Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community

History of Kol Ami

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.”

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