Most of you know me as one of the smiling faces up on the bima, singing my heart out while helping to lead the music during our services.  If you’ve ever been part of our beloved ensemble, you would also recognize mine as the name behind an infinite stream of emails filling your inbox with reminders about upcoming services, rehearsals, B’nai Mitzvah, what music you need and what time to show up (sorry, guys).   Some of you may be aware of my involvement with our Education program, serving on the Ed Committee for almost 7 years and as Education Chair for 2 ½.  For others, you may think of my time as “KHN’s First Lady”, recalling Eric’s exciting term as President during our rabbinic transition.  And yes, that WAS me dressed up like Tevya, playing Achashverosh in last year’s Purim Spiel, “Shushan on the Roof”.  Or – perhaps, you see me the way I so often identify myself: as the very proud mom of Sam and Ben.  If you were here on Rosh Hashanah morning, that was my youngest son, Ben, up here blasting out Tekiah’s on the shofar.  You also heard Sam chanting and interpreting the Haftarah with his good friend, Adam.  Yep. No doubt about it. We Orlins do get involved.

But what you may not know, or may not be the first thing you think of – is that I’m not actually Jewish.  I was born and raised Catholic, Eric and I were married by a rabbi and a priest (21 years ago TODAY), and Sam and Ben have grown up celebrating both traditions.  Now, this comes as no big surprise in a reform congregation, right?  Ours is one of the many multi-faith families at here Kol HaNeshamah.  Past president, Nanette Goss, once told me that nearly 40% of our own members were non Jewish partners just like me and according to the URJ, 50% of North American Jews will enter into an interfaith relationship; about 1/3 of those affiliating with a synagogue.

What I do find remarkable about KHN, though, is how many non-Jewish partners have chosen to step up and take on actual leadership roles, contributing in such meaningful ways to the essential fabric and ongoing sustenance of our congregation.  So many of you have led or sat on committees, contributed your time, money and unique skills with finances, management, construction, music, organization, consulting, baking, babysitting and even bar tending to help with the fund raising and day to day needs of our synagogue.  Not to mention all of you “behind the scenes” multi-faith partners who watch the kids, take care of things at home, or even just sacrifice time with your loved one to enable your Jewish partner to do the important work of our lay leaders and volunteers.  In our congregation’s history, three of the five presidents and countless board and committee members have come from multi-faith families.  These families are counted among some of our most active congregants and strongest financial supporters.

So, you may be thinking, why would so many of us who are not Jewish feel compelled to personally give back to KHN every day? I can only answer for myself, but I suspect other’s reasons are similar.  Okay, it’s not ONLY because I LOVE the music (which of course I do), it’s because I have enormous faith in Kol HaNeshamah.  I believe in this community, its core values and the uniquely diverse congregation we’ve created.  This goes so far beyond just feeling accepted or welcomed coming from a non-Jewish background.  I feel like I truly belong, like my contributions are valued equally and I am an integral part of our KHN family.  But belonging, being a real part of this community, is like any relationship and requires commitment on both sides.  Simply put, the more involved you are, the stronger your connection will be.

As an IBM Financial Analyst by day, I am always considering things in terms of investment and return.  The investment I have personally made in KHN for the past 8 years has been rewarding and fulfilling in ways I never imagined.  Among you are some of my closest friends with some of the most meaningful connections I have made in my life.  You have celebrated with our family as Sam was called to the Torah two years ago and cried with me when I lost my mom last year.  We have worshiped together, camped together, shared countless meals together, and worked hard together to make KHN the best it can be given our limited resources.  The rewards I have reaped have been profoundly personal. By investing in Kol HaNeshamah, I have discovered not only a community but an even deeper connection with my own husband and children through our shared purpose and commitment to this community.

So join me, the Hebrew singing Catholic, and all of the remarkable multi faith families who give their time, talents, gifts and financial resources.  Invest BIG in Kol HaNeshamah, the return is endless.

G’mar chatimah tovah, may you be inscribed in the Book of Life.  I wish each of you an easy fast.

Kathleen Orlin
Yom Kippur
October 8, 2011 | 10 Tishrei 5772