Congregation Kehillath Israel

Information about this center is no longer updated. This data was last updated on 28 September 2018.

Phone: 617-277-9155
[flickr_set id="72157687650787135"] History The impetus for Congregation Kehillath Israel began in 1911, when Mr. A. Matz called the Jews of Brookline together in order to organize a minyan (prayer service) to say Kaddish (part of mourning rituals) for his grandmother. In the following years, the Jews of Brookline met at the home of Matz and then began renting out spaces in a number of locations. The informal group of 36 men and their families officially became Congregation Kehillath Israel in 1917 when they applied for and were granted a state charter. By 1922, the fledgling community of upper-middle class Orthodox Jews living in Brookline had enough money to build a synagogue of their own. The cornerstone for what was known as the Community House was laid in 1922, though only after hail interrupted the first attempt. By 1924, KI was holding Orthodox services at 384 Harvard Street. In only one year, KI experienced its first major moment of change and transition as members voted to become a conservative synagogue, thus allowing men and women to sit together. Some members left in protest to form the Orthodox Congregation Sons of Israel, the predecessor of today’s Young Israel of Brookline. In the following years, KI emerged as a leader in Boston’s conservative Jewish community, continually trying to provide a steady center between more orthodox and progressive strains of Judaism. Particularly central in KI’s history is its connection to Israel. Its corporation was coterminous with the Balfour Declaration, while its first rabbi, Rabbi Epstein, traveled to Palestine in the 1930s, and in 1947 KI planted 10,000 trees in Palestine. Connections between Congregation Kehillath Israel and the State of Israel remain strong, as KI fosters communal and business ties between Boston and Israel. Demographics Kehillath Israel services about 400-450 families (approximately 1,000 individuals), many of whom are white Conservative Jews from the neighboring area, including many families as well as young professionals and seniors. Description of the Center The Community House sits in the midst of a dense Jewish area in Brookline. Just a short walk from Coolidge Corner and doors down from a number of Jewish businesses, the Harvard campus is an imposing and dominating structure of light stone. At the center is the oldest portion of the building, dating to 1922, easily identified with its tall doors and windows. The building is adorned with two copper domes gone green with age that are embossed with Stars of David and the Arc of the Covenant. Since the original construction, KI has had three further construction efforts beginning in 1946, 1966, and 2016. The 1946 addition, completed in 1948, stands to the left of the original building. The most recent construction project involves refurbishing the buildings to make them more flexible, accessible, environmentally friendly, and secure. The project also involves adding to the existing campus and consolidating current rooms. The largest addition is the worship space for Congregation Mishkan Tefila. Other projects include moving nursery and pre-school classrooms closer together, a social hall to seat 250, and housing for seniors. Activities Daily life at Congregation Kehillath Israel begins and ends with the morning and evening minyan, or prayer services, considered by KI as the “only daily egalitarian minyan in Brookline.” These small gatherings bring together members of the local Jewish community, including not only KI members but also members of KI partners such as Congregation Mishkan Tefila and Washington Square Minyan. The focus of the worship week is Shabbat, beginning Friday evening and ending Saturday evening. KI marks the beginning of Shabbat with KICKS, or KI Community Kabbalat Shabbat, which brings people together on Friday evenings for davening, or liturgical prayers. Saturday services involve the chanting and singing of psalms, reading the Torah, and a sermon. Younger members are invited to attend programs designed for their age groups. Throughout the year, KI also hosts a wide range of other activities. These include a number of adult education classes and lectures as well as programing for young children and youth, including after-school classes, a continual feature of KI since its founding in the 1920s. Partnerships Kehillath Israel’s ethos is defined by three elements: empowerment, inclusion, and partnership. Partnership has been particularly important as KI enters the 21st century. Since the early 2000s, KI has emphasized building partnerships with other Jewish organizations and communities of worship. KI is developing a model of Jewish partnership that involves shared resources and values but ensures that each partner is a distinct entity, with its own administration and leadership. KI has welcomed a number of communities to share its campus, known originally as the Community House, including Minyan Kol Rinah, Washington Square Minyan and Minyan Shaleym. The most recent and largest community to partner with KI is Congregation Mishkan Tefila, the oldest Jewish community in Boston.