Kehilla to celebrate 30th anniversary

Kehilla Community Synagogue in Piedmont will bring together progressive spiritual leaders and scholars for a panel discussion as part of its 30th anniversary celebration on Saturday, Dec. 13.

The Rev. Roland Stringfellow of Detroit, the Rev. Angel Kyodo Williams of the Center for Transformative Change in Berkeley, and Buddhist scholar and peace activist Joanna Macy will take part in a talk about personal and social transformation. Kehilla rabbis David Cooper and Dev Noily also will participate.

Marching the Torahs to new location in 2005

Founded in 1984 as part of the Jewish Renewal movement, Kehilla was designed as a community with politically progressive values. Over the years, it has taken positions on topics such as domestic workers’ rights, the death penalty and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process.

“Kehilla was born 30 years ago in a period of people building ‘intentional communities,’ ” said Cooper, who has been involved with Kehilla since its inception. “I watched these communities come and go, and I didn’t necessarily expect this one to last any longer than the others.”

But last it has. In the old days, it used members’ homes for office activities and rented space for services and functions from several churches in Berkeley. Then, in 2005, Kehilla landed its own home, purchasing a former church on Grand Avenue in Piedmont, near the Oakland border. To get the synagogue’s Torahs there, members marched in a processional of nearly 10 miles.

Kehilla today has 370 member families, representing about 1,000 individuals, making it the largest community in the country affiliated with Aleph, the Alliance for Jewish Renewal, according to Cooper, although an unaffiliated, Renewal-functioning congregation in New York City, Romemu, is likely larger.

The anniversary celebration will be held in the atrium of the Ed Roberts Campus, a 3-year-old building that houses disability-oriented nonprofits and is connected to the Ashby BART station in Berkeley. The location was chosen because of access, easy parking and space for 300.

Also, added Cooper, “the campus is a symbol of empowerment of people who have been disenfranchised, and that is an important value to us.”

The event will start at 6 p.m. with a vegetarian dinner. After the 7 p.m. panel discussion, there will be dancing to the world beat and reggae music of the band Lior Ben-Hur and Sol Tevél. For more information, including ticket prices, call (510) 547-2424 or visit — j. staff