On the morning of June 29, members of Kol Ami: A Center for Jewish Life walked their Torah scroll for a historic move and monumental moment.
The congregation walked 12 miles from its shared space at Bear Creek United Methodist Church in Woodinville to its new shared space with Northlake Unitarian Universalists Church in Kirkland. Kol Ami’s move to Kirkland will make it the first Jewish synagogue in the city.
Kol Ami was founded in the 1990s and had shared a space with Bear Creek since 2001. The congregation is a progressive Jewish community that provides a joyful space for all, honors ancestral traditions through Jewish practice and learning, and actively engages in social justice efforts to repair the world, according to its website. Kol Ami made the decision to move to Kirkland because of the city’s commitment to diversity and to building a robust civic life.
“Kirkland is being proactive and it is very attractive for us to move [there],” Rabbi Yohanna Kinberg said. “Now there’s a Torah scroll in Kirkland. That’s why we wanted to make a big deal. It is a special thing to have the Torah.”
The congregation walked 12 miles to Kirkland as part of Judaism tradition. According to Kinberg, when a congregation moves, they walk their Torah scroll from one building to another. The Torah scroll is a long scroll that contains the text of the Five Books of Moses. Kept in the ark of each synagogue, the Torah scroll is read aloud in all synagogues.
“It’s tradition to walk as a community with the scrolls, reminiscent of the Israelites traveling with the Ark of the Covenant through the desert to the Promised Land,” Kinberg said.
The congregation walked from 9:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., trekking mainly through the Kirkland Cross Corridor trail system. Two King County sheriff’s deputies accompanied the congregation on the walk. Kol Ami also invited state and local dignitaries, religious organizations and the entire community to join the walk. Kol Ami members said they were excited for their new move to Kirkland.
“Since I am fairly new to Judaism, I think this allows me contact with the community as well as contact with the Torah,” Scott Shurtleff said about the walk.
At the new building, the congregation was met by Kirkland Mayor Penny Sweet, City Council members, Rep. Roger Goodman of the 45th Legislative District and more.
Kirkland’s Northlake Unitarian Universalist Church interim minister Rev. Jim VanderWeele said they are pleased to share a space with the Kol Ami congregation.
“We’re very pleased to find a spiritual community that is progressive, forward looking and dedicated to a shared humanity here on this planet,” he said. “It’s wonderful that we have a space that is available and that they are interested in coming to Kirkland. Our congregation is committed to building bridges here in this world.”
Kinberg said Kol Ami wants to become a center for Jewish life on the Eastside and that is also the reason why they are changing their name to Kol Ami – A center for Jewish Life. She said their name speaks to their goal of being a center for Jewish life that serves people, members of their congregation and those who are not members.
Kirkland currently has one Jewish nonprofit organization, Chabad of Kirkland, which focuses on Jewish outreach.
“We are a place for all people who want to learn and connect,” Kinberg said. “We’re coming to build a stronger community for everyone and we’re thrilled to be in Kirkland.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this article incorrectly quoted Steven Lloyd. Scott Shurtleff said he is new to Judaism.An update was also made from Bear Creek Unitarian Church to Bear Creek United Methodist Church.