May 13, 2020
19 Iyar 5780

Dear Friends,

It is with mixed emotions that I am informing you that I will not be seeking a renewal of my employment contract as the rabbi of Kol HaNeshamah. I shared this news with the Board several weeks ago and the Board and I have agreed that my last day of service to our community will be August 31, 2020.

Kol HaNeshamah is growing and thriving and moving in some new and exciting directions. Every congregation is responsible for charting its own course, but at the end of 2019 the Board made several decisions regarding professional roles and responsibilities that do not allow me to serve as a rabbi in the way that I feel called to serve. Therefore, I’ve decided that it is time for me to step aside and let new rabbinic leadership help guide the congregation into its next chapter. It is also time for me to focus on my own life, and to work toward achieving my other personal and professional goals.

It is never a good time for a rabbi to leave a congregation. The global pandemic has made it even more difficult for me to make this decision at this time. I know that the world as we’ve known it has changed dramatically, and many of us—particularly our children—long for stability and familiar routines. I wish the timing could have been otherwise.

It has truly been my privilege to have served as the rabbi of Kol HaNeshamah for the past ten years. These years have been rich and full, and I’m so pleased, as I look back, to see how much we’ve accomplished:

  • We’ve shared many meaningful Shabbat, holiday, and High Holy Days services and innovative programs.
  • We solidified and strengthened our children’s education program; both our Tuesday Hebrew school as well as our Shabbat School have solid curricula, and our students really enjoy attending!
  • We’ve celebrated with over 76 children and their families as they became bar or bat mitzvah.
  • With the efforts of our teens as well as our youth group advisors, we’ve established a very successful and vibrant youth group, KHTY, that any synagogue—even one four times our size—would be proud to have.
  • We’ve witnessed 13 adults step forward to read from the Torah for the first time and to more fully embraced Jewish Tradition as their own.
  • We’ve celebrated with parents as they welcomed babies and adopted children into our community, and into the Jewish People.
  • We’ve been present with and for so many of our members as they’ve mourned the loss of a loved one, truly showing up as a caring community for one another.
  • We’ve held signs at rallies and marched in protests, and participated in many interfaith events, expressing solidarity with our Muslim friends when they were victims of anti-Muslim acts, and coming together as a community after the tragic shooting in Pittsburgh and other terrible events.
  • We brought a total of 37 people to Israel and the West Bank in two very meaningful, challenging, and enriching trips.
  • We’ve prayed together, played together, learned together, and explored many different facets of what it means to be Jewish in the 21st Century.
  • And perhaps more than anything, we’ve created a true community, a place where so many feel at home.
  • . . . And so much more!

I am sad that I won’t be able to be with you and your families and the congregational community going forward. At the same time, I am grateful for the opportunities I’ve had, and grateful that for ten years I was blessed to play a role in helping to create the rich tapestry that is Kol HaNeshamah.

I hope to be able to visit with many of you (virtually) over the next few months, to honor our connection, celebrate our successes, and bring closure to our relationships.

As the congregation prepares to transition to its next chapter, I wish it and all of you only the best.

L’tzedek v’shalom (toward justice and peace),

Rabbi Zari
May 13, 2020
19 Iyar 5780

Dear KHN community,

I am writing to share some important news with you. After a decade of service as our rabbi and spiritual leader, Rabbi Zari Weiss has made the decision not to renew her contract with Kol HaNeshamah. Rabbi Zari has been our teacher and guide on our journey as a community, bringing deep Jewish meaning to our traditions, celebrations, and milestones. On behalf of the Shammes Committee, I want to express our profound gratitude to Rabbi Zari for her leadership and service to our community, and our very best wishes on her path ahead.

Separation is never easy, even in the best of circumstances. It is especially challenging in a time when we cannot be together in person. This transition will take time for all of us to process - both emotionally and logistically. Rabbi’s last day with us will be the end of August.

Some of our next steps include:
  • establish a transition team to chart our course through this next phase in our congregational life;
  • convene a lay leadership team to take on stewardship of our online services and minyanim;
  • plan opportunities to celebrate and honor Rabbi Zari, and wish her farewell as a community.

I am confident that Kol HaNeshamah will continue to be the supportive, vibrant, resilient community of Torah, Avodah, Tzedek and Tikkun (Torah, Prayer, Justice and Healing) that Rabbi Zari has worked tirelessly to nurture. We are blessed with many wonderful lay leaders, and strong community ties. We are dedicated to creating a path forward with you.

In the days ahead, the Shammes Committee will be reaching out to member families by phone and email. Please don’t hesitate to call me if you have questions, thoughts, hopes or concerns to share.

Rabbi Zari's spiritual leadership has stewarded so many of us through the most joyful, tender and meaningful moments in our communal life these past many years. Please join me in sharing gratitude for all she's brought to our congregation and our shared lives together

Jennifer Stewart
KHN Shammes President