Kol HaLev: History of Our Community
First year 1992-1993
Several persons expressed an interest in Reconstructionist Judaism to Rabbi Jeffrey Schein, a graduate of the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, who had came to Cleveland in 1991 to teach at the College of Jewish Studies. Most had been students in courses he had taught. Only one had grown up in a Reconstructionist home.
In November 1992 Jeffrey Schein invited those persons to attend a meeting. Those attending who are still active in the Havurah were Anne Adamson, Barry and Barbara Epstein, Sherry Linkon, Frank Bongen, Frank and Phyllis Maris, and Fran Zamore. Sitting in a circle in the Scheins' living room, each person, at Jeff's invitation, expressed feelings about past experiences in belonging to a Jewish congregation, present needs, and hopes for the future of the just-forming group.
In March 1993 the group of founders began to organize itself, forming a Mazkirut (a steering committee of committee chairs) and naming Ellin Friedman and Fran Zamore as Co-Chairs.
From the beginning the group desired to be inclusive, to welcome persons of all ages and of a wide range of Jewish practice and learning, and to be comfortable for Jews by choice and for intermarried couples. The group welcomed visitors at Havurah events, whether in a home or at a rented facility, with the same warmth as if they were providing home hospitality.
Community Service has been a focus from the start. We were soon involved with Mazon, Harvest for Hunger and Habitat for Humanity. Our custom of volunteering on Christmas day began. Education was also an important early priority. We began by studying Exploring Judaism by Staub and Alpert.
Second year 1993-1994
When Mazkirut co-chair Ellin Friedman and her husband moved to Schenectady, NY, Fran Zamore continued as Chair. Membership had grown to 18 families.
That year also marked the start of our relationship with the Jewish Reconstructionist Federation, the national organization to which we and more than 100 other Reconstructionist congregations and havurot belong. The JRF was then, and continues to be, a source of resources and encouragement. In recent years our members have become very active in the national movement.
In December 1994 a Hanuka party was held at the home of the Kelmans. Our first religious service was the Shavuot holiday in May 1994. The success of that service led us to start holding monthly Friday evening services in the homes of members.
Those interested in education struggled with The Meaning of God in Modern Jewish Religion by Mordecai Kaplan.
Rabbi Schein, indefatigable volunteer, taught, guided and sustained us through all these activities.
Third year 1994-1995
Now grown to more than 30 households, we secured legal status as a not-for-profit organization, which required us to adopt By-Laws and elect officers. Fran Zamore became our first president. The Mazkirut expanded to include the officers.
The Havurah held its first High Holy Day services in 1994. Despite advice that we were too small and too young to have our own High Holy Day services, a team worked hard through the summer to create a service that drew from many sources. We held our services at the Shaker Lakes Nature Center on Rosh Hashana morning in September 1994. Some say two Havurah traditions began that day: a Tashlich ceremony, a time of spiritual renewal at the Shaker Lakes, and a lunch (which, some say, started a custom of communal eating at nearly every opportunity).
Strengthened by the success of our first High Holy Day services, we held Friday night services each month at the Nature Center.
Fourth year 1995-1996
Barbara Epstein became the Havurah's second president.
As the space on the second floor of the Nature Center was not accessible to all, we began having Friday evening services, some holiday services at the Wuliger Chapel at Bellefaire, and High Holy Days using the sanctuary of Congregation Bethanyu.
Fifth year 1996 -1997
Rosh Hodesh monthly gatherings of Havurah women in member homes, began. To better serve families with school age children, the Next Generation Committee was formed. Monthly in-home Saturday afternoon Torah study sessions began.
Sixth year 1997-1998
Leah Kamionkowski became the Havurah's third president.
We began to hold events that could not be held in member homes at the Agnon School - Cleveland College of Jewish Studies (now Siegal College of Judaic Studies) building on Shaker Blvd. For new members as well others in the community, we started Reconstructionism 101, a three evening seminar held in member homes. It was well attended and drew many new members. Finding more than 80 percent in the Havurah family using the internet we started **this web site**. In May 1998 a group of members, the Chai Lights, organized a celebration to honor Jeffrey Schein’s twenty years as a rabbi.
Seventh year 1998-1999
Rabbis Jeffrey Schein and Steve Segar were engaged to serve the Havurah on a part-time basis. Services were now held twice each month: the first Friday evening and the third Saturday morning. We started a year long Jewish Alive & American seminar, with nearly a third of the Havurah membership enrolled. More than 70 households were now members. On Shavuot in May 1999 we welcomed our first Sefer Torah, bought with funds raised at the Jeffrey Schein celebration the year before. See our **Dedication** pages.
Eighth year 1999-2000
Rabbis Jeffrey Schein and Steve Segar continued to serve the Havurah on a part-time basis. The prior year's programs continued and we added informal "Living Room" services on the fourth shabbat of each month, Aytz Hayim We and Prayer seminars, and started aBonim (builders) group, for children ages 8 - 10. Three Social Action projects began. We adopted new **Bylaws** that replaced our steering committee with an elected Board with staggered terms. JRF's quarterly magazine called this Web site "the hottest JRF site".
The Havurah selected Steve Segar to serve as its rabbi as of August 2000 and named Jeffrey Schein as its Founding Rabbi.
A "Rabbi Fund" campaign to finance the first two years of our transition to having a rabbi was successfully concluded.
Ninth year 2000-2001
Selma Gwatkin became the Havurah's fourth president.
We added a second Shabbat morning service each month and announced a **Tishri Membership** plan to encourage nonmembers to share the High Holy Day period with us. Programs in all areas expanded.
In three years the Havurah had grown from 60 households to more than 100. We examined the issue of limiting our size and concluded that we would remain open to all who wished to join after being well informed about the Havurah and the expectations of our community. It was also decided to give more attention to the orientation of new members and to member participation.
Tenth year 2001-2002
We enjoyed further growth in membership and programs. In June 2002 we increased Rabbi Steve's appointment to full time, leased our first office and adopted a new dues structure that would share the Havurah's costs fairly over all members.
Eleventh year 2002-2003
We celebrated our **tenth anniversary** in January 2003.
Deena Epstein became our fifth president.
Twelfth year 2003-2004
In June 2004, we chose a new name for our community: Kol HaLev, Voice of the heart, Cleveland's Reconstructionist Community.
To view our **How Kol HaLev got its name**, click here.
Thirteenth year 2004-2005
Sue Pelleg is elected our sixth president. Rabbi Estelle Mills is named our first Education Director.
Fourteenth year 2005-2006
Fifteenth year 2006-2007
Kol HaLev celebrates its B’nai Mitzvah with a weekend of events that culminates in a B’nai Mitzvah party honoring our first six presidents (a.k.a. “the founding mamas”) and featuring a silent auction of services and items donated by our members.
Kol HaLev holds its biennial retreat at a new location, Geneva on the Lake.
Kol HaLev is one of 28 congregations in the country to receive a grant from the Legacy Heritage Foundation for innovations in family-based education programming.
After several community-wide planning sessions KH adopts new vision and mission statements.
Tamar Kamionkowski, vice president for academic affairs at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College spends a May weekend as our scholar-in-residence.
New educational guidelines for B’nai Mitzvah are adopted.
Sixteenth year 2007-2008
Allen Binstock becomes Kol HaLev’s seventh president, the first male to hold the position.
Kol HaLev receives its second Legacy Heritage grant.
Robyn Novick is hired as education director in January of 2008.
Seventeenth year 2008-2009
Kol HaLev moves to its new home at the Lillian and Betty Ratner School in Pepper Pike.
Kol HaLev launches the Securing Our Sacred Space fundraising campaign.
Eighteenth year 2009-2010
Simcha Zevit becomes Kol HaLev’s first rabbinic intern.
For the history through 1998, thanks to Fran Zamore, Anne Adamson, Deb Schein and Barbara Epstein