2531 Taylorsville Rd.
Louisville, KY 40205-2224
Fax: (502) 459-2795
Web site: http://www.kenesethisrael.com
Keneseth Israel is a congregational family big enough to enrich you and small enough to know you.
Its roots go back to 1882 and downtown Louisville.Founded in Orthodoxy, it has evolved into a fully egalitarian Conservative shul affiliated with the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism. That evolution has allowed Keneseth to keep Judaism’s traditions intact while recognizing the needs of its growing membership as it looks toward the 59th Jewish Century.
KI’s family focus is evident in its Shabbat and holiday programming, always striving for ways to involve the entire community.
Once a month, KI ushers in Shabbat with a special Souper Kabbalat Shabbat to nourish the body and soul. Prior to services the congregational family gathers to partake in heavy appetizers and homemade soup, and a beloved congregant – often a bubbie – serves as the evening’s featured storyteller. This program, as well as weekly light appetizers on Friday evenings, are sponsored by the Faye & Simmy Davis Kabbalat Shabbat Fund.
At Shabbat Around the World, the 2011 winner of the USCJ Solomon Schecter Gold Award for Family Education, a native tour guide teaches the congregation about his or her home country’s Jewish traditions and Shabbat observances while enjoying a typical Shabbat dinner from that land. Among the countries toured have been Italy, Mexico, and Russia, as well as the Jewish Quarter of Shanghai during World War II.
As a bookend to the monthly Souper Kabbalat Shabbat, there is a special Havdalah program each month to help usher out Shabbat. Some months, there is a Grand Family Havdalah at the shul with an activity suitable for all members of the congregational family, such as making Shema pillowcases or matza covers. Other months find KI celebrating Havdalah Out and About, taking advantage of all Louisville has to offer.
Keneseth Israel’s holiday programs are spearheaded by dedicated, tireless volunteers. The Programming Committee produces engaging holiday celebrations, including the Rock of All Ages Hanukah party headlined with live music and a unique latke bar. The KI Sisterhood sponsors a free community Break the Fast, Louisville’s oldest continuous community Seder, and a Mother’s Day Brunch. The entire Jewish community is invited to take part in the Men’s Club’s springtime Kosher l’Pesach Wine Tasting and Pizza in the Hut during Sukkot.
The Men’s Club also sponsors fun and games with participants throughout the Louisville Jewish community. At the quarterly Bowl-A-Pa-Louza, teams from the synagogues battle for the one-of-a-kind trophy, the Golden Bagel. On Christmas, one can forego Chinese food in favor of a bowl of chili and a lively evening of Bingo.
The Programming Committee does not restrict its efforts to holiday-centered activities. It also strives to serve the congregation and community by arranging Jewish culture performances. Recently those included “The Cities of Light” with Rebecca Joy Fletcher – a one-woman theatrical cabaret celebrating the history of Jewish cabaret in Berlin, Paris, Warsaw, and Tel Aviv – and Sababa, a cool Jewish rock folk trio, for an engaging concert for all from babies to bubbies with admissions proceeds going to support the Jewish Family & Career Services Food Pantry.
Rabbi Michael Wolk and Cantor Sharon Hordes bring dynamic energy to the bimah, bar/bat mitzvah instruction, and all areas of Jewish education. It is their vitality and vibrancy that keep Keneseth Israel strong.
Rabbi Michael Wolk, son of a cantor and grandson of a rabbi, has long considered the synagogue his home away from home. A graduate of Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary, Rabbi Wolk has worked with several congregations in New York, Ohio, the Netherlands, and Israel. He arrived in Louisville as KI’s rabbi in 2012.
Cantor Sharon Hordes is a graduate of Indiana University School of Music and was the first cantor invested through the Reconstructionist Rabbinical College. She served as a full-time cantor in Florida for six years before moving to Louisville, her husband’s hometown. She became Keneseth Israel’s Hazzan in 2008.
Services at Keneseth are traditional egalitarian with no barriers to participation. The weekday minyans, Friday Kabbalat Shabbat, and Saturday Shabbat services are the cornerstones of KI’s spiritual foundation. The open involvement promotes the continuation of religious education for the congregation, encouraging everyone to assume personal responsibility for his or her own learning, and then pass it on to one’s contemporaries and the next generation.
Those future leaders start their Jewish education at KIP, the Keneseth Israel Preschool (see page 15). KIP nurtures children 18 months-kindergarten in a creative yet structured environment to help them grow emotionally and academically. Jewish studies are an integral part of KIP’s curriculum. Children participate in Louisville Beit Sefer Yachad (see page 21) from kindergarten-8th grade in conjunction with children from Adath Jeshurun and Temple Shalom.
At Keneseth, the Shabbat Shalom Club meets twice monthly for a youth-oriented Shabbat morning service appropriate for toddlers through pre-B’nai Mitzvah. The service is very participatory and filled with songs, stories, and d’var Torah focusing on a particular theme. The kinder are always excited by a Shabbat-appropriate craft or snack that is connected back to that Shabbat’s theme.
Rabbi Wolk and Cantor Hordes emphasize individualized bar/bat mitzvah instruction and mentoring, working to the unique talents, interests, and needs of each student. Through such personalization, the students are empowered to take ownership of their education, preparing them for lifelong Jewish learning. KI’s b’nai mitzvah don’t stop their learning after they celebrate that milestone. They are encouraged to lead services and use their knowledge to guide younger members as they enter the next phase of their Jewish journey.
Children thrive on both study and play. In supporting this, KI plans fun and engaging activities for children and is a pioneer in working with other synagogues so that the congregation’s youth are exposed to as many Jews and types of Judaism as possible.
The KI Chai Institute of Learning offers a wide-ranging selection of courses to enrich the knowledge and skills of congregants of all ages. Participants can learn trope or Hebrew, make kippot at Kraft & Kvetch, discuss Israeli politics and news, study the week’s Torah portion over coffee at Jews and Brews, or join The People of the Book … Club to read and discuss a wide range of Jewish literature. Most classes are held at KI, but others meet at the JCC or other local establishments. All Institute classes and events are open to the community and regularly have members from all area synagogues participating.
As part of the KI Chai Institute, thanks to the Dave & Reva Waldman Kahn Fund for Jewish Learning and in conjunction with USCJ, KI hosts a Scholar-in-Residence weekend each fall. Most recently, Professor Shoshana Cohen of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem led a memorable three days of study.
Details about service schedules and upcoming programs can be found on the KI website, www.keneseth israel.com, and KI’s Facebook page, www.facebook.com/ki.louisville, or stop by the office during the week (Mondays-Thursdays, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m., and Fridays, 8:30 a.m.-4 p.m.).
When you visit, peruse Keneseth’s beautiful Judaica Gift Gallery, stocked with local, Israeli, and fair-trade products for every occasion. You’re also welcome to visit the sanctuary to enjoy the remarkable art installation of Bill Fischer’s 12 faceted glass windows; they are especially brilliant in the morning light. In late 2012, Fischer gifted KI the 12 original concept paintings for the windows, providing a 24-piece art collection remarkably rare in its comprehensiveness. The paintings are undergoing conservation with support from a Louisville Jewish Community Excellence Grant awarded by Jewish Hospital HealthCare Services and soon will be displayed permanently for viewing.
Faye Weinberg, President
Michael Wolk, Rabbi
Sharon Hordes, Cantor
Eileen Kreitman Kaplan, Office Manager
Bertha Garber, Sisterhood President
Gary Levin, Men’s Club President
Shary Loewy Hyman, Preschool Director