and the modern.
We come together in times of celebration and times of healing; to share with each other and support one another; for worship and deep conversation; and to learn, explore, and discover the ways in which Judaism can enrich us as individuals and as a community.
Celebrating our Jewish souls. Expanding our Jewish minds. Reconstructing our Jewish hearts.
Adapted from Reconstructing Judaism, “Who is a Reconstructionist Jew?”
A Reconstructionist Jew has strong commitments both to tradition and to the search for contemporary meaning. Reconstructionists encourage all Jews to enhance their own lives by reclaiming our shared heritage and becoming active participants in the building of the Jewish future.
The Evolving Religious Civilization of the Jewish People
Reconstructionists define Judaism as the evolving religious civilization of the Jewish people. By “evolving” we mean that Judaism has changed over the centuries of its existence. The faith of the ancient Israelites in the days of Solomon’s Temple was not the same as that of the early rabbis. And neither of those religious practices was the same as that of our more recent ancestors from around the world. Each generation of Jews has subtly reshaped the faith and traditions of the Jewish people. Reconstructionist Jews seek to nurture this evolution. We see it as the lifeblood of Judaism, the power that allows Judaism to continue as a dynamic tradition in every age.
Kol Ami started as the Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Havurah with less than a minyan, one clarinet, and a tape recorder that played Jan Peerce singing Kol Nidre. We gathered for major holidays and used a tiny Torah that looked like it came from a Bar Mitzvah cake.
Everything changed when Hope Warshaw (pregnant with Hilary Kraus), Don Kraus, and Mattie Cohan joined. At a critical meeting in the living room of Ed Bomsey and Rayna Aylward, we decided that we needed to either grow or fold. And so it came to be that we convened a “Come to Moses” meeting at the Mason District Community Center in December 2000 with the involvement of Rabbi Leila Gal Berner. At that point, the Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Havurah became the Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community.
Flush with interest expressed by more than 60 people who had attended the meeting, Cookie and David Perlmutter began searching for a place to hold services. Cookie called every public facility in the Arlington area that she could think of. Neither libraries nor schools would allow us to use their facilities. She also called several large churches who were most accommodating until they realized we were a synagogue, then they closed their doors. Cookie called the UUCA who said they were agreeable to talking to us. David and Cookie went immediately to meet with Barbara Gilligan. She initially allowed us to use the church once a month. We borrowed Siddurim from the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College in PA and shipped them back every month. We schlepped paper goods and service paraphernalia back and forth from Don Kraus’s garage as well. It took about six months before we rented the closet space and began to acquire supplies to be used on an ongoing basis.
We became Kol Ami, the Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community in 2003, after an extensive process of deliberation over the name. Kol Ami means Voice of My People, and expresses our love of music, Jewish community, and making all of our voices heard.
Rabbi Leila served as Kol Ami’s founding rabbi from 2000 until 2016 when she became Rabbi Emerita. Rabbi Gilah Langner followed in her mentor’s footsteps starting in 2016. In 2021, Kol Ami approved a Clergy Leadership Team, consisting of Rabbi Gilah, Dr. Richard Ruth as our first Rabbinic Intern, and Hazzan Sabrina Sojourner, guest clergy for the year. Both Jim North, who serves as cantorial soloist at most of our services, and Jason Wright, who arranges the Kol Amites’ music, were named as Musical Directors. Also in 2021, we commissioned our own ark, inscribed with our name and the verse from Song of Songs, “Let Me Hear Your Voice.”