Temple Kol Ami Sign

TKA members take active and meaningful roles at the congregation.

Temple Kol Ami is an intimate Reform congregation in West Bloomfield with roughly 250 member families.

Daniel Mesa, TKA’s executive director, says what makes TKA special is its inclusiveness, its position as a social action temple and the well-roundedness in the activities it does.

Daniel Mesa
Daniel Mesa

“This year, eight new families joined. For our congregation, that’s a huge number,” Mesa said. “The biggest reason they all said is they love the community feel. People come up and they talk. There are not different types of groups; everyone kind of belongs to one group itself. They feel comfortable and belong immediately.”

In 1966, eight founding families formed “The New Temple,” a reform Jewish congregation serving Metro Detroit with a strong dedication to liberal Judaism, a socially conscious philosophy, and a commitment to Israel and the Jewish people. In 1970, the congregation adopted the name Temple Kol Ami (Kol Ami means “Voice of My People”).

Here’s a brief timeline:

• In 1975, under the leadership of Rabbi Ernst Conrad and Music Director Nathalie Conrad, TKA opened its own building — one of the first Jewish organizations with a building in West Bloomfield. 

• In 1986, Rabbi Norman T. Roman joined TKA as its second senior rabbi and would hold that post for 30 years. Roman became Rabbi Emeritus in 2016. 

• In 2007, TKA broke ground on a new wing to house the TKA Family Religious School. 

• In 2010, B’nai Israel Synagogue (BI), a Conservative congregation down the street, needed a new home. TKA and BI leadership worked out an arrangement to share TKA’s building. The two congregations often overlap when it comes to services and programs.

In 2012, TKA became a model in congregation financing by eliminating dues and launching a pledge system. Members pledge the amount that works for them as their annual financial commitment.

• In July 2016, Rabbi Brent Gutmann arrived, succeeding Rabbi Roman. Gutmann spent his previous three years at a congregation in Auckland, New Zealand.

Volunteers at TKA food pantry
Volunteers at TKA food pantry

TKA has been running a food pantry as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic since early July 2020. It started small with just a few families and grew steadily. At its height, it fed more than 90 families a week. The pantry has worked in partnership with Hazon, which collects the food each week.

Originally intended to last two to three months as a pop-up pantry, Mesa says the pantry will continue indefinitely. “It really makes a huge difference for people,” he said.  

“The Green Team” is an active piece of the TKA Social Action Committee, initiating programs around recycling, sustainable gardening, bioswales and more. 

Mesa says TKA prides itself on their participatory services and, starting next year, will be offering more themed services. 

TKA often takes services and their congregation outside the temple for Havdalah and has planned retreats in the future.

“What we’ve learned is you don’t necessarily have to use the sanctuary just to pray; you can pray wherever you are,” Mesa said. “Your community can go anywhere.”

TKA started doing a talent show this past year, with members of all ages getting involved and engaged. 

“We had kids all the way from 5 years old to members who were in their 80s performing,” Mesa said. “It’s about making people feel comfortable in who they are here and allowing people to practice their Judaism however they want to practice it.”

TKA members take active and meaningful roles at the congregation, whether their interests lie in Torah study, weekly Shabbat worship services, social action, religious school for their children or adult Jewish education, Mesa says. 

“If you’re somebody who really just wants to dive into what Judaism means to you and be able to spread your wings, you can dive into the different aspects of Judaism and feel you’re getting something from it,” Mesa said. 

“We truly encourage people to come experience what Temple Kol Ami is all about.”  

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