Who We ARe
Kol Tzedek began as a dream shared among a small group of committed Jews living in West Philadelphia. They sought a community with which to pray, yet the last remaining synagogue had closed its doors in the 1980s. An inspired group of leaders started a havurah that met monthly for davenning; the havurah’s success demonstrated a need in the community. Rabbi Lauren, then a rabbinical student at the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College, worked with the core leadership on a vision for a full-fledged Jewish community in which people could gather, pray and learn, celebrate and mourn. Beyond simply creating a bridge from the past, the founders desired to establish something that reflected the needs of those seeking meaningful connection, spiritual grounding for their progressive values, and joyful, life-affirming religious practice.
Drawing on skills learned in the Jewish Organizing Initiative, Rabbi Lauren met with potential participants one on one, listening to their needs and concerns and inviting them into varied leadership efforts. The initial event, a Hanukkah party held in December 2004, drew 150 people and affirmed our belief that there was an unmet need in the community. Kol Tzedek set up its first Board of Directors in February 2005 and began building organizational infrastructure.
The name “Kol Tzedek” (Voice of Justice) was chosen to reflect the belief that justice should stand at the center of our mission. Through our participation in POWER (Philadelphians Organized to Witness Empower and Rebuild), our work to make ourselves a green congregation, and much more, we inspire each other to make the world a better place.
From its inception, Kol Tzedek aimed to be a different kind of Jewish community--one in which all people, regardless of their backgrounds, beliefs or non-beliefs, lifestyles and orientations, would be have a full voice at the “Jewish table.” Kol Tzedek counts among its members spiritual seekers and secular Jews; interfaith families and Jewish-Jewish households; Jews by choice; Jews of color; traditional families, queer families, and single-parent households.
After Rabbi Lauren's departure in 2015, Kol Tzedek decided on an interim rabbi to engage in a nation-wide rabbinic search and internal envisioning process. Our community was fortunate to have been under extraordinary leadership under Rabbi Elisa Goldberg during this time.
Rabbi Ari Lev Fornari emerged from a strong group of candidates to lead Kol Tzedek and guide us to enact our values. He began August 1, 2016.
Anyone is welcome to visit Kol Tzedek for a service or program. We welcome new members to our exciting and growing community. We hope you will join us!