I joined Kol Tzedek in June 2008 and have been an enthusiastic member since. Rabbi Lauren Grabelle Herrmann guided me through my conversion process and KT has been just about everything I could have wanted in a Jewish community--warm, welcoming, supportive, spiritual, traditional yet progressive, and fun. I have taken classes, attended services, planned events and made friends. As I get closer to my college graduation I am getting sadder by the day at the thought of having to leave KT if I move to another city.
I was a reluctant founding member of Kol Tzedek -- I grew up in a reconstructionist minyan and I didn't want to see the West Philly chavurah become a 'synagogue' with a rabbi. I also thought the rabbi-to-be was kind of young. I could not have been more wrong. The congregation has blossomed thanks to a number of community members who've worked very hard and because in Lauren Grabelle-Hermann, we are blessed to have a tremendously talented rabbi. She's learned, smart, loving and warm and handles tricky situations with tact and grace. She's a gifted storyteller, which is a boon for the kids. And when I was in a precarious, frightening situation several years ago, she provided comfort and reassurance far beyond her years. Kol Tzedek is the best non-profit!
I have just moved to West Philadelphia and was looking for a nearby Reconstructionist congregation. Kol Tzedek was the perfect fit! Although I have not been able to commit much time to attending events and services, the ones in which I do participate always prove to be very worthwhile. The services are both familiar and unique. Everyone is very welcoming and I feel very lucky to have found such a comforting congregation in this new city.
I've seen it go from an idea to a sustaining reality, and throughout have been compelled to participate (previously had become disillusioned with Judaism). I have never before seen a congregation where everyone really wants to be there and enthusiastically takes part in the community, not just going through the motions.
When I was considering a move to West Philly, I had to check out the neighbohood shul before I could decide. I went to Kol Tzedek Friday night service and I was really touched by the geniune affection of the people there. After I joined, I realized that the container of Kol Tzedek is the most successful example I have every seen of a shul that holds a pluralistic membership. Everyone seems to find their niche there. Four years later, I am getting married (this Sunday); both my bride and me were memebers of Kol Tzedek before we even met. This community is thriving. And the best part, you don't need a ticket for high holy days. Just come. Everyone is welcome.
I am a founding member of Kol Tzedek, despite not being a resident of West Philadelphia. (I live as far east as you can in Philadelphia - I watch the sunrise over the Delaware River every morning.) I was drawn to Rabbi Lauren's knowledge and enthusiasm as well as the emergent warmth and sense of community of the kehillah. Unfortunately for me, I was one of Kol Tzedek's first test cases for organizing our Hesed committee when I required multiple operations three years ago. I was overwhelmed by the outpouring of visitors, phone calls, meals, offers for help, general compassion, etc. that came from our small community. In fact, many of the KT friendships that I've made have grown from these interactions. I can't say enough positive about our but growing community.
Kol Tzedek is a warm, spiritual, and welcoming community. If I had more time I would go much more often than I do now. I also appreciate that it is a part of a larger community space. Their newsletters are helpful and commitment to Tikkun Olam inspiring.