Detailed Congregation History

This history was compiled and presented at a 50th Anniversary Celebration for founding members Barbara and Sy Schnuer in September 1999 and updated by congregation members in 2011.

The Early Years

  • Barbara joins SHJ. 
  • Sy attends the SHJ annual meeting which is held in Westport, Connecticut and joins on the spot. 
  • Rabbi Sherwin Wine, founder of SHJ, asks Sy & Barbara to organize a congregation in Boston. Names are culled from the SHJ mailing list. 
  • On September 19th, the first meeting is held at Concord Academy with about 30 people in attendance. 
  • Sy Schnuer joins SHJ Board. 
  • Meetings are held in the Unitarian Church in West Newton until 1983. 
  • Armed with tape & scissors the Schnuers and Brotmans cut and paste Westport's Service to create the first Humanistic High Holiday Service for Boston. 
  • First annual Chanukah celebration is held at the Unitarian Church in West Newton. 
  • The Fogels, Wetzners, & Gelbers start KB's Sunday School with one or two classes held in the Gelbers' home. 
  • Sam Fogel organizes Adult Education Book Club which meets monthly and they plow their way through Dubrov's "History of the Jews". 
  • First annual Seder is held at the Unitarian Church. 
  • 25 families now belong to the congregation. 
  • The name, Community of Choice, is chosen and translated into Hebrew, Kahal B'raira (KB). 
  • Barbara Schnuer joins SHJ Board until 1984. 
  • The Fogels' home is added for additional Sunday School space.  
  • Rabbi Jeff Silberman is hired for about two years. 
  • Between 30 and 100 people now attend meetings and services. 
  • All of the major Jewish holidays are celebrated. 
  • First Holocaust Service is created.
  • The Sunday School has expanded such that classes are held in four different houses in the Newton Center area.  Starting times are staggered so that parents can drive to each location in time for class.  The cars traveling the neighborhood early Sunday morning establish a rhythm that will long be remembered.  The parents meet together at the Wetzners' home while their children are attending classes. 
  • Plans are made to rent space for the Sunday School at both the Joy of Movement and the Palfrey School, in Watertown.  A satellite class for 6th grade, then the highest grade in KB, is located at the Watertown YMCA. 
  • Congregation events are held at the Italian-American Club of Wellesley, Newton Arts Center, Newton Women's Club, Wellesley Community Center, Park School in Brookline, Harvard Theology School and any other friendly tent available.

The Middle Years

  • Congregation celebrates its first Bar Mitzvah, that of Daniel Dain. 
  • KB hosts the annual SHJ Convention which is held in Cambridge.  The publicity surrounding the convention results in an increase to 37 families. 
  • Ada Snider contributes her talents thus bringing music to a new level in both the services and Sunday School. 
  • KB incorporated for Tax Free status.
  • Sylvia Rose is hired as an administrator. 
  • Steven & Linda Brion-Meisels chair the Sunday School Committee and serve as Principals - the beginning of a new era. 
  • Rebecca Rosenfield is the recipient of our first naming ceremony. 
  • Adult education programs and featured speakers are introduced during the Sunday morning sessions.
  • We now call the League School in Newton our home. 
  • Rabbi Beverly Lerner is hired as consultant / learned person.
  • Elana Wetzner and Sarah Wharton are KB's first Bat Mitzvahs. 
  • Evonne Wetzner and Josh Dodes are the first KB graduates to teach Sunday School.
  • The Beaver Country Day School in Brookline provides a very comfortable center for Sunday School, Adult Meetings and for Congregation celebrations. 
  • Phyllis Whitney is hired as Sunday School Principal. 
  • Rabbi Don Pollock is retained as Rabbinic Consultant for two years. 
  • Questions of spirituality re-emerge. 
  • KB participates in City Year.
  • KB hosts the Annual SHJ meeting in Newton. 
  • KB moves to the Windsor School in Brookline.
  • KB Handbook is created.
  • The ​Schnuers report on the International Federation conference of Secular Humanistic Jews held in Russia. 
  • New member brunch is introduced. 
  • Rabbi Wine is part of a panel discussion at Brandeis entitled “Un-affiliated Jews.”
1997First Annual Catered Picnic. 


  • Sunday School & Adult sessions increase to 13 per year. 
  • Discussions regarding our expression of spirituality continue along with thoughts regarding Jewish identity and the exploration of similarities and differences amongst us. 
  • We join Greater Boston Interfaith Organization and send delegates to its opening assembly.
  • Elaine Kamienny begins as Sunday School Principal, bringing her expertise and background in Humanistic Judaism and education to us. 
  • Gordon Beeferman, a KB graduate, is commissioned to compose music for KB. 
  • There are now approximately 100 familes in KB.
  • KB moves to Solomon Schecter School in Newton.
  • KB Bylaws are passed.
  • The results of the Long Range Planning Survey indicate where our strengths and weaknesses lie. 
  • Members of KB begin meeting to discuss the Middle East situation.  The Israel/Palestine Working Group is formed.  The name has since been changed to KB Middle East Working Group.
  • KB hires congregation member Gladys Maged as administrative facilitator.
  • KB moves to Fayerweather School in Cambridge.  We now have  meeting space as well as classroom and adult programming space.

Kahal B'raira continues to create our history together.