Kol Ami — The Northern Virginia Reconstructionist Community
Kol Ami’s services are led by members of our community, by guest clergy and musicians, or by Rabbi Gilah Langner.
You can find more information about our wonderful cadre of lay service leaders below:
Rayna is one of “founding parents” of Kol Ami, having been part of the Northern Virginia chavurah that evolved into the congregation in 2000. She also served as Kol Ami president in 2013-2014. Her religious background is a high-contrast hybrid, with a Jewish atheist mother and a father who had been a Catholic priest. A post-college trip to Israel sparked her interest in exploring her Jewish heritage, and eventually Reconstructionism spoke to her Jewish soul. The journey culminated in her Adult Bat Mitzvah in May 2020.
Rayna’s career spanned teaching English around the world, representing the US as a diplomat in South America and the Middle East, heading a corporate foundation, and serving as a Presidential appointee under President Obama. Since retiring from the government, she serves on the boards of several nonprofits, and at Kol Ami, she co-chairs the Care & Concern/Inclusion Committee.
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. 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.
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.
Jane is a long-time Kol Ami member and previously served on several committees and chaired the Ritual Committee. Educated at the University of Pittsburgh (B.A.) and George Washington University (J.D.), she worked as an attorney for many years in public service with the District of Columbia government, the Supreme Court of the United States, and the Transportation Security Administration, among others. She is now happily devoted to her practically-life-long work as in actor with local professional theaters and in film, television, and video. Jane resides in Arlington with her husband, Kevin Adams, who is also an actor and with whom she occasionally joyfully shares the stage.
Dr. Richard Ruth, a member of Kol Ami, is a clinical psychologist in private practice; he is also an Associate Professor Emeritus 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.
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.