Rabbi Gilah Langner has worked with a number of congregations since her ordination as a rabbi in 2003, leading everything from traditional High Holiday services to innovative Shabbat and family services. She has served as the principal both at the Shoreshim Hebrew School and the Kehila Chadasha Hebrew School, and as a consultant and guest teacher at Kol Ami’s Jewish Children’s Education Program.
Rabbi Gilah is the founding publisher and co-editor of the journal Kerem: Creative Explorations in Judaism and has published numerous articles and authored prayers on behalf of T’ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights (formerly Rabbis for Human Rights). She also serves the congregation, Shirat Hanefesh, in Chevy Chase, MD.Rabbi Gilah led Jewish meditation sessions at the Jewish Mindfulness Center of Washington at Adas Israel for six years. She served for a number of years as a visiting chaplain both at Georgetown University Hospital and at senior residences, taught as an adjunct professor at The George Washington University and at Catholic University of America, and co-directed the Washington Jewish Healing Network. She has been teaching adult education classes and workshops for over thirty years in the Washington area.
Rabbi Leila Gal Berner was Kol Ami’s founding rabbi and is now Rabbi Emerita. She helped birth us, midwifed us and stood by us as we grew from an idea into a congregation. Rabbi Leila Gal Berner was ordained at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College and received private ordination from Reb Zalman Schachter-Shalomi z”l. She received a doctorate in medieval Jewish History from UCLA and her Bachelor’s Degree from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she lived for ten years. She is a citizen of both Israel and the United States. Rabbi Leila has taught at some of our country’s leading universities and colleges: Reed and Swarthmore colleges, Emory, George Washington and American universities. At American University, she served for over a decade as Scholar-in-Residence in the Department of Philosophy and Religion. Rabbi Leila also serves as Dean of Students of the Aleph (Alliance for Jewish Renewal) Ordination Program where she teaches rabbinical and cantorial students how to passionately, creatively and lovingly lead the Jewish people into the future. Rabbi Leila has pioneered a new approach to integrating Torah’s wisdom through “Contemplative Torah,” which she has incorporated into a book entitled, Listening with the Ears of the Heart: A Contemplative Approach to the Book of Genesis. Rabbi Leila lives in Maryland with her wife, Franna Ruddell. She can be reached at
Jane Schulman, has been a member of the Kol Ami community since 2006. She led the participatory and inclusive Rabbinical selection process that culminated in the selection of Rabbi Gilah Langner to succeed Rabbi Leila Gal Berner as she retired from Kol Ami. She previously served as President, as chair of the Ritual Committee for several years and remains an active member. Jane was raised in a Conservative/Orthodox home. However, like many others, Jane was alienated from her Jewish roots for most of her adult life… until she found Congregation Bet Haverim, a vibrant, growing Reconstructionist community in Atlanta, GA. When she and her husband moved to Alexandria, she was very grateful to find Kol Ami — the only Reconstructionist community in northern Virginia — and remains fully committed to supporting this progressive, inclusive, thoughtful, and caring community.
Jane’s professional training is in biostatistics and public health research (M.S. Harvard University; Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley). She served as Study Area Director for Westat, Inc. in Rockville MD where she directed an active public health and biomedical research program of more than 150 staff serving NIH, CDC, and EPA. Jane’s husband, Don Viehman, is a cloisonné enamel artist at the Torpedo Factory in Old Town, Alexandria. Jane can be reached at
Ervin Walter was born in Sweden to Romanian parents. He grew up in an Orthodox home and completed his Jewish studies at the Hebrew Academy of Greater Washington. His Jewish upbringing was shaped by his parents and their many friends representing most of the East European cultures.
Ervin has been a member of Kol Ami since 2003. He was a teacher in the early years of JCEP and was given the remarkable opportunity to teach his children for their B’nai Mitzvah. He has been on the Steering Committee for many years and is currently the Treasurer.
Ervin is a CPA and a graduate of the University of Maryland where he received his MBA in finance. He is President of Federal Management Services, a software and development company providing research support technologies to the National Institutes of Health.
Lance is a native Northern Virginian—since birth, he has resided in Fairfax County, until May 2016, when he made a major geographic move over the county line into Arlington, Virginia (35 miles!). Lance grew up within the Northern Virginia Jewish community, matriculating through Hebrew school and confirmation classes (post-Bar Mitzvah) at Congregation Olam Tikvah. While attending James Madison University for undergrad, Lance was an active member of JMU Hillel.
Lance and his husband, David, currently reside in the Potomac Yards area of Arlington, with their spiritual home being Kol Ami.
Debbie Linick joined Kol Ami shortly after returning to the DC area with her husband Michael in 2002. Together they raised two daughters in the congregation, Sandi James and Rebecca Linick. Professionally, Debbie has worked in the Jewish community over many years, starting as the Political Director of a pro-Israel PAC and serving over ten years as the Assistant Director and later Director for Virginia and DC at the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Washington. At JCRC, she oversaw government and community relations for those regions, including interfaith, media, law enforcement and public-school outreach. Debbie planned Holocaust commemorations and educational activities for the Greater Washington region for 10 years and founded her own digital scrapbooking and photography service, Pictures with Prose LLC. In addition to her work within the Jewish community, Debbie has served in the Departments of Defense and State and chaired committees for the Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy, the Interfaith Conference of Metropolitan Washington. Debbie Linick can be reached at
Meryl Paskow became Kol Ami’s Administrative and Communications Coordinator in 2019. Her professional background is in Higher Education Administration. She has also recently served in various leadership roles with Virginians Organized for Interfaith Community Engagement, and as a lay leader within her synagogue, Northern Virginia Hebrew Congregation in Reston. Meryl and her husband Bob have been married for 21 years and they have two quick-witted and independent thinking daughters, Sarah (17) and Rachel (12). In Meryl’s spare time, she loves to read, write, and spend time outside. Meryl can be reached at
Kol Ami’s Tot Shabbat Coordinator, Andrea Cate, brings warmth and a wealth of Jewish pride, practices, and passion to her services with the youngest members of the community. She is a graduate of Songleader Bootcamp and a “Rhythm ‘N Ruach” certified instructor. She and her husband David live in the Springfield region with their youngest of three children.
Susan Freiband is a retired library educator and volunteer librarian living in Alexandria, Virginia. She was born in Brooklyn, New York, but has lived in many parts of the United States since her father was a social worker in the army. She graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, and did graduate work in library science at Our Lady of the Lake University in San Antonio, Texas, and at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. She spent two years as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Medellin, Colombia. Most of her professional career was spent in Puerto Rico teaching library science at the University of Puerto Rico in Rio Piedras. Her interests are in the arts, including visual arts and classical music. She does volunteer work at the Arlington Public Library, as well as at Green Spring Gardens Horticultural Library and at two synagogue libraries, Beth El Hebrew Congregation and Agudas Achim Congregation, both in Alexandria, Virginia. In addition to being a member of Kol Ami (since 2009), she supports and participates in two Jewish Renewal communities, Minyan Oneg Shabbat in Washington, D.C. and Am Kolel in Bethesda, Maryland.
Michael Jawer chairs the Ritual Committee. He’s been a proud Kol Ami member for 18 (“chai”) years, 9 of which he taught his and other congregants’ kids in the Jewish Children’s Education Program. Besides occasionally leading or co-leading services, he chants Torah and Haftorah. Before marrying his spouse Bonnie and settling in Vienna, Mike taught at Temple Micah and prepared students for their B’nai and B’not Mitzvah. Mike hails from suburban Philadelphia (headquarters of Reconstructionist Judaism) and professes to sometimes see God’s hand in the fortunes of the Eagles, Phillies, Flyers, and Sixers.
Herb was raised in an Orthodox home in Baltimore, completing the high school department of the (then) Baltimore Hebrew College, in addition to public high school. In those days, he was also active in the B’nai B’rith Youth Organization’s Aleph Zadik Aleph program.
Through his college years, he became disconnected with the Judaism that he was raised on, but began to reconstruct Judaism to address the social change commitment he made in his life. The day he picked up The Freedom Seder by Rabbi Arthur Waskow was the day he learned that Judaism could be made relevant to his own concerns. He spent over 40 years working in affordable housing as his contribution to Tikkun Olam.
While his kids were educated in a Conservative Hebrew School, he was a member of the Fabrangen Community in DC for over 15 years. (Fabrangen is a lay-led havurah that now is over 40 years old.) At Elat Chayyim, he experienced the Shabbat of his life. He returned wanting to re-create that experience every Shabbat.
He’s been active in Kol Ami since December 2000. During that time, he’s led more than 150 services, been active in the Steering and Ritual Committees, served as Administrative Coordinator, and drafted the Haggadah that he uses to lead the Kol Ami Second Seder.
What he loves about Reconstructionism is its intimate connection to Judaism, its thoughtful approach to services, the sound of guitar and tambourines during davening, and the fresh ways Kol Ami connects to HaShem. He feels the joy of continued bonding in our growing community and meeting new people who feel like old friends.
Jim North joined Kol Ami in 2003 as he began weaving Jewish threads of his Judeo-Christian up-bringing in a spirit and song-filled Southern Baptist home into his life’s tapestry. Drawn to Jewish values and beliefs harmonious with his spiritual development, Jim studied with Rabbi Berner for his formal conversion to Judaism in July 2004, and he most recently was called to read from the Torah as one of Kol Ami’s first bnai mitzvah in June 2005. Jim loves to cook and sing and he lends his voice to the celebration of Shabbat at home with his partner Richard, as well as at Kol Ami. He has served on the Steering Committee and enjoys supporting the community in a variety of lay leader roles. A linguist and language trainer, Jim works as associate dean for instruction at the School of Language Studies, Foreign Service Institute, U.S. Department of State.
Dr. Richard Ruth, a member of Kol Ami, is a clinical psychologist in private practice; he is also an associate professor at the George Washington University Center for Professional Psychology and on the steering committee of the Child and Adolescent Psychotherapy Program at the Washington School of Psychiatry. He is trilingual (Spanish and Yiddish) and lived and worked in South America, Europe and the Caribbean before settling in Arlington. When not watching Law and Order reruns or lost in a book, he can often be found at Kol Ami services, singing heartily if not always in tune.