October 9, 2000
New synagogue welcomes Jewish Eastsiders
by Deborah Stone
Congregation Kol Ami is Washington State's newest Reform Jewish synagogue.
Located in Woodinville, at the Bear Creek United Methodist Church on Avondale Rd., Kol Ami provides a small synagogue choice for those from the Eastside.
The congregation formed less than two years ago under the impetus of a small group of families who were part of the Northshore Jewish Community in Bothell.
"The Northshore Jewish Community began about fifteen years ago with people in this area getting together to celebrate the Jewish holidays," explains Rosie Epstein, Kol Ami's President. "We never really grew bigger, and after a number of years, some of us decided that we wanted to become a real synagogue and have a rabbi. We then went through the process of finding a site, hiring a rabbi and changing our name."
Currently, the congregation has forty families and within the religion school, there are thirty students.
Friday night Shabbat services are held bi-monthly and Saturday morning services occur once a month under the direction of Rabbi Drorah O'Donnell Setel, using Reconstructionist prayerbooks that offer a blend of Conservative and Reform traditions.
Religion school, for children age three and older, is held Sunday evenings with supplementary classes on Wednesday.
The curriculum emphasizes knowledge and pride of the Jewish heritage, Hebrew fluency and preparation for Bar and Bat Mitzvah.
According to Epstein, young people are encouraged to take an active role in all aspects of synagogue life. Some of the teens, who have been involved in the Jewish community for several years volunteer to teach the younger children.
Multi-generation learning evenings are held once a month. Adult education is also offered on Sunday evenings, including introductory classes and further learning opportunities to deepen understanding of Judaism.
"We really stress community service and our Rabbi is a great proponent of community involvement," comments Epstein. "It's important for us to create strong bonds within the community and help others in need.
"Right now, through the High Holidays, we are working on a project to fight hunger and assist the local food banks."
Congregation Kol Ami plans to stay at the Bear Creek site, with no immediate plans for constructing a temple of its own.
"It's so much cheaper to just rent the space right now, as opposed to dealing with a building campaign," says Epstein. "We really don't envision much more growth, as the idea is to have about a maximum of fifty families who are each very involved in the synagogue.
"With a small congregation, everyone has to share in the workload. The number of people also allows for personal connection on a deeper level. I feel that our congregation is inclusive, warm and welcoming to people from diverse backgrounds, as well as interfaith families."
One big step for Kol Ami has been the recent purchase of a torah, an exciting event for the members, especially since they were able to raise the money on their own in a relatively short period of time.
Epstein comments, "This was an example of the willingness of our members to step forward and contribute to achieving a very meaningful goal. This torah has great meaning to everyone now."
Epstein encourages those interested in a small congregation Jewish experience to contact the synagogue's office at (425)702-4818 for more information or view the website at www.kolami.net.