A Short History of Kol HaNeshamah

Kol HaNeshamah has its roots in pad thai, Mount Rainier and the alchemy of a small group of committed new friends. In the winter and spring of 2003, Rabbi Michael Latz pulled together a group of about a dozen people he knew were looking for a more intimate and spiritual synagogue community. The group met a few times to articulate what its vision was. They used words like participation, innovation, meaning and place.

Then one night, eight people gathered for a dinner meeting at Buddha Ruksa, a Thai restaurant in West Seattle. By the end of the dinner, the group had formed the Shammes Committee, the founding leadership group of what was originally called simply West Seattle’s Progressive Synagogue Community.

That first Shammes committee had nothing but each other and its dreams to guide them. There was no prayer book, or even a place to pray, but they had their prayers and collective chutzpah.

On June 20, 2003, the new community held its first service, followed by a potluck dinner; more than 90 people attended. Shortly after that, Rabbi Michael Latz was installed as the founding rabbi. Those early days were consumed by the mundane- how to sweep up after the potluck – and also the more serious issues of creating bylaws, and figuring out how to get our act together to host High Holy Day services.

The Shammes Committee held its first retreat in the shadow of Mount Rainier that summer. In the early morning during a spiritual movement and breathing exercise, someone whispered the words. Kol HaNeshamah (every breath). The words resonated with each of the people present, and a name was born.

That first group set forth a vision for a vibrant community, where children could grow, where adults could be enriched and where nothing would be taken for granted. Where the Shammes Committee called on each other and on the members to be engaged and to get to know one another.

That first group had no idea if they could pull off a service, a religious school or a potluck.

Today, as Kol HaNeshamah appears to have established itself as a place where people who want to engage in a thoughtful life respectful of Jewish tradition can be part of a congregation without any barriers to their full participation, it is important to remember these beginnings as we continue to build, sustain and thrive within our holy community.

-Jackson Holtz