At Kol Shalom in Rockville, deepening family and community ties is of the utmost importance. In a new effort to further engage the community and local families, Kol Shalom is incorporating new programs like a reunion dinner for members of local Jewish Day Schools (JDS), Israeli movie nights for kids and lively, music-filled Shabbat dinners and family Shabbat programming.
These new programs, especially the special dinner, are part of an effort to bring multiple generations of people from the area together and get them involved in the traditions of Kol Shalom and Judaism, according to Kol Shalom’s new spiritual leader, Rabbi Fabain Werbin.
“We have sometimes even three generations of JDS people in our congregation going to attend [the dinner]. It’s great to see all the generations of JDS people who are coming together – grandparents, parents and students, current students – that’s a great feeling. And we wanted to highlight that and also have the opportunity to for families to get to know each other better,” Rabbi Werbin said.
Rabbi Werbin said the dinner is planned for Nov. 17, and will give parents and kids the opportunity to interact outside of their designated school hours or back to school nights.
Kol Shalom is also bringing a focus on ongoing Jewish education through fun but thought-provoking activities.
One of the opportunities the congregation is offering is an Israeli movie festival in the coming days, where parents and children can come together and watch movies under two hours that will keep the attention of parent and child. Rabbi Werbin said there will be a conversation after the movie concludes that will focus on what people learned and what they liked about the movie.
Parents could use these movies as an educational opportunity to help provoke critical thinking skills while exposing their children to Israeli culture and art at the same time through watching and discussing the movies. It also allows them to spend time together and for kids to spend time with their Jewish peers.
And the fun learning activities don’t stop there, as Kol Shalom is hosting an event called Shabbat Live on Oct. 13, where they will have Shabbat services accompanied by live music performed by the Kol Shalom Band.
Shabbat Live is a twice a month event that focuses on bringing a fun, community-based aspect to traditional Shabbat services.
“It’s a very musical and very interactive, happy Friday night. There’s an opportunity afterwards for people of all ages – kids and adults – to go out and dance sometimes, which is really nice,” Rabbi Werbin said.
Kol Shalom also offers family Shabbat services that allow for people with young children or grandchildren to participate in their own service, with opportunities for the children to join the leaders in their main sanctuary for Ein Keloheinu and Kiddush. This can set an early foundation for children being involved in Shabbat services and help them connect with fellow young Jews.
These new and existing programs are a large part of Kol Shalom’s ongoing efforts to engage the community and provide a space for families and congregants to come together and have enjoyable shared experiences and social interactions through a Jewish lens.
Rabbi Werbin elaborated on this point by describing how Kol Shalom is planning other events, like candle lighting for Hanukkah, and trying to make it easier for members to be involved in the synagogue’s activities and the local Jewish community.
“We were planning on doing for example, for Hanukkah, a candle lighting in Falls Grove, to bring not only the families into the building, but also the building [institution] to the families,” Rabbi Werbin said.
It’s an ongoing process with these events currently underway and with more in the pipeline, but Rabbi Werbin said Kol Shalom is looking to continue efforts to bring the community to their congregants and not force them to seek it out.
“We want [to meet] our congregants where they are… so everyone can come join us. And our goal is to gather the families to connect with the synagogue, with each other and with our tradition,” Rabbi Werbin said.