Annual Congregation Meeting on Zoom

We are looking for a KI member with some significant experience managing Zoom meetings to volunteer and be a co-host of our Congregation Meeting to allow Leon, Robin, and the Rabbi to be full participants in the meeting without having to worry about watching for hands and dealing with the technical stuff. If you would be willing to take on this responsibility, please contact Leon as soon as possible. Thanks.

Annual Congregation Meeting

KI’s first ever virtual Annual Congregation meeting will be held April 26th at 7:00 pm. At this meeting we will ask members to approve the new board members for 20/21 and vote to give the board the go ahead to enter into negotiations with Rabbi Kaufman to be our new rabbi.

Only people in the virtual chat room will be able to vote. We will send invites to all KI members along with instructions on how to enter meeting. Each member who would like to vote will need their own device (laptop, tablet or smartphone) to attend meeting. The administrator of the meeting will tally the anonymous votes.

An exception to the by-laws will not be needed because we will be holding a meeting (digitally which isn’t forbidden) and voting by a secret ballot (digitally). There will not be any proxy voting which would be against the bylaws.

Don’t worry, more information will be sent to you to explain everything in detail. For now we want you to save the date and time to attend the virtual annual congregation online meeting. Board report packages will be mailed to you 10 days prior to the meeting.

We are looking for your photo’s of events and people at KI

Something you can do to help with the new website. While we are all stuck at home — go through KI and kivunim pictures you have. Please send them to with a date, names of people or event. I would love to set up a photo album by year on our new website. Thanks and stay healthy!

Interview with Rabbi Zimmerman on WKAR today at 4:45 pm

Interview with Rabbi Zimmerman – This will air again at 4:45 pm today on WKAR.

90.5 WKAR, copy and paste the link below in your browser.

The feast of Passover arrives Wednesday at sundown. The eight-day celebration is one of the most important events in Judaism, and it’s also significant to

Passover 2020: Finding Triumph In Tragedy
The feast of Passover arrives Wednesday at sundown. The eight-day celebration is one of the most important events in Judaism, and it’s also significant to


d’var Torah from April 4

Before I leave KI, I will request the library to purchase a book that is 1200 pages long, and is not likely to be read by anyone except the next rabbi and any aspiring Biblical scholars among you. I doubt if anyone will try to delve into it for b’nai mitzvah preparation. Still, the library owns volumes 2 and 3, so the set would not be complete without volume 1.

The book I am talking about is the culmination of a lifetime dedicated to the study of the sacrificial rituals in Leviticus by rabbi and preeminent Biblical scholar Jacob Milgrom, who passed away in 2010. The work is an exhaustive, and frankly exhausting to read, analysis of every verse, every term, indeed every imaginable detail in Leviticus in three massive volumes. This is not reading for the faint of heart.

Fortunately, Milgrom also left us a 10-page essay called “Israel’s Sanctuary: The Priestly ‘Picture of Dorian Gray’.” Based on close reading of the text and studies of contemporaneous middle eastern practices, Milgrom concluded that the sacrifices served to purifty the sanctuary. Sinful behavior by individual Israelites created a stain on the community’s overall well-being. When inappropriate behaviors become rampant, these stains accumulate and create an aerial miasma in the sanctuary. And when the air in the sanctuary becomes too toxic, it could no longer sustain the presence of God’s Glory, which dwelt above the ark in the Holy of Holies. To quote Milgrom:

Since of course people are only human, it becomes inevitable that the pestilence of aerial miasma would accumulate far beyond the danger level. It was therefore necessary to constantly purge the sanctuary, and that was the role of the sacrifice, especially the Chattat, or purification sacrifice.

Milgrom draws an analogy with Oscar Wilde’s novel, The Picture of Dorian Grey, in which every time a rakish young man committed debaucheries and really nasty crimes, the image of Dorian in a painting of him becomes more and more repulsive and disfigured. By the end of the novel, either the real Dorian Gray or the picture of him could no longer survive. Ultimately Dorian could redeem himself only by taking his own life, which mysteriously restored the image in the painting to its original glory.

Fortunately Leviticus does not demand such extreme measures from us. Nonetheless, it is only the offerings of the Israelite community that stand a chance of eliminating enough of the aerial miasma to sustain God’s presence in the sanctuary.

We can certainly talk about the aerial miasma alluded to in Leviticus in terms of environmental devastation. Too much pollution, wanton exploitation of natural resources, and spewing of carbon and methane into the atmosphere eventually destroy the natural environment and make life for those who inhabit a particular region untenable. I’ve given that d’var Torah a number of times over the year.

This year is different. Our way of life has been sabotaged by an aerial miasma that can leave a residue on everything we touch, and poison contact with other people and the air they breathe. One can easily argue that the pandemic can be traced to human sins: inadequate funding for medical research, failure to respond to the warnings years ago, prioritizing military defense and corporate profit over human needs, waging wars that destroy lives and habitats while wasting precious resources, fostering a culture of greed, selfishness, and consumption rather than looking out for our neighbors and for the common good. You get the idea. And, as the polluted sanctuary in Leviticus becomes unable to fulfill its holy mandate, so are we no longer able to enter our synagogue, and need to worship in exile and isolation.

So what sacrifices can we make to purge the sanctuary and restore a society where we can pray in synagogues and sojourn without risk of severe coronavirus? We can start with the sacrifice of social isolation, protecting our community from contamination and slowing down incidents of new cases. We can follow executive orders and CDC guidelines. We can support the elderly with acts of kindness. We can advocate for necessary medical research, reater availability of testing for COVID-19 and protective equipment for health care providers, and safeguards for the poor and those who could lose their home or their livelihood. Rather than devolve to scapegoating, rumormongering, denial, panic, or profiteering, we can create a caring society. And in the words of Malachi, we can reconcile parents and children by listening to the cries of our offspring and bequeathing them the legacy of a green new deal.

This is not the time to succumb to fear. We need to follow the injunction in Deuteronomy, to “Choose life, that you and your offspring may live” – taking all precautions to remain healthy and avoid the spread of the contagion. At the same time, we need to muster the courage to follow the example of Jacob, to wrestle with the ominous stranger that threatens us in the night, not running away from the threat, but learning its ways, what it has come to teach us, and what it will take to vanquish it. When the sun finally rises after the dark night of global pandemic, we will must not just go on as if the whole thing never happened, but like Jacob, take the time to reflect and learn until what we have just lived through leaves us with a blessing.

D’var Torah Rabbi Zimmerman 3-28-20

Our congregation alternates between a Reconstructionist and Conservative prayerbook for our Shabbat services. While our Reconstructionist and Conservative services are essentially the same, the major differentiation is that the Reconstructionist prayerbook has made alterations to the text to conform to the values of progressive Jews today, while the Conservative prayerbook retains language familiar to the overwhelming majority of religious Jews.

An example is in the Gevurot section of the Amidah. The phrase Mechayey metim appears four times. Since we will repeat this prayer in Musaf, we will say “Mechayey metim” 8 times this morning. “Mechayey metim” means “bringing life to the dead.” Since most contemporary Jews do not believe in reincarnation, the Reconstructionists changed “Mechayey metim” to “Mechayey kol chai” – bringing life to all that lives. The Reform movement does something similar: “Mechayey hakol” – bringing life to all.

Although I am a passionate Reconstructionist, I side with the Conservative movement. As Rabbi Simcha Paull Raphael has taught us, there is rich tradition in Judaism around life after death, and those who have dabbled in Eastern religions are comfortable with the notion of rebirth. But there’s another reason I like “mechayey metim.”

Last week we had a brief snap of gorgeous spring weather, and after over a week of intense work moving our activities online and reaching out to a community struggling with a global pandemic, I allowed myself a much-needed afternoon on our land. In early spring I clear out what I can from the past year’s explosion of growth. And whether it is our beloved peonies or the swarm of intruders with unknown names, I am always impressed by the tenacity of living things. Not only does every type of flora give rise to a new generation of saplings, but even the unwelcome shrubs that I cut down to a stump last year and appeared dead for months now have new sproutlings growing out of them. Seeing life emerge from the dead like this, I recognize that “mechayey metim” is not an eschatological speculation; rather it is a description of, literallly, a “garden variety” natural phenomenon.

Life and death is a terrifying topic, certainly for us at this time. So we may not find comfort from today’s Torah reading about the sacrifice of bulls, pigeons, and sheep. There are many difficult themes in the Torah, but the roots of our faith in a perpetual round of animal sacrifice may be the strangest and most alien of all.

I found insight on this topic in a book by my friend and colleague Rabbi Maurice Harris called Leviticus: You have no idea. It contains a wonderful story leading up to the realization by a cynical teenager that animal sacrifice is actually a lot less gross than what we do in our society: to mass-slaughter animals hidden from view of those destined to eat them; now we seal their body parts in shrink wrap, and display them luridly on supermarket shelves, where the earthly remains of those once sentient beings are thumbed over and selected by shoppers casually chatting on their cell phones.

By contrast, the animals sacrificed in Leviticus are selected from herds that provide necessary sustenance to those who care for and ultimately slaughter them. These pastoral consumers have looked into the eyes of their animals, heard their squeals and shrieks. However we may be appalled by the sacrificial rituals, it is likely that it served to reconnect those who routinely kill and eat their livestock to the sacredness of life and death, to atone for the necessity of carnivorous living, to warn us of the awesome power of creation and destruction in our human hands.

In the ancient worldview, sacrifice was meant to restore balance in a world that human beings keep desecrating ever since Cain slaughtered his brother Abel. This is not to say that natural balance is not always pretty. The wolves who capture the weakest members of a caribou herd strengthen its gene pool. Spontaneous fires enable grasslands to flourish. At the same time, centuries of civilization have led to perilous imbalances in the ecosystems of a planet crying out for restitution from something like wolves or fire. As we recite in the Shema prayer, our greed and contempt for the well-being of the land inevitably lead to destruction. As our children have been warning us, we have neglected to safeguard their future. Now they need to conduct their Friday protests online.

Our duty for future generations is to commit our efforts to the well-being of our planet and its inhabitants. Our hope, our courage, our trust, and our commitment to the future will see us through this current crisis.

Although it is too early to gauge the environmental impacts of the pandemic, Stanford environmental resource economist Marshall Burke has calculated that the improved air quality around Chinese cities like Wuhan may have saved more lives than were lost there to COVID-19. And while claims of dolphins in Venice’s canals are preposterous, the lack of vehicle traffic, tourist overrun, and industrial pollution have given the air and water in the ancient city a much needed cleansing. There may be a flicker of method within the extraordinary madness of coronavirus, just enough to give us a spark of hope. We must ignite that flame of hope, confident, in the words of Valarie Kaur, that “this is not the darkness of the tomb, but the darkness of the womb.” That in this trying period, we can learn to be kinder, more compassionate, less shortsighted and selfish, more appreciative of this extraordinary planet and our need to care for her. When we create a caring society that commits its resources and priorities to funding medical research, investing in protective gear for all healthcare workers, and providing testing and treatment to all who need it, rich and poor alike, our sacrifices will restore life to those in the jaws of death. Just as sproutlings emerge from inert stumps, we will get through this and be better and stronger for it, keeping faith in that power of divine rightness as we pray “Baruch Atah Adonai mechayey ha’metim.”

Prayer books links

Kol Haneshamah:

[This is a very large file, and may take some time to download.]
Sim Shalom:
go to  and fill out the simple online form. On the next screen you will be able to download and save to your harddrive the following files, which will be using in the service: